Grass Valley Wine Company set to close as owners refocus |

Grass Valley Wine Company set to close as owners refocus

From left Lynn Wilson and Len Stevens, winemakers and co-owners of Pilot Peak Winery and Scott Brown, winemaker and co-owner of Bent Metal Winery and Jacques Mercier, winemaker and co-owner of Solune Winegrowers are pictured at Grass Valley Wine Company at 128 Mill St., Grass Valley, which will close Aug. 31 as the owners focus on their individual wineries.
Lynn Wilson |

One of downtown Grass Valley’s tasting rooms will be closing its doors at the end of this month, as the owners have decided to shift their focus.

Grass Valley Wine Company, located at 128 Mill St., originally opened two and a half years ago to raise awareness and expand the market of the wineries, which include Bent Metal Winery, Pilot Peak Vineyard and Winery and Solune Winegrowers.

The owners feel they have gained enough exposure from the showroom and are able to focus on their individual wineries, said Pilot Peak owner Lynn Wilson.

“We all have our own wineries and tasting rooms and found we were missing a lot of folks who only came to Grass Valley and didn’t come to the countryside,” Wilson said. “Our goal was to fill that hole, and we figured the best way to do that was to start a tasting room downtown, and that’s what we did.”

“We’re all small up here and owner-based, not big like in Napa, and people enjoy walking through and working with the owners.”
Lynn Wilson
Pilot Peak owner

The sales and number of visitors have since stabilized and the new Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce visitors center, which has a section dedicated to local wineries with a display screen and information, has also raised awareness of the wine presence in the county.

“We’ve gotten quite a bit of notoriety from the wine company and a lot of folks have come to our winery from (Grass Valley Wine Company), so I expect it’s going to snowball,” said winemaker Scott Brown, who owns Bent Metal Winery with his wife, Judy Brown. “I’ve been working closely with the new chamber of commerce and visitors center, so we’re going to get some really good representation down there.”

The closure of the wine company is set for Aug. 31 and is not expected to negatively impact the wineries, Wilson said, because most of those who visit the tasting rooms are browsers rather than purchasers.

“When folks come to a winery, they are coming to enjoy the wine and have a purchase model in their head,” he said. “What tends to happen in town is people might buy a bottle or two, but it’s more of a wine bar atmosphere rather than going to a winery, tasting different wines and enjoying the ambiance. We’re all small up here and owner-based, not big like in Napa, and people enjoy walking through and working with the owners.”

This year’s grape season has started a little early because of the warmer temperatures that began earlier this year, Wilson said.

“We start the harvest season perhaps a little earlier,” he said. “It all depends on what August brings around — if it cools off, they’ll slow down, and (the season) may come in normal.”

Heat drives the sugar level and alcohol content up, so the grapes will be picked earlier, Wilson said.

Solune Winery owner and winemaker Jacques Mercier said the dry season has not affected most local wineries because the irrigation is well established.

“We usually don’t get any rain between May and October anyway … so we haven’t seen any damage from that,” Mercier said. “We had an early season, so it means longer hang time of the grapes, and the vines most likely will have a more intense flavor.”

The earlier harvest will mean an earlier picking season, but the timing of sales won’t be affected because the grapes still take up to a year and a half to two years to mature, Mercier said.

Brown said the warmer season affects Northern California in general, to his delight, as a delayed season risks potentially ruinous rain.

“We’ll see an earlier harvest, which is good because on a cooler summer, like we had a couple years ago, we really had to stretch out to get the fruit ripe and the longer you wait in the season, the higher chance of rain when you don’t want it,” he said. “So it’s a good thing for our crops.”

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email or call 530-477-4230.

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