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Rack & Riddle

Rack & Riddle

”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.

Rack & Riddle is a playground for winemakers—they have access to sparkling equipment that wouldn’t normally be in a still winery. So they don’t have to purchase it, or worry about the overhead inherent in a production facility. We love to collaborate one-on-one with our clients. They can have as much input and presence they like because we have an open door policy.
— Rack & Riddle’s’ Executive Director of Winemaking Penny Gadd-Coster

Custom winemaking

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.

Kansas City Royals™     World Series™    Championship Brut  on the Rack & Riddle production line

Kansas City Royals™ World Series™ Championship Brut on the Rack & Riddle production line

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.”

Kansas City Royals™       World Series™      Championship Brut

Kansas City Royals™ World Series™ Championship Brut

Award-winning private label wines from Rack & Riddle stock

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

The Breathless Wine Team: (L->R): Sharon Cohn, winemaker Penny Gadd-Coster (pouring), Cynthia Faust, and Rebecca Faust

The Breathless Wine Team: (L->R): Sharon Cohn, winemaker Penny Gadd-Coster (pouring), Cynthia Faust, and Rebecca Faust

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.”

Rack & Riddle Vineyards | VAULT29

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.

Winemakers, wine brands, winelovers: We'd love to see your Rack & Riddle and Breathless Wine experiences in the VAULT29 app! Simply download, create a post, and use #RackandRiddle, #BreathlessWines, and/or #CustomWines hashtags - Cheers!



"Wine Mic Monday" is a VAULT29 series based on an "open mic concept" where wineries take over our blog...because every glass and bottle of wine has a story. This week, and in honor of Black History Month, we are proud to feature Esterlina Vineyards & Winery.  Esterlina is the largest African American owned family Vineyards and Winery operation in the U.S who celebrated it’s 10 Year Anniversary in 2011. 

Quietly Making Wines Too Good to Ignore by Stephen Sterling

Esterlina Vineyards & Winery, the largest African American owned family Vineyards and Winery operation in the U.S, produces award-winning wines with international demand and recognition. Esterlina wines have been featured on White House Menu’s with President Bush in 2005 and 2008 and requested for President Obama’s Inauguration celebrations in 2009 along with numerous industry accolades.

Esterlina Winery operates its tasting room in the Dry Creek Region of Sonoma in collaboration with their Everett Ridge label, in the California wine country. The Sterling Family, have been growers in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties for some time before establishing their own family winery operation in 2001.  California farmers & winemakers for 3 generations, the Sterlings have pooled their collective talents and experience from farming, medicine, law and business to drive the successful family wine enterprise.   The Sterling’s have vineyards in the Dry Creek Valley, Cole Ranch AVA of Mendocino. The family currently bottles and produces all their wines at their Everett Ridge Winery location in Sonoma’s Healdsburg Wine Country.  

Our family believes wine growing is all about the land. Based on that belief, we sought out sites in the finest appellations and planted superior clones. Through experimentation, patience and a little luck, we feel we have created exceptional wines. We are confident that after you sample our wines you will agree
— Sterling Family

Esterlina Vineyards & Winery began as an extension of our family’s passion and history for farming and passing of wine making and enjoyment of food and wine.

Some of our earliest shared family stories are of the farming history of various members of our family and their love of the land and the treat of wine making as legacy passed from generation to generation. 

Esterlina Family | VAULT29

The details, after medical school my brother Eric began his emergency room practice in Sonoma County, during one of my father’s frequent visits to the area, he suggested getting back into farming via the local crop, grapes.  While we had grown raising cattle, and some row crops in the central valley and in Mendocino County, our higher learning pursuits took us to other industries.  Eric, a practicing physician, Craig an MBA focusing on small business and an attorney, Stephen an MBA focusing on marketing management and working in the blossoming wireless industry, while Chris maintained the love of farming like our father.  Our mother Doris is involved with the hospitality side of our business.  Both our mother and father are found in the tasting room on many special events and during the first few years of our tasting room operations.

The name Esterlina came from the family property in the Dominican Republic.  They called our home “casa de Esterlina” or house of the Sterlings.  There is a well known winery in Napa called Sterling which is owned by one of the large wine companies.  As our father would say, “they have more attorneys than we do”, “we don’t want to fight them for the use of our name”. 

After the purchase of first commercial vineyard in Alexander Valley where we grew Cabernet Sauvignon we chose another Sonoma vineyard in the Russian River Valley.  Our premier vineyard location is our Cole Ranch AVA.  The Cole Ranch founded by John Cole whom we purchased the vineyard from in the 90’s is one of the most unique vineyards in America.  The Cole Ranch has the distinction of being the US monopole or smallest single vineyard AVA in the country.  It is also one of the test questions on the Sommelier and Master Sommelier exam given by the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Esterlina Tasting Room View | VAULT29

Our winery tasting room is in the picturesque Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma in the town of Healdsburg, a popular wine destination currently.  Visitors can often enjoy meeting a family member particularly on weekends and hear the stories of wine making and ask questions about our various vintages and the unique hand crafted and single vineyard selections.  Our tasting room is situated so that even in rough weather you can enjoy the view overlooking the Dry Creek Valley through bay type windows behind our tasting area. 

Our wine club members enjoy the hand prepared family recipes and along with treats made from fruits and vegetables grown on property and the same style grass fed beef that we grew up raising.

In February 2015 our family has decided to invite guests to a first ever Black History Month Celebration at our estate property in Healdsburg.  Of the nearly 8000 wineries in the US and 3500 plus in CA less than 80 are owned by African American or Latino families.  Of those less than a dozen have a tasting room open to the public.  Esterlina has been proud sponsors for Macy’s Black History Month the last several years and featured on CNN, Essence. Proceeds from ticket sales and wine sales go to The United Negro College Fund, The Museum of African Diaspora and The Redwood Empire Food Bank. To hear our story live as told by our family watch our video:.

UPDATE: In early 2016, Flanagan Wines purchased the Everette Ridge property in Dry Creek (Healdsburg, CA). More on this here.

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