Redwood Valley Cellars Provides Custom Crush and More

As a winemaker at a custom crush facility, Owen Smith has seen it all—many different winemaking styles, diverse fruit from all over California. While these variables can be a challenge, Smith sees them as an opportunity: clients are constantly bringing new ideas and methods into his winemaking repertoire.

“I have had customers come in and want to use a particular product or process that I haven’t tried before. It’s a chance to explore new ideas and see them in action,” he says. “Some growers know exactly what they want, so we work with them to achieve their goals. And for growers without a specific stylistic goal, we can help them to produce the best possible wine.”

Smith is the winemaker at Redwood Valley Cellars, a custom crushing/storage facility owned and managed by the Barra family for more than 20 years. The Barra family is well established in the industry, with more than seven decades of grape-growing experience. In addition to custom crush services, the Barra family also grows and produces wines under the labels Barra of Mendocino and Girasole Vineyards.

Harvested grapes being poured out of bin

Full Range of Services for Lake County Winegrape Growers

For growers in Lake County, Redwood Valley Cellars is the closest, large-scale custom crush facility, according to Smith. In 2016, it was named one of the top 10 custom crush facilities in the north bay by North Bay Business Journal.

The company became a Lake County Winegrape Commission sponsor to highlight its commitment to Lake County growers. “We have always done business with these growers,” he says, emphasizing the company’s history in the region. “We want to make sure we’re at the top of the list of the facilities Lake County growers call if they need custom crush.”

Smith says there are a few other custom crush facilities in Lake County, but they tend to specialize in smaller lots. He notes that with 2.5 million gallons of storage capacity, the facility at Redwood Valley Cellars can handle custom crush requirements for any producer in the area, regardless of size. Among its clients is the Allied Grape Growers, a large producer in Lake County.

Services aren’t limited to custom crush either. “We’re in constant contact with all the bulk wine brokers and have an extensive list of previous clients, so we can help with the sales process as well,” Smith adds, noting that Redwood Valley Cellars has experience helping clients sell their wine on the bulk market when needed.

While sourcing varies from year to year, the facility typically pulls in fruit from all five North Coast counties as well as regions further away, such as Clarksburg, Lodi, and Paso Robles. Of the 7,000 tons crushed by the facility in 2016, 1,260 tons were from Lake County, primarily reds.

Despite the emphasis on red wine, Smith says the company sees an opportunity to do more business with Sauvignon Blanc producers in Lake County and take advantage of the company’s extensive fermentation equipment before the reds come in.

Flexibility is key for a custom crush facility, especially with a harvest like the one just finished. Smith says 2016 was an especially interesting year for Redwood Valley Cellars: “A lot of people didn’t realize at first how much fruit they had,” he says. “We got a lot of last minute calls to crush large lots of fruit.”

Organic Certification

Redwood Valley Cellars is one of the largest CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) certified custom crush facilities on the West Coast. The facility undergoes annual inspections by the CCOF and adheres to all regulations surrounding the use of organic compounds, cleaning agents, wash-down processes, and more.

“Since we are a certified organic handler, we can help an organic grower preserve that designation into the winemaking process,” says Smith. “It’s our guarantee that their wine will leave here with all of the proper documentation.” He notes that Redwood Valley Cellars handles a large volume of conventionally grown fruit as well, emphasizing the company’s flexibility and customer-first approach.

To inquire about Redwood Valley Cellars’ services, contact Director of Operations Shawn Harmon at Call 707-485-0322 or visit Redwood Valley Cellars online for more information:


    Grower Conversation Series: Winegrape Wednesdays 4:00 pm
    Grower Conversation Series: Winegrape Wednesdays @ The Mercantile
    Jul 17 @ 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
    Grower Conversation Series: Winegrape Wednesdays @ The Mercantile
    You are invited to attend the Grower Conversation series hosted by Lake County Winegrowers. This series aims to connect growers, buyers, and industry experts to discuss the climate of today’s market. Each conversation will feature[...]
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