Crowd Sourced Craft Wine Comes to L.A.


Keith Saarloos of Saarloos + Sons Winery claims "I was born and raised on an interchange" in Bellflower, so it's little surprise he'd be attracted to food and wine blogger Matt Mitchell's plan to launch #CraftWineLA. "Wine is part of Los Angeles's heritage," Saarloos suggests. "It's even a great place to make wine, but all the agriculture is gone, and you need even more land to grow grapes."

But just because you can't grow grapes in L.A. proper doesn't mean you can't make the wine there. That's Mitchell's goal - to start with a first blend overseen by Saarloos and then grow a small batch, artisanal scene that parallels the burgeoning craft beer movement. "Los Angeles is full of millennials exploring wines who want to get beyond the grocery store and Trader Joe's experience," Mitchell asserts. "They want to be the first to discover something and to tell others about new things."

Mitchell, managing editor/producer of Dig Lounge, envisions that #CraftWineLA can help these people along the way with wines, tasting events, and collaborations with small, independent and family-owned wineries. Even more, to kick off the project, Mitchell is looking for crowd sourcing to make the initial Saarloos syrah and cabernet sauvignon blend, a funding model unheard of in wine, since Kickstarter and others don't want to deal with such a regulated product. Saarloos jokes, "It's like in Kingpin: 'Are you sure this is legal?' 'I don't know, but it's fun!'" While Mitchell says, "The crowd sourcing adds to the community aspect--you're part of something only one hundred people are part of." Saarloos jumps in, "We're not bottling some bulls**t bulk juice. We've planted every vine ourselves, we've made each blend ourselves, we've sold every bottle ourselves. That's the difference between a craft and a product."

To be part of the campaign, people must pony up $20; donations of $49 or more mean you get at least one bottle of the limited edition Saarloos + Sons wine. Each donation also includes an invite to the first tasting event and pick-up party. Mitchell envisions the wine will be bottled in August and released in February or March of 2015. "It'll be one time, one barrel," Saarloos emphasizes, "and that's it." There will even be a design contest for creating the label, as one more way to build a community.

Mitchell sees this as just the first salvo of #CraftWineLA. "I'd like to keep creating wines with others in Los Angeles," he says. "There are a lot of people doing some really interesting things. And then maybe five to ten years from now we could have a winemaking facility like Camarillo Custom Crush, where people can make their own wines."

When asked what a quintessential LA wine might be, the two first riffed, with Saarloos joking, "It's be very shallow and very dirty," and Mitchell adding, "And definitely have the smell of dry asphalt." But Saarloos turned quickly serious, claiming, "The beauty of Los Angeles is the diversity of people. That's why LA is awesome--in and of itself it's its own country. You want the world's best Chinese food, or the world's best Mexican food, or the world's best Italian food, it's there."

Soon people will be able to enjoy all those cuisines with wine tied even more to LA.

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