Did you know: When contractor estimates ranged from $500,000 to $1 million for renovation of the historic Trek Wine building, owners Andy and Liz Podschadley instead enlisted a group of high school students (including their 17-year-old son) to do the work. The full restoration was completed for $380,000 in less than half the estimated time.
As an “urban winery,” Novato’s Trek Wine is connected to its community in myriad ways. Located near downtown, the 12,000-square-foot facility houses a full-functioning winery (including production, tasting room, aging and storage) as well as multiple spaces that can be rented for public or private events.
“The urban winery model is different, and that’s one reason we moved here: Unlike Sonoma County, we have more freedom in how we operate our business and in deciding what we want to do,” says winemaker Andy Podschadley. “We host a wide array of events ranging from very large to people on a budget, and I enjoy the interaction with the community.”
A private dining/tasting room seats up to 25, and the barrel room fits 130 to 150 depending on the set-up; a small patio can also be reserved separately, as can the main tasting room. Typical uses include weddings, reunions, bridal showers, music, comedy and movie nights (it recently hosted a premiere for the new Pee-Wee Herman movie), magicians, paint night and dancing.
Even with all this activity, Trek is a small operation—“seven employees, six of which are family,” says Poschadley, who started as a hobbyist winemaker in 1989 before segueing from a real estate career to the wine industry full-time in 1999. Following sales positions at Gloria Ferrer and Allied Domecq USA, he became bonded and founded Trek Wine in 2006. In 2011, he and his wife, Liz, purchased a derelict building on the edge of Novato’s downtown and set about establishing Marin County’s first urban winery.
The main tasting room is spacious, with floor-to-ceiling windows, a poured concrete bar (accented with salvaged barrel wood), furnishings from Restoration Hardware and Julia Child’s restaurant at Copia (Podschadley picked up multiple pieces, including the windmills suspended from the ceiling, in the aftermath of Copia’s 2008 bankruptcy) and a rotation of work from local artist George Sumner adorns the walls. The room is accented with large aspen tree cuttings “from a Boy Scout camp we help raise money for near Tahoe,” effectively bringing the outside in.
The natural connection plays into Podschadley’s vision for Trek Wine. “The Trek name comes from our love of the outdoors,” he says, “but it’s also because we want to teach people who come here. We like to say, ‘Taste the adventure.’”
For example, there’s a “journey” of Chardonnay that includes unoaked and wines aged six months, one year and 1.5 years in-barrel, so customers can taste them side-by-side to experience the oak influence over time. Trek produces 14 red wines, seven whites and a sparkling, with total case production between 2,000 and 3,000 cases. “We try to find special little vineyards that are family-owned,” he continues. “We bring in grapes from all over Northern California with a focus on small lots.”
The ease in drought conditions is a welcome development, he adds: “Vines are growing like crazy,” he says. “I think it will be a heavy crop, which is great for people like me. I like to find and buy affordable grapes, and for that to happen, the vineyards need to be full.”
“I make big, bold wine—even our Pinot Noir is big and bold. Our wines are typically a little higher in alcohol than normal, but I’m going for full-bodied wine that’s drinkable now.”
Guests can order food from local restaurants (most deliver) to enjoy onsite, and the winery will soon offer packaged charceuterie, cheeses and other local treats for impromptu picnics. It also sells ultrapremium olive oil and balsamic vinegars from Veronica Foods’ Delizia line.
Given Podschadley’s background at Gloria Ferrer, it should come as no surprise that “sparkling wine has always been my favorite [to make].” He’s released sparklings sporadically over the years, as barrel space permitted. He says of his latest, which is made in methode champenoise style and based on Gloria’s Royal Cuvee, “I think this is the best one I’ve ever made.”
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