A backyard vineyard that makes wine – yours
A Web startup serves that fundamental need of all successful executives: making their very own high-end wines.
(Fortune Magazine) — One weekend morning in 2002, Michael Brill had the sort of epiphany that commonly befalls successful businesspeople – particularly tech businesspeople who live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Fed up with an unfulfilling career in software marketing, Brill wanted to wake up, look out over a vineyard and spend his days handcrafting wine.
Unlike many of those who have had the daydream before him, however, he didn’t have the, oh, $15 million to plant a stake in Napa or Sonoma. So he got creative. “I dug up my backyard,” Brill says, referring to his 625-square-foot plot in San Francisco’s sunny Potrero Hill neighborhood. “There was an avocado tree, a lemon tree. I just razed the whole thing and planted pinot noir and a couple of syrah vines.”
Over the next year he buried himself in winemaking books, replaced the junk in his garage with a few stainless-steel tanks and a couple of fermenters, and began meeting farmers and procuring grapes.
Wine splurges and steals
He still had the day job, but by night and on weekends he was living his dream. And suddenly he had a lot more friends. “Random people walking down the street would drop in and say, ‘What are you doing?’ I’d give them some pizza and beer, and they’d help me for 12 hours,” the 41-year-old Brill recalls. “We made some nice wine. And then I knew I wanted to do this in a bigger way.” Thus Crushpad was born.
Headquartered in a 17,000-square-foot warehouse on a gritty edge of the Mission District, Crushpad is a custom winemaking facility that taps into that universal human urge to give it all up for a life among the vines – without the giving-it-all-up part.
At a fraction of the cost and effort of buying land or ripping up the backyard, customers work elbow-deep in grapes and, with the help of a team of professional winemakers, custom-craft their own vintages. Some buy in to get a quality wine at a fraction of the retail cost. Others consider the experience an apprenticeship, an on-ramp to a career change. Many just want a bottle with their name on it to give to clients and family.
Whatever their motivation, Crushpad’s 1,500 customers are now following Brill’s charge toward Wine 2.0, which shares all the buzzy characteristics of “Web 2.0″ – social networks, user collaboration, wikis and so forth.
The difference, of course, is that whereas Web 2.0-ers drink the proverbial Kool-Aid, Crushpad customers get to enjoy an actual adult beverage.