Establishing your own winery is an extremely costly venture, involving the purchase of land, cost of vines, farming equipment, building of winemaking facilities and tasting room, cost of winemaking equipment, and labor, in addition to the legal costs of setting up your business and permitting and licenses to make and sell alcohol.
Grapevines take at least 3 years after planting before the vineyard owner may get a usable harvest. One way a new winery can postpone some of these costs, and the time waiting for their grapevines to mature, is to work with a custom crush facility.
A custom crush facility, or winery, is one that is legally bonded, which allows other wineries to make wine at that facility, or for them to make wine for a winery. Any custom crush facility has to have submitted complex regulatory paperwork that allows them to make wine, transfer wine, and to transfer ownership of that wine. The winery using the custom crush facility must have their own license in order to market and sell the resulting wine.
A winery can buy grapes from another winery or vineyard and then use the custom crush facility to process the grapes, ferment, age and bottle the wine. The winery can also buy grape juice and use the facility to ferment the juice into wine. Another option is for a winery to buy already bottled bulk wine, and have the facility label it for them.
Custom crush facilities allow wineries that make their wine at the location, or have their wine made for them there, to have access to high-end wine production equipment, and share the cost of equipment, facilities and storage. This means the winery can postpone the cost of their own winemaking facilities until a later date and focus on establishing their tasting room, presenting their brand to the public and building their client base that will help fund the facilities.
Another benefit of using a custom crush facility is lower labor costs for wine production. Trained staff are included in the contract with the facility and that staff are shared among all the other wineries utilizing the same facilities. Also, partnering with a facility allows access to subject-matter experts in wine production.
One of the best-known custom crush facilities in the state of Virginia is Virginia Wineworks, established in 2007 by Michael Shaps. Michael Shaps is an illustrious winemaker and consultant who consistently has wines either made by himself, or made at his facility, earn gold medals, and/or their place in the Virginia governor’s case. A number of other wineries across the state offer custom crush services at their winery, including King Family Vineyards and Breaux Vineyards, to name a couple.