Collective Tasting Rooms Multiply Opportunities

Wineries gain exposure with a first, or an additional pouring location

by Paul Franson
Collective Tasting Rooms Multiply Opportunities
Naomi Brilliant of Roshambo
Napa, Calif. -- Shared tasting rooms are becoming increasingly popular for wineries that either can't have their own spot or want to attract new customers.

This week, Press Club, a new venture in San Francisco, announced that six wineries will share a space it hopes to open next year in downtown San Francisco.

In Sonoma, a number of wineries plan to join the two that recently settled in Cornerstone Place, a tourist destination featuring gardens, art galleries, a gift shop and café on the route from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Sonoma and Napa valleys. The wineries will surround a wine pavilion that is nearing completion and can be used for festivals and parties.

These join the new Lake County Wines in Upper Lake; Cult Wine Central (formerly the Cellar Door) at Napa Wine Company in Oakville; A Dozen Vintners; and Tasting on Main (which is changing owners) in St. Helena, plus Vintners Collective Wineries of Napa Valley and Napa Wine Merchants in downtown Napa. The latter will soon be moving down Main Street, near the upcoming Oxbow Public Market.

Sonoma County already has the Wine Room in Kenwood and Locals in Geyserville.

Press Club will be an urban tasting room featuring small-production wineries of the Bay Area. It is being developed by Andrew Chun and Jan Wiginton, with investor Millennium Partners. They plan to open next spring in 9,000 square feet on Yerba Buena Lane in San Francisco, off Market Street between the Four Seasons Hotel and the Marriott hotel.

Six wineries have signed up for Press Club: Chateau Montelena Winery, Miner Family Vineyards, Pahlmeyer and Saintsbury from Napa Valley, plus Sonoma-based Hanna Winery & Vineyards and Mount Eden Vineyards from the Central Coast. A couple more wineries may be added.

Pahlmeyer, Saintsbury and Mount Eden don't have their own tasting rooms; for the others, it's a second tasting location, which is allowed under wine licenses.

Two wineries have opened at Cornerstone: Artesa and Larson Family, which operate out of the same room as Carneros Family Wineries. Both have wineries in Carneros, but in relatively obscure locations. Roshambo is planning to open in the complex on Sept. 1, as is the Grange Collective, a collection of boutique wineries including Tallulah Wines, Harrington, Heintz, Carica, Enkidu Wines, Mantra, Eno Wines and perhaps a few others.

Tom and Becky Larson from Larson Family Winery on nearby Millerick Road were among the first to hear about the opportunity to open a tasting room in the Cornerstone complex. Larson's vineyard management company, Sonoma Creek Land and Farming, manages Cornerstone's 15 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes.

"We make a lot of wine and only sell out of our tasting room and to our wine club," Becky Larson says. "The new location gives us a chance to showcase our second label, Millerick Road." She also likes the fact that it's the site of a visitors' bureau, so many tourists stop for information.

The Larson tasting bar will primarily pour its Millerick Road Chardonnay, Cuvée Rosé, Merlot Meritage and Petite Sirah, as well as the Larson Pinot Noir and Pinot Noir Rosé.

Larson adds, "We see more novice tasters there than at our winery, and we're participating in a Winetasting 101 that will be presented each morning. It was developed by Linda Champaigne of Artesa."

Artesa Winery has one of the most dramatic wineries and tasting rooms in wine country, but it's out of the way in Carneros Valley. "We like the gardens, the Wine Country Visitors' Center and the opportunity to open another visitors' room," says Artesa vice president and general manager Clinton Jay.

At the new location, Artesa can also pour wines from its sister winery Ridgeline in Alexander Valley, which it can't sample in Napa County. The Artesa tasting bar features Ridgeline Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc wines from the Oak Mountain Vineyard.

The Grange Collective of approximately 10 wineries was created by John Matthew Green, who was with the Vintner's Collective in Napa.

The other tasting room at Cornerstone will be run by Roshambo, which sold its winery to Silver Oak and is now operating out of a trailer while awaiting permission to open a new tasting room next August. Founder Naomi Brilliant built her winery's reputation on having fun and intends to continue that tradition.

Retail sales manager Steve Morvai says Roshambo will offer its RockPaperSissors line of wines, the Roshambo Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé, Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Syrah. It will also pour limited-production wines.

"Why not have two locations?" he asks rhetorically. "We expect a whole new demographic of customers there than we do in the Russian River Valley."

Dave Aquilina is the general manager of Cornerstone Place. The phone number is (707)-933-3010.
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