HOPLAND -- Two executives from the North Coast sparkling wine world plan to open by this year's harvest what eventually is planned to be a half-million-case-a-year custom winemaking facility in this southern Mendocino County city.
Rebecca Faust and Bruce Lundquist acquired the Duncan Peak Wine Services property at 14100 Mountain House Road earlier this year. The site also includes a 35-acre vineyard and guest house.
Duncan Peak Vineyards, a 2,000-case-a-year winery next door owned by Hubert and Risa Lenczowski, was not involved in the deal.
The new owners, calling themselves RB Wine Associates, are converting the 72,000-square-foot cold-storage warehouse on the property into a winery eventually capable of crushing 8,000 to 9,000 tons of winegrapes.
They chose to convert an existing building into a winery rather than buy a label and its facility because of competition in the marketplace and their expertise in brand building, according to Mr. Lundquist.
This year RB will be starting with 500 to 600 tons. In the past couple of months, the partners had a wastewater handling system installed for the target capacity of the winery. This year the operation, called Rack & Riddle Custom Wine Services, will be operating from half of the facility.
Having another large custom-winemaking facility in Mendocino County, in addition to Redwood Valley Cellars and Mendocino Wine Co., is likely a good thing, according to John Enquist, president of the Mendocino County Winegrape & Wine Commission.
"With 75 to 85 percent of our grapes leaving the county anyway, it's probably a pretty smart move," he said.
One of the focuses of the commission is to build market value and sales for local winegrapes and wine.
RB Wine Associates' goal is to start with still-wine production at just a fraction of the target capacity, then gradually increase production over the next few years and offer more sparkling wine, according to Mr. Lundquist.
"We anticipate building the sparkling business by producing shiners and selling them to wineries that want 500 to 1,000 cases, but it does not make sense for them to purchase special equipment," he said. "I do not know of any wineries producing sparkling shiners on purpose."
"Shiner" is an industry term for bottled wine without a label. Wineries produce shiners for a variety of reasons, including long bottle aging that could damage a label, delay in regulatory approval of a label or wine meant for private-label sale.
Some wineries may want to have some sparkling wine available during the year-end holiday season, Mr. Lundquist postulated.
"Our experience in the wine business tells us there is demand," he said.
Ms. Faust was controller for Lambert Bridge Winery in Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley for several years. Before that she worked at Remy on the former Piper Sonoma sparkling wine brand and at what used to be the RMS brandy distillery in Carneros.
Mr. Lundquist's career includes accounting and finance positions in the paper, airline, dairy and wine industries. He was general manager and CFO for J Winery & Vineyards from 1999 until he left in March 2006 and was business manager for J starting in 1996.
It was at J where Mr. Lundquist met Rack & Riddle's supervising winemaker Oded Shakked, who started Longboard Vineyards with Mr. Lundquist and Robert Watkins in early 2006.