Bay Area folks who like to sip on small production, artisanal wines in gritty urban settings can add another spot to their growing list. Dogpatch WineWorks has just opened its doors to a new tasting room among the hip restaurants and converted warehouses in San Francisco’s historic Dogpatch neighborhood. For the past year the winery has been operating a custom crush facility for locals who want to make their own wines. Now, WineWorks is building a list of partner wineries who will also pay to make wine on premises and will have their wines featured at the tasting bar which fronts a 15,000 square foot winery.
Dogpatch WineWorks founders Dave Gifford and Kevin Doucet
The neighborhood’s mix of retail and manufacturing appealed to founders Dave Gifford and Kevin Doucet. “We like it because people still make things here, and that’s what we’re doing,” said Gifford who left the restaurant industry to begin working in wine ten years ago. “I think this is really a new model we are trying here with a tasting room and custom winemaking in San Francisco,” said co-founder Doucet who worked in the finance world for several years, earned a graduate degree in oenology in Australia and has invested in a handful of wine operations. One of those projects was Crushpad, in some ways the predecessor to WineWorks.
Crushpad, which never had a tasting room at its Dogpatch facility, opened in San Francisco in 2004 as the first urban, custom crush facility. It broadened its clientele to include national and international members and eventually moved to Sonoma. After several years of rapid expansion, the company is unfortunately facing financial troubles. Gifford, who worked for Crushpad, credits the company for paving the way for WineWorks but he says his company is taking a different direction. “I like the idea that you can stop by on your way home from work and check on your wine. You don’t have to spend a day driving out to the wine country and back.
Tasting room visitors enter this former cannery off Third Street and can saddle up to a handsome wine bar made of reclaimed redwood from old wine barrels. Folks can order a 2 oz. taste, 5 oz. pour, a featured flight or a bottle and can drink it visiting at the bar or resting in one of the comfy, worn leather couches. On my recent visit, I didn’t have much competition bellying up to the bar since the tasting room had just opened. I tried a Rhone flight from WineWork’s first two commercial clients, Jazz Cellars and Qualia. I would recommend the Roussanne-Marsanne from Jazz and an estate Syrah from Qualia.
Despite the excitement around the new tasting bar, Doucet and Gifford say their priority is to be a production winery. “We are an incubator to help others realize their dream of making wine,” says Doucet. And just how do they do that? The way a custom crush facility, or in urban winery parlance, ‘collective’ works is this — a person, or group of friends, sign up to make a barrel of wine. They choose a varietal they really like say, Cabernet Sauvignon. The WineWorks staff then sits down with them and talks about the style of wine they like and recommends one of their premium vineyards such as in the red hot, new Coombsville AVA above Napa. Then a contract is signed and during harvest the grapes are picked and brought for delivery to the loading docks on the back side of the winery’s cavernous space. At that point the winemaking process begins. Clients can be involved as little or as much as they like. It can take months or years for the wine to mature, depending on the varietal. “Some people maybe come once or twice in a year and others show up here in the morning before we even do,” says Doucet. Clients pay between $6,000 to $10,000 to make a barrel, depending on the grape.
WineWorks’ client wine barrels and the destemmer on the right
The timing may be just right for WineWorks’ new tasting room as the Dogpatch is not only becoming one of the best, new food neighborhoods in San Francisco but is slowly becoming a destination for local wine lovers. Just a few blocks away, also on busy Third Street, Yield Wine Bar pours organic wines; Dig is a neighborhood wine shop, with tastings, next to the popular restaurant Piccino; and a few independent, commercial cellars have also moved into the neighborhood, some with dreams of opening tasting rooms. Also, hardworking winemakers love beer and Magnolia Pub in the Haight will soon be opening a brewery on Third Street, right across from Dogpatch WineWorks.
2455 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA
Phone: (415) 525-4440
Hours: Tasting Room
Thursday: 4pm – 8pm
Friday: 4pm – 8pm
Saturday: 12pm – 7pm
Sunday: 12pm – 5pm
Facebook: Dogpatch WineWorks