Monday, June 10, 2013

GlassHouse Winery - A Community Supported Winery (CSW)

Boy, the three letter CSW certainly has many meanings.  If your a social worker it means "Certified Social Worker" and if you are in the wine business it means "Certified Specialist of Wine" and it now has a new meaning "Community Supported Winery."

The Community Supported Winery idea is the brain child of Rodney Gagnon.  Why not, for all those who belong to a CSA it's a fantastic membership.  You purchase a share in the farm and get rewarded with what is produced that year. You hope for good weather and a bountiful crop.  Why not take that model and use it in the wine industry.  That is exactly what Rodney has done.

Rodney is a New England native (WhooHoo for an East Coaster!) who now resides in Petaluma. He is the owner and founder of GlassHaus Winery a CSW.  Being intrigued by the idea I interviewed Rodney about his venture.  I wish him the best of luck!

     How did you come up with the idea of a CSW and what inspired you?
I wanted to build a truly different kind of wine company, based on insane transparency, strong community and real purpose. I am inspired by my CSA Membership (Tara Firma Farms), crowd-funding trends (Kickstarter, Naked Wines) and conscious capitalism (for lack of a better descriptor -- ex. B-Corps, OneHope Wines)

Tara Firma Farms + NakedWines + OneHope Wines = Glasshaus Wines, Community Supported Winery
     As with a CSA, members take the risk, risk being weather.  How will make your members understand the risks of a variable vintage?
I include that as one of the reasons for the 20% pre-harvest member discount. I also keep all members informed with weekly vineyard briefs (photos, short descriptions of conditions/vineyard actions) and monthly winegrowing analysis (complete weather analyses comparing historical averages and recent vintages). I try my very best to keep everyone informed throughout the entire process so that expectations are always set accordingly.

This is also one of the reasons that I don't sell all of the wine as member shares. I only sell enough to cover yearly vintage costs and reserve the remaining wine for sale at retail. This way, I'm "guaranteed" to have enough wine to cover all member shares in years of poor fruits sent or/and low yields due to difficult ripening conditions.

Great question! 
What is your vision for the future of the CSW?
My "big idea", if you would, is that CSWs (including transparency/community +/-purpose) are the new wine clubs.

     Will you only produce Chardonnay and Pinot Noir?
I'll expand to other varieties grown in the Petaluma Gap (Syrah, Pinot Gris) and offer it as the Sonoma Coast Share. I also envision offering other AVA specific shares. I'll most likely follow on with a Dry Creek Share (Zin, SB, etc). I'm also toying with an idea to create a "member swap" meet / barter system to add some flexibility for those members who prefer certain varietals over others since it is not feasible for Glasshaus to offer an a la carte menu.

     When do you expect to bottle your first vintage?
Our first vintage is 2013 and it will be bottled in the summer of 2014 with an expect fall delivery date.

     When you purchase a share, it’s only good for that year correct (2013 would be good for when you release the 2013 vintage – regardless when that release is)?
Yes. All shares are vintage shares. But, there's always a but, if for some reason we cannot deliver the share, members can opt for a full refund or rollover to the next vintage for the same or lower cost (depending on the vintage share price which is set every March)

     At what point in time will the cutoff be for membership for the 2013 vintage? Or any vintage?
There will only be a certain amount of shares offered every vintage (350 in 2013). There is no share cutoff but 20% discounted shares are offered only up until harvest. Discounts drop progressively after harvest up until bottling (15%, 10%, 5% timeframes TBD).

     How many cases do you intend to produce each year?
We are only starting with 500 cases in 2013. We will increase to 5,000 cases in a timeframe that is in accordance with member demand. We have capacity to reach 10,000 cases. I don't envision producing more than 10,000 cases.

     Does your membership in the CSW renew each year automatically?
No, but you very adeptly recognize the "subscription" vs "club" nature of the CSW program. We have a member only sales period each vintage (4/15-5/15) to allow past members to re-up but nothing is automatic. Maybe someday but for now, I'd rather under promise and over deliver so that people always want to opt-in because of personal interest (great wine, less money) and higher purpose (giving back).

     Anything else you think I should know?
Maybe one last thing. Members accrue greater discounts the longer they are in the program. 2% for every qualified purchase year. 

For more information about purchasing a share in Glasshouse visit

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