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Wine & Spirits Feature — August 2019

We are thrilled to be featured in the August issue of Wine & Spirits magazine. The article, “Sparkling New Wave… The rise of artisanal, site-specific sparkling wines in the US,” highlights the proliferation of American sparkling wines, particularly those clustered in the West. Rack & Riddle is one of a handful of sparkling wine producers highlighted in the five-page article, pages 16-20.

In the feature, Managing Partner and Co-Founder Bruce Lundquist is interviewed about our approach, production capabilities as both a custom crush grape-to-bottle and base-to-bottle winery, and the realization that we have grown to be the third-largest sparkling wine producer in the U.S. over the last 12 years.

Read the full article at Wine & Spirits or download the PDF here.

To learn how we can work together to create a premium sparkling wine for your brand, contact us!

Rack & Riddle Wins Gold at IWWC

We earned Gold and 93pts for our North Coast Blanc De Blancs at the International Women’s Wine Compeition that took place June 11-12, 2019.

Over 1,025 wines were entered into the annual competition that was expertly judged by the wine industry’s leading professional women (though open to men and women winemakers alike). The competition not only recognizes the best wines that appealed to the judges, but also the wines they felt would most appeal and influence other women wine buyers and consumers.

Congratulations to our winemakers! We are very proud to be honored by the IWWC with this award!

Rack & Riddle Announces Major Upgrade to Sparkling Wine Production Capabilities at its Healdsburg Facility

Healdsburg, Calif. (May 23, 2019) — Northern California Wine Country’s largest custom crush and sparkling wine producer, Rack & Riddle, this month unveiled another major facilities expansion at its Healdsburg location. The recent expansion comprises both acquiring a neighboring 67,000-square-foot facility and the installation of a now fully automated, leading-edge sparkling wine production line. This recent upgrade wraps-up a major production line overhaul that began in 2017 with the installation of a fully automated still wine bottling line.

New Sparkling Production Capabilities

The new sparkling production line, designed by MASPACK Packaging USA, is set to accelerate Rack & Riddle’s production capabilities to better serve its client base of wineries, retailers and distributors, nationwide. They are the only Sonoma County-based custom crush winery specializing in Méthode Champenoise sparkling wines, which gives clients a fast way to enter the premium sparkling wine sector without the overhead or costly expense of developing their own sparkling production.

Before the upgrades, Rack & Riddle utilized a partially automated sparkling production line that produced 1,400 cases in a single production run and 350,000 cases annually. With the recent automation roll-out, production has now increased to 2,700 bottles per run, and they project to increase their annual production to 550,000 cases within the next 12 months.

General Manager, Mark Garaventa, says, “With a now fully-automated Sparkling production line, we are set to produce over 750,000 cases of sparkling wine annually — a 114% increase in production! The increase eliminates the need for extended or double worker shifts, as capacity enables us to run single shifts daily — a win for us, our clients, and our workers.”

Automated Sparkling Production — How It Works

Once the wine goes through the first stage of fermentation in stainless steel tanks until dry, it is then pumped from the tanks and bottled on the high-output automated sparkling production line. Sugar and yeast are added by robotics, then bottles are capped and placed into storage bins for the second fermentation which occurs in the bottle. Second fermentation is what creates the fine, tiny bubbles premium Méthode Champenoise sparkling wines — and Rack and Riddle — is known for. The wine ages on the lees in bins for at least six months to a few years, depending on client protocol. Once aged to protocol, the bottles are transferred to riddling bins where they are riddled robotically to fully riddle the lees into the bottle neck, which takes approximately 3-4 weeks. Once riddled, the bottles are transferred back onto the production line, neck down, where the lees are frozen in place at the neck of the bottle and popped out — this is the disgorging process. Once disgorged, robotics then adds custom dosage (if desired by client). Then, at a rhythmic and mesmerizing pace, the bottles run through the remaining automation process of being corked, caged, foiled, labeled, packed and palletized for shipment.

Rack & Riddle also features a fully automated still wine bottling line, also designed by MASPACK Packaging USA, for both grape-to-bottle and base-to-bottle still wine production services.

New Website Roll-Out

To coincide with the expansion and production upgrades, Rack & Riddle has just launched a totally redesigned website to better serve clients looking for custom crush sparkling and still wine services, private-label sparkling wine (shiners), automated bottling production, and more. The website was designed and developed by SoCo Creative Agency based out of Santa Rosa, California.

