”Rack & Riddle: Meeting the Need for Sparkling and Still Winemaking Services in the Custom Crush Arena” by Elizabeth Nixon
Wine industry veterans Rebecca Faust and Bruce Lundquist often heard winemakers lament: Making sparkling wine is too cost prohibitive; the learning curve too steep. Yet sparkling wine sales have been outpacing still wine for nearly a decade—everybody wanted in. A light bulb turned on. This was the perfect, untapped niche: Rack & Riddle would be an operation where wineries, winemakers and brands could access still and sparkling custom crush services—from base wine or grapes, or any winemaking process in between—as well as private label wines.
Rack & Riddle has grown from eight employees at its founding in 2007 to over 80 today, expanded in 2014 to two facilities based in Sonoma County, and is one of the largest operations in the nation specializing in the traditional French sparkling winemaking style of méthode Champenoise.
Projects at Rack & Riddle are varied and truly custom. Clients elect to bring in grapes or base wine, or choose from winemaking processes a la carte, such as bottling finished wines, or aging wines in barrel. The private label wine program is ideal for those seeking a branded label with a quick turn-around time. Orders average just three months from placing an order, to receiving government label approval to being labeled and packed in cases ready to ship. Private label customers range from wineries and restaurants to retail stores, gift basket companies and more.
“A lot of our customers start their wine program with a private label wine. In the meantime, they can prepare to bring in their own grapes or base wine down the road. This is a really useful strategy to get their wine program established in the marketplace,” said Gadd-Coster.
One such client is Wine by Design, an official licensee of Major League Baseball, who chose Rack & Riddle as the “ideal partner to produce limited-release sparkling wine” first in 2013 for the Boston Red Sox sparkling, and now for the Kansas City Royals™ sparkling wine. “How do you find those people who are best at what they do?” said Wine by Design Founder and CEO Diane Karle. They turned to a grape grower for advice. “Immediately, no question, they said, ‘Rack & Riddle…’ We started the conversation, explained what we wanted to do, and their group was excited to get on board. We were very lucky.”
Rack & Riddle Winery also has its own brand of four award-winning sparkling wines, which have been awarded 20 Gold medals and Best of Class awards in just the past few years. The wines can be purchased in select stores across California and numerous states nationwide, and in 27 states online at www.rackandriddle.com.
Breathless Wines, Rack & Riddle’s sister winery, will open a tasting room adjacent to Rack & Riddle’s sparkling wine facility at 499 Moore Lane in Healdsburg, Calif., in early 2016. Founded by sisters Rebecca Faust (Rack & Riddle’s co-founder), Sharon Cohn and Cynthia Faust, Breathless’ tasting room will feature three sparkling wine varietals in an innovative space—the first of its kind in Healdsburg constructed out of shipping containers. Guests enjoy a world class tasting experience complete with sabering lessons, in a space devoted to supporting more than a dozen non-profit partners.
With a multitude of programs running at once, Rack & Riddle emphasizes customer satisfaction is key.
“Working with Rack & Riddle has been an absolute pleasure,” said client Amy Kemp, co-proprietor of Loma Prieta Winery. “They are extremely knowledgeable and provide outstanding customer service, which affords us the opportunity to provide a superior product at a very reasonable price point.”
Outsourcing winemaking to Rack & Riddle means “the difference between being able to offer sparkling wine and simply not being able to offer sparkling wine,” Kemp recently told Wines & Vines. Utilizing Rack & Riddle’s custom crush facility also means Kemp won’t be delayed by a “sparkling wine production learning curve.”
As a custom crush facility that produces over 1.2 million cases annually and a team with over 100 years’ combined expertise, Rack & Riddle’s No. 1 goal is for clients large and small to know they are in the best of hands.