Giguieres Build a New Winery

R.H. Philips founders break ground for Crew in Yolo County

by Jane Firstenfeld
Crew Wines
The 73-acre Matchbook vineyard is just across the road from the new Crew facility in the Dunnigan Hills AVA.
Zamora, Calif. -- John and Lane Giguiere, who founded R.H. Philips Winery and the Toasted Head brand in nearby Esparto, have begun construction on the first stage of a 150,000-gallon winery to house their new company, Crew Wines (crewwines.com).

The Giguieres owned and operated R.H. Philips from 1983 until its sale to Canadian wine giant Vincor in 2005. Vincor's acquisition by Constellation the following year released the Giguieres from a restrictive, 10-year non-compete clause, and they began producing four brands under the Crew Wines label. Matchbook, Mossback and Sawbuck were made at a Sonoma County custom crush facility; Chasing Venus is a New Zealand product. Current production for the four brands totals about 40,000 cases, Lane Giguiere told Wines & Vines.

The name "Crew" came about, she explained, because the couple continues to work with many of their former staff at R.H Philips, including winemaker Dan Cederquist. The Crew crew should feel right at home in the new facility, which is only about 10 miles from R.H. Philips and 40 miles north of Sacramento. The $2.5 million winery is in the Dunnigan Hills AVA, which was established in 1993 when the TTB approved a petition submitted by the Giguieres.

Crew Wines
Lane and John Giguiere break ground for the new home of Crew Wines in Zamora, Calif.
A 73-acre vineyard across the road will provide Chardonnay, Syrah, Tempranillo, Graciano and Malbec grapes for the California brands, which retail from $10 to $17 per bottle. In a statement, John Giguiere noted that, "Having our crush facility next to the vineyard will cut costs in energy, transportation and bottling. We'll have a more efficient use of labor, since vineyard management and staff can move to the winery after harvest to focus on cellar and bottling operations."

Perhaps more important, "The new winery will allow us to have complete control over every step of the winemaking process," he said. "It's important to keep tasting the wines and tweaking the blends, and that's difficult to do at a custom crush facility."

Last week, Lane Giguiere said, "We're just pouring the slab" for phase one of the new winery. She expected the metal buildings to start going up this week. The first phase will include two barrel buildings, a bottling building and 17 stainless steel tanks. "Our offices will be in the construction trailers until we build offices in a year or two," she said. Although Crew Wines will start out using power from the grid, "We'll probably do some photovoltaic (solar) power later."

The first phase of construction, expected to be complete before the 2008 crush, will not include a tasting room. "That will be in phase two," Lane Giguiere said. "We want to concentrate on the winemaking right now." Future plans also include a possible expansion into olive oil production. "We like doing offbeat things," she said.
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