For a media or industry facility tour, or to request an interview with the Winemaking Team, journalists are asked to contact Business Development Manager, Cynthia Faust, at (707) 433-8400 x201 or cynthia@rackandriddle.com.

About Rack & Riddle

With three locations in Sonoma County, California, Rack & Riddle is an innovative leader in the custom crush, custom wine services marketplace. Committed to providing pristine facilities where both internal and client winemakers are able to craft award-winning still and sparkling wines, the facilities are bustling year-round.

Rack & Riddle offers complete grape-to-bottle and base-to-bottle production for still and sparkling wines, and private-label sparkling wine services. The installation of state-of-the-art, high-capacity still and sparkling wine production and bottling lines provides the ability for clients to keep up with demand. The facilities house nearly two million gallons of stainless-steel storage and fermentation vessels. An exceptional winemaking team produces 1.7 million cases of wine annually.

For information about facilities and operations, journalists are asked to contact Mark Garaventa, General Manager, mark@rackandriddle.com, (707) 433-8400 x125.

Cynthia Faust
(707) 433-8400 x201

Gold at The Press Democrat North Coast Wine Challenge

Image of Rack and Riddle Sparkling Wine with North Coast Wine Challenge LogoOur North Coast Blanc De Blancs won Gold — 95pts at the 7th Annual Press Democrat North Coast Wine Challenge held April 9-10, 2019.

Wines were judged from a field of 1186 entries. Only wines rating 90+ points were awarded gold medals and were eligible to move on to the “Best Of” Category. This year’s Best of the Best went to St. Francis Winery & Vineyard for its 2016 Tres Viejos Zinfindel, Sonoma County.

Thank you, Press Democrat and judges! We’re honored to have one of our popular sparkling wines win such a presitigous award!

To learn more about the other medals and awards Rack & Riddle sparkling wines have won, visit our Awards page.

Winemaking Team Expansion

Major Facilities Expansion Prompts Team Growth in Anticipation of a Bustling Year for Northern California’s Largest Custom Crush Wine Service Provider

Rack & Riddle, Sonoma County’s leading custom crush wine service, has recently expanded its winemaking team in preparation for a busy 2019. With a newly automated still wine bottling line and an automated sparkling wine facilities expansion set to be completed in Spring 2019 (more TBA next month), Rack & Riddle is expecting an exciting year in custom crush wine production.

The winemaking team has been expanded by four employees in recent months. The team, led by award-winning Executive Winemaking Director Penelope Gadd-Coster and Head Winemaker Manveer Sandhu, is prepping for the uptick in custom-blended private-label sparkling wines sales, as well as significant demand for full production still and sparkling wine services. They’ve been training staff in advance of the expansion to accommodate their growing customer base.

General Manager Mark Garaventa, says, “Rack & Riddle has experienced a major, transformative year. Our rapidly growing customer base has led us to not only expand our facilities and capabilities, but also to expand our entire team — from winemakers to production personnel. We’re ensuring we can keep up with the high demand for our premium California sparkling wines, and innovative custom crush services.”

Gadd-Coster, says, “We’re excited about the expansion. We’ve compiled a truly diverse, dedicated team. They not only bring their own unique winemaking skills and experience to our production — we are also teaching them the time-honored French Méthode Champenoise tradition of making sparkling wines, in order to pass on a unique artisanal method of making bubbly, paying it forward to future generations.”

Meet the Winemakers

Penelope Gadd-Coster
Executive Director of Winemaking
Penny Gadd-Coster, Executive Director of WinemakingPenny has been with Rack & Riddle since 2007. Her talents have garnered more than 100 medals and awards in the past few years; more than 30 Best of Class, Double Gold and Gold medals in the past few years alone for Rack & Riddle and client wines. Penny was named “Winemaker of the Year” in December 2013, honoring her significant contributions to winemaking. An incredible achievement, as contenders included the top winemakers from Sonoma, Napa and the greater Bay Area.

An accomplished writer and speaker, she was also selected as an expert panelist at the WIN Expo in Sonoma County, the 2015 Women in Wine event in Napa, and most recently at the 2018 Women in Conversation for Sonoma State University.

