A Craft Winery is a small production winery who produces less than 5,000 cases per year and is often characterized by a handmade process, direct to consumer sales and locally or sustainably sourced ingredients. There are about 8,000 of these operating in the U.S. today but as of now only 21 of them are certified by The Craft Wine Association. As we grow and add more and more members we will continue to be a resource for consumers to find and identify wines as “craft” but in the meantime, how do you find a Craft Wine near you?
It’s not as easy as it sounds to identify Craft Wineries, many wineries that appear small are actually owned by corporations with multiple wine holdings. This doesn’t mean that their wines are not good or not sustainably produced but though they present an image of a family winery, when they are owned by a publicly traded company or an entity that is purely profit driven, the quality of the product may be affected and the revenue often is taken out of the local community. When consumers are motivated to do the homework and support the truly small farms and businesses that make up the Craft Winery community they are accomplishing some worthy programs like sustainable farming, keeping local revenue within farming communities and contributing to a tax base that supports local schools, infrastructure, etc. See below for a few ways to identify Craft Wineries who are not yet certified by our association.
Just Ask: The easiest way to find out if a winery is family owned, small production, local and sustainable is to ask. Sometimes the information is on their website but that can be deceiving as many small wineries are purchased by corporations, which may change where the profit goes but little else. So the best way to find out is to send an email through a contact form, general email address or just give them a call.
What Varietals do they produce? Corporate wineries are generally not very adventurous when it comes to trying new varietals or blends. Their obligation to make a profit for their shareholders forces them to stick with what is proven, so if you see a winery trying something new and adventurous like including a new or less often used varietal they are probably independently owned and most likely small production.
Pay attention to detail: When you visit a Craft Winery, there are a lot of obvious clues that will let you know they are small. For example, is the person pouring tastes of wine an employee who is reading from a script or is it the actual winemaker? Craft Wineries generally can’t afford to pay a large staff so the person you encounter in the tasting room is often the winemaker, family member or close friend. This makes a big difference in the experience and family owned wineries inspire a lot of loyalty from their consumers.
Unfortunately there is no one place on the internet you can go to find out which wineries near you, or a place you are planning to travel to, are small production. The TTB lists wineries by permit but they do not distinguish by size or method of production. So keep checking back and as our certifications and memberships grow we will be providing that resource!