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Class Notes May 2004: Volume 1, Number 2

Entrepreneur's Corner: Urban Winery
Erik Humphrey, ’93, M.P.I.A. ’98


Apparently urban wineries are the growing trend, with streetwise cabernets and zinfandels popping up in Seattle, San Francisco and the Central Coast. Erik Humphrey, ’93, M.P.I.A. ’98, bought the San Pasqual winery with two partners, and moved it to Pacific Beach in 2005. Currently they are producing 1,400 cases a year of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Tempranillo, Garnacha, Cabernet, Syrah and Zinfandel Port.

OK so far, but what is an “urban winery” or “microwinery”? Humphrey explains that a winery doesn’t have to have grape vines. “In simple terms,” Humphrey says, “a vineyard is a grape farm, a winery is a booze factory.”

Their particular booze factory consists of a rusher, tanks, barrels and a cooling system in a light industrial warehouse.
“Our warehouse is an unconventional setting,” says Humphrey.

“It’s not what people expect a winery to be, so it’s fun for them to taste good wine and see the production process up close.”

Last year, that process entailed buying 18 tons of grapes from the Guadalupe Valley in Baja, transporting them to Pacific Beach in refrigerated trucks and unloading them into the crusher/stemmer. After a ceremonial stomp with bare feet, the crush was continued by machine and the grape must was pumped into the fermentation tanks.

Humphrey and one of his other partners, Steve May, manage and work in the microwinery, with four independent sales reps/tasting room workers. They have identified two marketing niches: the local San Diego legacy of wine making (Humphrey says the first wine in California was made at the San Diego mission) and 20- to 30-something neophyte oenophiles. By the end of next year, with increased exposure, they are expecting a 300 percent increase in sales.

Entrepreneurs Corner by Marnette Federis, ’06, Raymond Hardie and Doug Ramsey.

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