Executives at the new companies that bought the assets of troubled custom-crush winery Crushpad informed clients Wednesday that they must pay fees to obtain their bottled and barreled wine, and pledged to answer clients' questions and rebuild trust.
Wine belonging to hundreds of clients' is stored in barrels and cases in warehouses in Sonoma, and many of those clients want to know what will happen to it and when.
The first priority for the companies is to pay off debts to Groskopf, the warehouse where cased wines are stored, Steve Ryan, former vice president of Crushpad, said in an email to clients. Members who wish to remove their wine will be asked to pay fees, he said.
"We are building a new company focused on renewing the concept of making great wine for those without a winery of their own, or wishing to build a brand commercially," Ryan wrote.
"Today we face a number of challenges in resurrecting the company and rebuilding your trust," he wrote.
Ryan is in charge of the new company, which is still to be named, said Philip Von Burg, principal at CastleGate Capital, which essentially bought Crushpad's assets on Tuesday. Four or five former Crushpad employees are back working in the offices at Sebastiani winery, Von Burg said. Ryan was not available for an interview prior to the newspaper deadline.
"I don't think we've assigned titles at this point," Von Burg said. "We're all kind of rolling up our sleeves and working elbow-to-elbow-to-elbow, trying to resolve all the issues and talk to the customers as quickly as possible."
Commercial clients will be asked to pay $2 per bottle of wine if they want to withdraw it from Groskopf, Von Burg said. Customers had agreed to pay that fee for any bottle sold by Aspect, the entity that handled sales for Crushpad.
Just how much winemakers would be charged to obtain their barrels hadn't been determined, because the company is trying to resolve numerous liens on the inventory, Von Burg said.
That was disappointing news to winemakers who had paid for their finished product.
"If you're going to do it, do it fairly and honestly," said one client with wine in barrels. "But don't let your friends get their wine out and then make everyone else pay."
Casey Kaczmarek, 31, was among those searching for answers Wednesday. Kaczmarek, co-owner of Kaczmarek Digital Media, was a winner of the Crushpad Club Challenge, in which hundreds of contestants used Facebook to promote wine brands earlier this year. The reward was to be a barrel of wine, the equivalent of 25 cases.
"We have multiple restaurants that were ready to carry our wine. We were told it would be released this year," she said. "And it's a little unsettling that we haven't heard anything . . . We just want answers."
The new company plans to move out of the Sebastiani facility by the end of the week, and is looking for a site in Sonoma or Napa, Von Burg said. "Anyone who has a home for us is welcome to give us a call," he said.
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