Produce Can Amplify Wine Brands

Canned garden products create added value for vineyards and wineries

by Jane Firstenfeld
cliff farms
Clif Family Winery & Farm produces preserves in addition to wine. General manager Linzi Gay says the non-wine offerings are “profitable for us. It’s not just on the side. It’s part of our business model."
Sonoma, Calif.—Preserved garden produce in the form of jams, jellies and sauces are commonly found on wine tasting room shelves. But incorporating value-added products can increase your winery brand’s impact by putting your name on pantry shelves as well as wine racks.

This fall, the University of California Cooperative Extension hosted “Taste the Possibilities: Adding Value to Your Ag Business” to share possibilities for locally grown small-batch, artisanal products.

“Value-added production is an emerging food trend with the potential to help grow the local economy and support farmers’ livelihood by tapping new revenue streams from preserving the peak of harvest and farm seconds that may otherwise go to waste,” said Julia Van Soelen Kim, UC Cooperative Extension advisor for the North Bay area.

It’s not all about making Merlot marmalade. Many small vineyards and wineries grow potentially comestible produce, from lavender and mustard to olives and truffles, utilizing spaces or acreage deemed unsuitable for grapes.

Under California’s Cottage Food Operations guidelines, wineries may process their own adjuncts, but winery real estate and resources are scarce and expensive, especially in the North Coast.

“Many farmers weren’t aware of the range of options for value-added production that can help them use the abundance of their harvest, diversify their operations and generate new income for their ag businesses,” said Karen Giovannini, UC Cooperative Extension agricultural ombudsman in Sonoma County, who helps local farmers expand their agriculture enterprises and navigate the necessary regulations and permitting.

Just because you know how to make wine, taking on a whole new recipe and selling it to the public may put too much on your table. Anyone whose grandmother canned at home knows it’s hot, sweaty and unforgiving. In that case, call in an expert: A co-processor can take your produce and make it into a marketable product.

Getting started
Merilee Olson, owner of Preserve Sonoma, collaborates with North Bay wineries including Clif Family, Medlock Ames and Preston of Dry Creek to cook up safe, appetizing products from their small farms and large gardens.

A relatively new business with just two years in the field, Preserve Sonoma is a certified organic processor for farms that qualify, Olson said. “The heart of our mission: We grow farmers by giving them another market for their fruit.” Currently, wineries make up about 15% of Preserve Sonoma’s clientele; another 30% are farmers, and the rest are “food entrepreneurs,” she said.

“More and more young people are interested in farming,” Olson told Wines & Vines.

Preserve Sonoma (ironically now located one county south of Sonoma in San Rafael, Calif.) will soon be moving back to Sonoma. With just Olson and three others in the kitchen, “We’re not going to be Sonoma’s largest employer—never a factory,” she said.

She will work with clients to develop or refine recipes for their products, with a minimum run of 25 cases of 12—a total of 300 units.

St. Helena’s Clif Family Winery & Farm produces 5,000 cases of wine per year from its 10 acres of estate vineyards as well as olive products from its 400 trees and preserved products from an 8-acre working farm. “We make many different things,” said general manager Linzi Gay. For three years, much of the fresh produce went into CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) boxes delivered to customers; now most goes onto a food truck, where customers can pick and choose.

Preserve Sonoma makes Clif Farms tomato sauce, tomato chutney and pepper jams. Although Clif has well-known roots in the food industry from the popular energy products Clif Bar produced in Emeryville, Calif., and is in the process of creating its own kitchen, “We haven’t had our own facility,” Gay said. “We have a lot of licenses.”

Best-sellers include fruit preserves and Meyer lemon marmalade packaged by Napa’s Hurley Farms. “For fruit, she’s the go-to person,” Gay said. She noted that canning fruit has different requirements than more acidic specialties like Clif’s tomato products. Clif has another consultant for their olive packages.

The food, including spices and nuts sold at retail, is “profitable for us. It’s not just on the side. It’s part of our business model,” she said.

More from UC Cooperative Extension
Part of the University of California’s system-wide Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources ucanr.edu for more than 100 years, the UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) has drawn on local expertise to conduct agricultural, environmental, economic and youth development and nutrition research.

In 2015 UCCE will offer classes in three locations where certified crop advisors (CCAs) can receive nitrogen-management certification aimed at minimizing the leaching of nitrogen into the underground aquifer.

As part of the university’s Institute of Water Resources, “Over the next two years our focus will be on groundwater quality and quantity,” according to director Doug Parker. “Our role is to provide policy makers and agricultural practitioners the best science possible on managing and protecting California groundwater.”

Attendance at both days is required for certification. Pre-registration is required at the California Association of Pest Control Advisors Education; fee is $160. Registration deadline is Jan 2.

Nitrogen management training will be offered in:
Fresno: Jan. 13-14, 2015?
San Luis Obispo: Feb. 24-25, 2015?
Sacramento: March 10-11, 2015

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