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Business booms for custom crush wineries in Sonoma County

on 19/08/14 at 9:02 am


index“Wearing his Bermuda shorts and a T-shirt,with a San Francisco Giants cap tucked snugly around his head, Brian Kobler freely admits that he doesn’t represent the glamour of the wine industry.

Kobler’s work within the last month has been hectic and decidedly more blue-collar as he braved the mid 90-degree heat bearing down in the back of a nondescript Healdsburg industrial park: driving a forklift, hooking up hoses and installing machines that will crush grapes and ferment their juice into wine.

But the eventual payoff could be significant as his Healdsburg Custom Crush plant will begin crushing grapes this week, the first of a projected 250 tons that it will process in its first year. He already has 233 tons reserved. The company’s first crush is remarkable, given Kobler hatched his business plan in April and took keys to the plant on July 1.

With an average-sized crop at a minimum predicted this year, Kobler said he believes he and his three investors are on track to be in the black within three to five years. That would fulfill an inspiration to go into business for himself after watching a program on the History Channel a few years ago about the gold rush.

“It wasn’t the gold miners who got rich, it was Levi Strauss and the people who provided the service; the people who didn’t mind taking a back seat to the more glamorous job,” Kobler said.

That sentiment has spread throughout the North Coast this harvest season as the custom-crush industry has greatly expanded in the past year. The plants vary, but essentially provide one-stop service for vintners to crush grapes, make wine and transfer it into barrels and then into bottles — everything except marketing and sales.”