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Vino DIY

Ever wanted to make your own bottle of wine but feared that you just didn’t have the know-how to tell your Barbera from your Dolcetto grapes? Then a summer learning session at Crushpad, the five-year-old DIY winery located in Mission Bay/Dogpatch, is definitely in order. And don’t worry -- you won’t need to crack the books too hard to try your hand at being a vintner. Crushpad’s no-nonsense yet down-to-earth approach to the fine art of winemaking lets you make your own barrel without the inconvenience of hauling your own grapes or selecting the right fermentation vessel.

Whether you're a wine connoisseur or vineyard pretender, Crushpad --something of a trendsetter in the sector of DIY winemaking, which is just now beginning to get some wind in its sails -- welcomes all types. At Crushpad, you don't actually get to stomp grapes in barrels, but hobbyists and newbies can make their own bottles of wine at around $19 a pop (or $5,000 for 300 bottles) and get some knowledge on blending their favorite varietals, identifying tastes as diverse as cedar and dirty sock, and determining corking preferences.

Providing grapes from vineyards in both California and (most recently) Bordeaux, the team at Crushpad specializes in making wine in smaller batches. People who want to try their hand at it can contribute as little or as much to the process as they want, from determining the blend to turning their passion for custom winemaking into a bona fide business. The general idea is that the time-consuming or onerous parts of making wine get taken care of, but you still benefit from all the nifty education and expert support in the meantime.

Whether you want to brand your wine for wider dissemination or make a few bottles to pop open at your next cocktail party, Crushpad’s services are customized to fit your needs. You simply choose from among 50 vineyards in California and Bordeaux, and come in to the winery to oversee the process. Folks who don’t want to pay a visit to the winery can opt for Crushpad Fusebox, a blending kit that contains your final chosen samples, so you can experiment with them at home. (Hands-off customers can also monitor their batches through Crushnet, Crushpad’s web application for remote winemakers). In the end, Crushpad’s design team helps customers create the perfect wine label for your own unique varietal, which you can save for a rainy day among friends or share with perfect strangers through the Crushpad Commerce service.

Other services at Crushpad include group blending sessions, where you can get the low-down on the fine art of blending; Harvest Crush Camp winemaking sessions, where visitors get to work alongside winemakers and learn the ins and outs of production during crush season in the late fall; and Wednesday evening tours and tastings, which allow visitors to kick back and talk shop with other wine enthusiasts. Regular classes and parties, plenty of barrel tasting, and the chance to churn out your own wine for about a third of the price of a comparable store-bought bottle are just some of the many perks. And of course, having your own Domaine fill-in-the-blank label will give you one more item to cross off your to-do list.