When cash-strapped Pierre Lafond opened Santa Barbara Winery, the first urban winery of its kind, in downtown Santa Barbara, CA in 1964, he did not realize that his model one day would become a global movement. Now, after 50 years, the urban winery and movement has burst beyond its initial urban dwelling to over 200 urban wineries on four continents. What initially began as a practical and cost-wise decision by Lafond, against the prohibitively expensive and traditional rural winery-vineyard combination, has ripened into a globalized phenomenon. True to its urban appellation, the urban winery and movement has converged with the recent and on-going gentrification and urban renewal taking place across America and abroad. More importantly, the urban winery and movement has not only captured the attention of world-renown wine critics, such as Robert Parker, but also the newest generation of oenophiles, the Millennials. Indeed, the urban wineries’ recent successes mirror those of their sibling industries: beer and spirits. Because the urban winery and movement has and will continue to grow globally, it needs to be adequately examined and defined. As such, an urban winery must meet two criteria: first, it is a premise in which wine is produced for consumption or sale within a defined territory or area of more than 2,500 people; second, it is categorized first into one of three “purist” or commercial winery models (proprietary, custom crush, or DIY), then, if applicable, a following “blended” model that incorporates one or more of these functions: gastro, entertainment, oenotourism, and education. Just as humans began to cultivate grapes in the first vineyards millennia ago, globalized grapes are being crushed under humanity’s monumental and historical migration from the rural environment into the urban one – a migration marked by the advent of the urban winery. In the end, the urban winery and movement reminds oenophiles everywhere that there is more than one way to crush a grape.
This article was written by Karl Storchmann