“Working for Rack & Riddle has given me the opportunity to be an integral part of a company that has been built from the ground up, just like my career,” says Gadd-Coster.

Manveer Sandhu
Head Winemaker
Manveer Sandhu, Head WinemakerManveer has been with Rack & Riddle since 2011. Under the direct tutelage of Penny Gadd-Coster he has mastered the art of Méthode Champenoise, advancing from Production Winemaker to Head Winemaker. He manages day-to-day winemaking operations for sparkling wine production as well as overseeing the winemaking team. Under the direction of Penny, he mentors the team to not only advance the art of winemaking, but to pass on the Méthode Champenoise tradition. A graduate of UC Davis with a bachelor’s degree in neurobiology, he studied for two years under noted viticulturist Dr. David Smart.

Sandhu, says, “Wine has been my passion for many years, and working for Rack & Riddle has given me the opportunity to help craft amazing sparkling wines. Sharing this passion with our clients and team members has been a rewarding experience.”

Jennifer Zeek
Jennifer Zeek, WinemakerJenn Zeek joined us in 2014, bringing a decade of previous winemaking experience with her. While working for harvest and cellar at several wineries, Jenn pursued a B.S. in Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis, graduating in 2008. Following graduation, she took jobs working harvest at Balletto Vineyards before moving to lush New Zealand for the 2009 harvest at Mud House Wines, before working at Sonoma Wine Company as a lab tech, where she was promoted to lab manager. She then worked as winemaker for Murphy Family Custom Crush until 2014 when Rack & Riddle took over the facilities and offered her a position to continue on with custom crush.

Zeek says of working custom crush, “The pool of experience you get to draw from working with a myriad of client winemakers is invaluable. I am curious by nature so I enjoy embracing client protocols while also recommending new advances and sharing my own winemaking style.”

Sarah HuntSarah Hunt, Assistant Operations Winemaker
Assistant Operations Winemaker
Sarah is the Assistant Operations Winemaker. She assists in all areas of grape-to-bottle still and sparkling wine production. Year-round, she is the evening winemaker, and also assists during harvest at the production facility in Alexander Valley during crush. She’s a seasoned Sommelier not afraid to get her hands dirty and transform fruit into a wonderful product that will delight.

The Latest Recruits:

Sandrine BourcierImage of Sandrine
Sparkling  Winemaker
Sandrine has recently joined our team as our Sparkling Winemaker. She’s responsible for ensuring all Custom Client products meet and exceed established standards for the highest caliber of sparkling wine. She also helps to coordinate all Custom Clients of Rack & Riddle, ensuring excellent customer service, as well as client development.

Erin Enstice
Apprentice WinemakerErin Enstice, Apprentice Winemaker
Erin is an Apprentice Winemaker at Rack & Riddle. She’s one of the latest recruits, having joined us in August 2018 after graduating UC Davis with a Master of Science degree in Viticulture and Enology. She also holds a B.S. in Chemistry from University of North Carolina, Asheville. As Apprentice Winemaker, she is learning all aspects of both still and sparkling winemaking, including the age-old Méthode Champenoise practice that Rack & Riddle is known for.

Adam Toomire
Adam Toomire, Apprentice WinemakerApprentice Winemaker
California native Adam Toomire, is an Apprentice Winemaker. In this hands-on learning role, he encounters all aspects of winemaking: Lab work, cellar work, production management and client relations. Born and raised in Morgan Hill (South Bay), he attended Chico State University, graduating in May 2017 with a degree in Ag Business. He’s been working full-time in wine cellars for the past four years at small, family owned wineries. These small production wineries have helped him grow his skills and passion for the business.

Jordan Randall
Jordan Randall, Apprentice WinemakerApprentice Winemaker
Jordan joined the Rack & Riddle team in April 2018, starting as a lab tech, and quickly advancing to Apprentice Winemaker. As an apprentice winemaker he is learning the art of winemaking and all that entails — from learning the artisan Méthode Champenoise sparkling wine practice — to advanced still winemaking. He works in both our wine cellars and state-of-the-art wine lab doing analysis, and whatever is needed. Originally from Troy, Vermont, Jordan grew up on a dairy farm. You could say that the ag-business is built into his DNA. In 2013, he graduated from California State University, Fresno with a Bachelor’s of Science, Enology degree. Prior to university, he served five years in the U.S. Navy as a Machinist’s Mate with deployments to both Iraq (twice) and Afghanistan (once).

