Before launching Glasshaus Wine Company in 2010, Rodney Gagnon worked as director of operations for Crushpad Bordeaux. That’s where the Boston native learned about and fell in love with the transparency, accountability, and community spirit behind the custom-crush experience. Now, with every share, of the $364-case of artisan chardonnay and pinot noir he produces and sells, Gagnon donates 20 percent of profits to youth mentoring and educational programs in Petaluma, Calif., the town where the winery is located.
TDS: Why a crowd-source funded winery?
Gagnon: Look, the wine business is capital-intensive. I wanted to design a winery where the investor is the customer and the customer is the investor. I make the best wines possible because my investors are not buying stock shares, they’re buying wine shares.
TDS: How does it work?
Gagnon: Our contributing members pledge in advance to cover the anticipated costs of winegrowing and winemaking. In return, they receive guaranteed shares of our small-batch production and 100 percent transparency during the winegrowing and winemaking process.
By focusing on direct sales to members, we avoid the need for traditional distribution and much of the financial burden of marketing. This way we’re able to donated 20 percent to local youth programs and pass another 20 percent of savings on to our members. They also accrue higher discounts the longer they stay in, with a cap at 30 percent.
TDS: Why the focus on pinot noir and chardonnnay?
Gagnon: I've been attracted to pinot noir and chardonnay since I started biking through Burgundy in 1995. I enjoy cool climates and aromatics when it comes to pinot noir and I believe the Petaluma Gap has the right terroir to produce stunning examples of these wines.
TDS: You make the wine at Keller Estate. How did you hook up with them?
Gagnon: I gave a short presentation about Glasshaus’ CSA-model to the Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance. Anna Keller happened to be there and understood my vision.
TDS: What’s next?
Gagnon: AVA-specific shares.