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Grand Cru in Windsor

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Grand Cru Custom Crush’s co-op production facilities. (Courtesy photo)

At its core, Grand Cru Custom Crush is a great idea, one that reflects modern-day business and lifestyle trends. Founded by Robert and Erin Morris and Todd and Erin Gottula, the wine production co-op provides state-of-the-art technology and production equipment as well as individualized tasting rooms to be shared by small, boutique winemakers. The concept itself is clean and efficient and opens doors for producers who work under the premise that “less is better” to pursue their passion and connect with the consumer.

Grand Cru projects that, in 2018, 25,000 cases will be produced by a baker’s dozen local winemakers who are current members.

As we toured the production facilities, Morris and Erin Brooks (Gottula) discussed the attention to detail that would accommodate multiple winemakers and reduce common problems. By providing the best crush equipment, a variety of small fermentation tanks, barrel rooms and an on-site lab, all designed to match the needs of their “target client production,” the Grand Cru Custom Crush plan optimizes success and sustainability.

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Although the exterior design was inspired by the Boradorri Garage, a 1932 historical building overlooking the ocean in Cayucos, Calif., the modern-day, aesthetically pleasing interior includes several individual spaces where guests can sample specific wineries or hand-pick a variety among all member releases.

Another advantage for Grand Cru Custom Crush is that they are part of the growing Windsor Beverage District that currently houses DuMol and Marcassin wineries with others on the horizon. Participating businesses also include the Sonoma Brothers Distillery, local fire captain Aron Levin’s St. Florian’s Brewery and Tilted Shed Ciderworks, makers of local specialty ciders. A 22,000-square-foot restaurant and tasting center, currently under construction by the popular Santa Rosa-based Russian River Brewing Company, promises to add another attraction.

Grand Cru Custom Crush in Windsor, Calif. (Courtesy photo)

Robert and Erin could not say enough about their experience in dealing with the Town of Windsor, calling them a role model for other government entities seeking to be business-friendly and creating public-private partnerships. The beverage district concept, in my opinion, will flourish, building on the wine and spirits tourism that exists in the region.

The current member wineries of Grand Cru Custom Crush are Black Kite Cellars, Bruliam Wines, Bydand, Cleary Ranch Vineyard, Ernest Wines, Eric Kent, Flambeaux, Kesner Wines, Lando, Magnolia Blossom, Mila Family Vineyards, Mueller Wines and Smith and Strong Wine Cellars. Some have received accolades for pinot noir, chardonnay and rosé while others offer rarer varietals to the region like grenache, sémillon and cabernet sauvignon.

Reservations can be made to taste wines from any of the members, or one can experience an eclectic sampling from a hand-picked menu. I had the opportunity to sit down with Erin Brooks to sample all the current releases from Ernest Wines, which she owns with her husband Todd. If I returned to Grand Cru tomorrow, here are the wines I would hand-select:

Produced by Ernest Wines under their Eugenia label, a little-known Rhone grape is showcased in the 2017 San Lucas Vineyard Rosé of Cinsault Central Coast, providing a unique beginning. The 2016 Smith and Strong Lakota’s View Sémillon Sonoma Mountain gives us an alternative white varietal and the whole-cluster-pressed Mila Family Vineyards Prima Grenache an alternative red from their 54-acre wine farm in northeast Sonoma County.

Mila Family Vineyards Prima Grenache. (Courtesy photo)

We would continue by comparing two pinot noir releases: the 2014 Mueller “Tempi” Pinot Noir that has received good reviews and the 2014 Bruliam Pinot Noir Soberanes Vineyard from a Central Coast vineyard that has sourced grapes to many fine producers.

My tasting would end with the 2014 Flambeaux Dry Creek Cabernet Sauvignon that has received consistent 90-plus ratings. It’s not everyday that cinsault, semillon, grenache, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon would be together in one tasting. The quality and variety of member produced wines affords opportunities to sample new ones for many future visits.

The Grand Cru Custom Crush is an ambitious effort that seems to be a win-win situation for all aspects of the wine experience. It promotes the expanded production of fine boutique wines and one stop shopping for the consumer. The evolution of Grand Cru and the entire Windsor Beverage District is something to watch.

Lyle W. Norton is a wine enthusiast and blogger in Santa Rosa who has written a wine column for 15 years. Visit his blog at www.lifebylyle.com or email him at sfewine@gmail.com.

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