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Do-It-Yourself Bordeaux

The make-your-own wine trend gains steam as San Francisco's Crushpad opens shop in Bordeaux

Robert Taylor
Posted: April 27, 2009

Anyone want to open a bottle of Château DIY? The make-your-own-barrel-of-wine movement, which kicked off in earnest with the opening of San Francisco's Crushpad winery a few years ago and expanded with the debut of several independent, New York-based do-it-yourself wineries in 2008, is making its foray into the Old World.

Crushpad announced today that it will begin operations in Bordeaux with this year's harvest. And not only is the trend expanding to France, the profile of those involved continues to ascend as well. Crushpad's Bordeaux operation will be run out of St.-Emilion's Château Teyssier, under the supervision of owner and winemaker Jonathan Maltus (who also makes wine in South Australia and has a high-end Napa Cabernet on the way). And renowned consultants Stéphane Derenoncourt, known for pushing the envelope among traditional Bordelais winemakers, and Eric Boissenot, one of the region's top enologists, have both signed on to assist with viticulture and winemaking.

Crushpad's Bordeaux operation offers the opportunity to make a barrel of wine (about 25 cases) sourced from Margaux and/or St.-Emilion, among other appellations. As with Crushpad's San Francisco operation, clients have a wide range of options when it comes to how hands-on they choose to be with their barrel. They can monitor their wine online, and visits to Château Teyssier are available to anyone wanting to participate in harvest, visit the vineyards or personally assemble their final blend. For those not inclined to make the journey, a Crushpad Fusebox, a blending kit loaded with a customer's final samples can be experimented with at home. Customers may also design their own label.

Because the wine will be made at Château Teyssier, any wine made entirely from St.-Emilion grapes can be labeled with the St.-Emilion A.O.C; all others will be labeled either Bordeaux or Bordeaux Supérieur. One barrel of Bordeaux is anticipated to cost its maker between $9,600 and $10,900, inclusive of shipping to San Francisco.

Asked about the decision to open a Bordeaux operation, Michael Brill, president and CEO of Crushpad, said that many of his current clients at the San Francisco facility had expressed interest, but he had been uncertain of how to tackle the logistics. After initially presuming he would have to open his own winery in Bordeaux, Brill found that it made much more sense to operate out of a pre-existing facility. "I was actually surprised by the level of interest. [The Bordelais] were very interested in the concept, with people wanting to connect more with wine consumers," Brill said, "which has historically not been something that Bordeaux wineries are known for."

Teyssier's Maltus proved to be a perfect match. "He's an innovator," Brill said of the St.-Emilion garagiste. "He really gets the [Crushpad] model."

And if the Bordeaux operation is a success? The world is Crushpad's oyster. "We have a lot of inquiries from Spain and Italy, but also from Australia," Brill said. "There's no shortage of a) wine production in the world, and b) passionate winegrowers who do want more of a direct relationship with their clients."

"We'll see in a few months whether you should congratulate us or condemn us," joked Brill, "but it's been a long time coming."

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