Image Courtesy of The Winery in Grand Prarie
Custom Wineries

The hottest trend in the Texas wine industry is to "make-your-own" wine!

 

By: Thomas M. Ciesla, Copyright 2006

The custom winery brings winemaking to the customer and makes a visit to a winery an interactive experience. The velvet rope is dropped and the ordinary person can finally go through that STAFF ONLY door. These wineries offer lower priced quality wines by eliminating the transportation costs inherent in shipping bottled wine.



Attractive tasting room at D'Vine Wines
Photo Courtesy of D'Vine Wines

A dozen or so of these wineries have sprung up around the state during the last few years. In North Texas, the Dallas-Ft. Worth area is home to eight custom wineries, both franchised and non-franchised establishments.   D’Vine Wines owner Dave Besgrove, opened his first winery in 2004 after receiving exclusive rights for franchises in Texas.   The popularity of his first venture has led him to open four additional wineries around the state.   As Besgrove explains, “Our product is very appealing, because the consumer has complete control over the type of ingredients in the wine they drink. The customer can tweak the wines to their palates”

"People who have a passion for wine want to learn about the process.   For many, owning a winery would be a dream and perhaps this would be an entry point"
                  Tim Dodd, Ph.D, Director of Texas Wine Marketing Research Institute

 

Su Vino Winery, located in historic downtown Grapevine is a non-franchise operation.   Proprietor David Scott believes the custom winery concept is popular because, “It provides a more unique experience for the customer than just buying a bottle of wine.”   It also allows Scott to offer premium wines from all over the world.

Rick Sala, owner of The Winery In Grand Prairie, agrees, “Since we are sourcing grape juice globally we can offer a wide variety of products.”   Another reason for the winery’s popularity is the attraction of customization: “The other day I sweetened exactly one bottle of Gewurztraminer for a customer.   How many wineries can do that?”


The 'Barrel Wall' at The Winewerks
Photo Courtesy of The Winewerks

Custom wineries offer a unique hands-on approach to wine by providing the equipment, materials and expertise to let anyone become a ‘reality winemaker.’   In San Antonio, Custom Crush Winery, Water2Wine, and The Winewerks each offer a range of wine styles from grape regions in Europe, South America, Australia, and of course, the United States.   With this range of wines, everyone is sure to a find the perfect blend, and have as little or as much ‘hands-on’ as they desire.   The Winewerks offers customers the ability to age wine in 23-liter oak barrels after fermentation has been completed.   According to owner Richard Cross, “I have customers coming in every few days to barrel sample their wine to see if its just right.”   Now that’s customization.

 

  How It Works

The process begins at the winery’s tasting bar.   Guests sample a variety of wines, then work with the in-house winemaker to select the style of wine they would like to make.   This phase is also educational for customers, giving them a chance to learn about varietals and prominent flavor profiles.


Wine Fermenting In Carboys
Photo Courtesy of Water 2 Wine

The next step includes starting the fermentation process and selecting a design for the wine labels.   Customers mix the juice with yeast and other ingredients with the help of the winemaker.   This starts the fermentation process, which depending on the grape selected, takes from four to eight weeks.   Label design includes selection of the name of your wine, the fonts, and even can incorporate your own graphic or picture.


Large Fermentation Tanks
Photo Courtesy of The Winewerks

Once fermentation is complete the winery notifies the customer that it’s time to bottle, cork and label the wine.   If you’ve had images of sitting alone in a dingy backroom, toiling away over wine bottles, think again.   Custom wineries encourage their clients to invite friends and family for a bottling event.   Bottling parties are becoming an important social event, and many wineries have catering services as an option.   Sala from The Winery in Grand Prairie has seen this popularity grow first hand, “Bottling parties in groups seems to be the most fun for customers.”

Once the wine is taken home, the real fun begins, you get to drink the fruits of your labor.

 

  Grape Expectations

What can you expect on your first visit to a custom winery?   Rather than hoses snaking across the floor and gurgling vats of wine spewing yeast odors, you’ll be greeted by helpful, smiling staff and well-appointed, cheerful tasting rooms.   If you’re not sure you’ll want to make wine on your first visit, don’t worry, most custom wineries are also full service wineries, offering their own wine by the glass, bottle or case, as well as a nice selection of items in the gift shops.


Interior of Swirll Winery in Dallas
Photo Courtesy of Swirll

Most of these wineries also have a supply of their wines with no label on the bottle.   Customers can stop in, pick out bottle of wine, and then design a personalized label on the spot.   These personalized wine bottles make great hostess gifts, or gifts for dinner guests, and are easily available for that spur-of-the-moment purchase.

Prices will vary from one winery to another, but in general the cost of making your own wine will range between $179 - $399 for a batch of 28-30 bottles.   That equates to around $6 - $14 per bottle.   If these prices seem a bit high to you, remember that you’ll be getting 28 or so bottles of high quality wine that would easily cost you three or four dollars a bottle more in a retail store.



Photo Courtesy of Water2Wine

How good are these wines?   Well, Su Vino Winery in Grapevine won a silver medal in the 2005 Dallas Morning News Competition and 2 silver and 5 bronze medals in the Lone Star International Competition.   D’Vine Wines won medals for their Red Zinfandel, Claret, French Colombard and Texas Rio Red at the San Antonio Express News Wine Competition.   They also won ‘Best in Class’ for the ‘Other Dry Reds’ category with their 2004 Claret at the 2006 Houston Livestock & Rodeo International Wine Competition.

What advice do these folks have for someone thinking about a visit?   As Besgrove of D’Vine Wines suggested, “Tell people to come prepared to have a good time and enjoy the wine.”   Sounds like good advice.



Custom Wine Labels
Photo Courtesy of D'Vine Wines



Texas Custom Wineries

Custom Crush Winery
8425 Bandera Rd. #148
San Antonio, TX 76051
210.680.8601

D'Vine Wines
(Mulitple Locations Around Texas)
4915 Camp Bowie
Fortworth, TX 76107
817.569.9463

Su Vino Winery
120 South Main St.
Grapevine, TX76051
817.424.0123

Swirll Winery
1311 Main St.
Dallas,TX 75206
214.573.6603

Vintner's Cellars of North Texas
4025 Preston Rd. #604
Plano, TX 75093
972.289.9551

The Winery in Grand Prairie
2803 Robinson Rd.
Grand Prairie, TX 75052
972.237.1606

Water 2 Wine
(San Antonio & Austin locations)
2211 NW Military Dr. #128
San Antonio, TX 78213
210.344.9463

The Winewerks
19141 Stone Oak Pkwy # 507
San Antonio, TX 78258
210.404.6379


 

What do other wineries think of these new 'make your own' wineries?

In a 2005 article in the Plano Star Courier about Vinters Cellars of North Texas, Jerry Delaney, president and founder of Delaney Vineyards in Grapevine was quoted as saying, "I'm thrilled to death that we have more wineries because the Texas wine industry is in its infancy right now. It just makes for more awareness."

 

Results of a 2005 survey at wineries around Texas by the Texas Wine Marketing Research Institute

Number of winery visitors
from Texas versus out-of-state
Courtesy of Texas Wine
Marketing Research Institute

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