To read their full bios, view our Winemaking Team page.

About Rack & Riddle

With three locations in Sonoma County, California, Rack & Riddle is an innovative leader in the custom crush, custom wine services marketplace. Committed to providing pristine facilities where both internal and client winemakers are able to craft award-winning still and sparkling wines, the facilities are bustling year-round.

The 2018 installation of a state-of-the-art, high-capacity still wine bottling line provides clients with the ability to rapidly produce their wines and keep up with demand. Installation of an automated, high-capacity sparkling wine bottling line will be completed Spring 2019 — just in time for the summer and fall disgorging seasons.

Rack & Riddle offers complete grape-to-bottle and base-to-bottle production for still and sparkling wines, and private-label sparkling wine services. The facilities house nearly two million gallons of stainless steel storage and fermentation vessels. An exceptional winemaking team produces 1.7 million cases of wine annually.

For interviews with the winemaking team, please contact Cynthia Faust, at cynthia@rackandriddle.com or call (707) 433-8400 x201.

For information about facilities and operations, journalists are asked to contact Mark Garaventa, General Manager, mark@rackandriddle.com, (707) 433-8400 x125.

Team Member Spotlight: Interview with Penny Gadd-Coster

Penny is our Executive Director of Winemaking and has been with Rack & Riddle since its inception in 2007. We recently interviewed Penny to chat about her history with the company, what it means to be a revered winemaker in the industry, and what it’s like to work for a progressive winery that is proud to be owned and operated by a strong female influence.

Here’s what Penny had to say:

You’re an accomplished winemaker, making both still and sparkling wines, however your specialty niche is Méthode Champenoise sparkling wines. What drives your passion for the age-old tradition and for creating bubbly in general?

There is something really special knowing that each bottle has its own life making the bubbles to make it sparkle. A great balance between creative — making the blends- and science — making up yeast cultures and wine chemistries.

Knowing that there are not many who will dive into this process makes it even more special, following a tradition and making something fun that people can enjoy.

You’ve held many rewarding positions in the wine industry over the years. What sets your position and winemaker stewardship at Rack & Riddle apart from other industry roles you’ve had over the years?

Being able to create the wine for a new brand is exciting and also humbling. There is no house ‘formula’ to follow when you start with a brand — a lot is concept of the team and then crafting it from scratch. I have to say I was not alone, and two mentors that I worked with definitely helped to play a part in the bridging of concept to bottle. Also truly being a part of the growth and soul of Rack and Riddle — how great is that!

While working for Rack & Riddle, you’ve earned the title of “Winemaker of the Year” in 2013, among other notable awards for your wines and contributions to the industry. What did it mean to you personally to win that honor, particularly as a woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry?

Wow — that was the first year that they gave this award to Winemakers — so that made it even more special! This award comes from a recognition of peers. I cannot even express how special this was for me. It was not an easy trail — but the challenges were worth it. I have to thank my mentors along the way that helped me get here: Andre’ Tchelistcheff, Raphael Brisbois, Oded Shakked — none of them saw gender as an issue.

You’re an accomplished industry speaker and panelist. What types of speaking engagements do you find the most rewarding, and why?

I love sharing information — mentoring and teaching. It is so rewarding when someone tells me that they gained some insight or have a better understanding of a process. Just the fact that I am being asked to speak is rewarding in itself!

What advice would you give prospective winemakers either considering a career in winemaking, or just starting out in the industry — particularly women?

Follow your gut — this is hard work and movement upwards can be slow — BUT persevere!

Stand up for yourself.

No job is too hard — even for women! Learn everything — much respect is gained for those that were not afraid to stand on a bottling line and learn all of the aspects of it: Sanitation, QC, the mechanics of the equipment, maintenance … all are important. NEVER forget that. Starting out as crush help and working your way up is not a bad thing.

Travel to wineries in and out of the US — a lot can be learned! Remember this is a creative, but also scientific career.

Have a back up plan. As with any profession, you may find it is not right for you, but there are many professions within the industry — keep an open mind!

Méthode Champenoise winemaking is an age-old tradition that you’ve spent your entire career cultivating. What are you doing to ensure that future generations of winemakers — particularly in the U.S. — see the value in fostering this tradition and making sure it continues on?

At the moment the focus for this is at the winery where I am teaching and mentoring the Winemaking Team and clients. There are so many of them that want to learn the craft and can see why sparkling is still made in this tradition.

I am also working with some of the suppliers to put methodology in their catalogs — that makes some of the supplies more explainable. There is a piece in the Scott Labs catalog for an example.

Sharing with anyone that will listen! There is discussion going on to put together the Sparkling Winemakers in California so that not only can we pass along info, but glean info as well.

One Final Question: What do you feel your greatest contribution to the industry has been?

Keeping a tradition alive in an industry that is constantly changing, but also helping to keep that ‘tradition’ evolving by working with suppliers using new innovations by way of seminars and supplier catalogs. And mentoring to keep it alive!

Client Spotlight: Amista Vineyards

Image: Amista Vineyards Owners Ashley & Vicky

Ashley and Vicky during the Crush

Nearly a decade ago, Amista Vineyards gave Rosé of Syrah to a college winemaking class that wanted to try making bubbly. After tasting a bottle from that project, owners Vicky and Michael Farrow were inspired. When Michael handed over day-to-day winemaking to consultant Ashley Herzberg, a lover of bubbles, their sparkling program really took off.

Bubbly has become a mainstay, as, “the gems in the crown” of Amista’s still and sparkling wines, says Vicky Farrow.

Amista, loosely translated as “making friends” in Spanish, has crafted largely estate-grown single varietal wine in the heart of Sonoma County’s renowned Dry Creek Valley appellation since 2003.

Today, Amista offers five different sparkling wines; each flies out the door so quickly via direct-to-consumer and wine club sales that no distributors are necessary for the brand.

“In 2009, we took a barrel of our already-fermented, existing Rosé to Penny (Penny Gadd-Coster, Executive Director of Winemaking here at Rack & Riddle), and said, ‘help us make sparkling wine.’ It was so good and our customers loved it so much, that the following year we made it on purpose — picking grapes specifically for sparkling,” said Michael.

Harvest Season with Amista

Amista is often the first of Rack & Riddle’s 150-plus custom crush clients to bring grapes in at harvest time. But it’s no race. Determining when to pick sparkling grapes takes precision, and the time from veraison setting in to harvest can go in a flash. Sparkling grapes are picked early, typically between 17 and 20 brix, whereas still wines are picked much later, around 24 brix and up for Pinot.

“It’s so important to go off of flavors. If you just focus on sugars the outcome isn’t great,” said Ashley. She looks for visual cues as well to determine when to pick: a softer, more see-through green berry; percentage of ripe berries vs. not-so-ripe berries; and signs the vine is ready for picking and done pushing shoots.

Prep work also involves dropping underripe fruit so only the best grapes go into the wine.

Previous years’ stats are taken into account as well. “I reflect on when we’ve picked, the weather patterns, what the fruit looked like, acidity—even if the brix is the same, the acid levels can be completely different,” said Ashley.

Hand-picking has always been Amista’s preference over machine, which can “squish around the skins; whole cluster by hand is all-around better in my opinion,” said Ashley. “Left on the stem, the stems act as a support system — something for the grapes to press against, so you get a better yield.”

Working Together Throughout the Process

Throughout the winemaking process at Rack & Riddle, Amista enjoys the open-door policy and ability to oversee their project and make key decisions. “It’s really nice to have somebody at the facility who’s a great partner — for us to share ideas with, to test ideas with,” said Vicky. “Ashley and Penny have a great relationship and that’s been a really valuable thing. It’s not just a facility, it’s the expertise that you can develop in a much deeper way as a custom crush facility making wines for lots of different clients each year.”

You can visit Amista Vineyard’s tasting room and try their amazing sparkling wines at:

3320 Dry Creek Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448

Open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


WIN Advisor Features Rack & Riddle on its “Supplier Spotlight”

We’re excited to be featured in a January 14, 2019 “Supplier Spotlight” on WIN Advisor online, titled, “State-of-the Art Packaging Company Makes Inroads in Wine Country with High Tech Facility Upgrades,”

The online editorial examines our still wine bottling production overhaul that was designed and installed by MASPACK Packaging USA. It features MASPACK’s video on Rack & Riddle (below) which gives viewers an insider’s peek at our the new state-of-the-art bottling line in action.

Read the full article.

Thank you, Wine Industry Network!