Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Winery Grows in Dogpatch: Meet Dave Gifford and Kevin Doucet of Dogpatch WineWorks

Dave Gifford and Kevin Doucet with some of their wine.

Many months had passed since we had heard rumblings that Dogpatch WineWorks would be opening soon to the public in its location off of busy Third Street.  So we were happy to see the small sign on the sidewalk proclaiming that the tasting room was open and the door to this urban winery now open to the public. 

There had been a lot of disappointed city dwellers when one of the original urban wineries, Crushpad Winery, had moved out of Dogpatch to Sonoma a few years ago.

But one former Crushpad employee, Dave Gifford, and a Crushpad client and investor, Kevin Doucet, still believed that there was a place for an urban winery that could offer a hands-on, personal approach to individuals who wanted to create their own wine and in 2010 they joined forces to open Dogpatch WineWorks.

Gifford and Doucet have created a welcoming space out of a large space formerly occupied by a locksmith company.  The space is a blend of traditional winery furnishings and fixtures that have been given an urban makeover; the tasting room bar is a reclaimed vintage wine tank that has a city feel to it with its large stainless steel wheels. We sat down with the co-founders in a cozy corner of the tasting room to talk about their vision for Dogpatch WineWorks.

Why do you do what you do?

Dave Gifford:  Making wine is fun.  My background is in the culinary world.  But even though I was on the management side, I always found myself either in the kitchen or behind the bar.  I liked to get down in the trenches and get my hands dirty more than I liked being the front of the house.  I liked orchestrating all the various moving parts of a restaurant to get everything working in harmony.  When I started getting interested in the wine business I found many similarities -- especially in working the wine harvest --  you get your hands dirty and there are a lot of details to pay attention to so that you have a great finished product.   And it is the only job I have had where both your mind and your body get a workout.  Every day I would be exhausted but would come home with a big grin on my face!

Kevin Doucet:  I come to winemaking from the investment banking side.  But after more than 14 years in that world I wanted to try something different.  I tried lots of things -- traveled, went to culinary school, studied wine making and worked in the wine industry in Argentina and Australia.  I loved everything about the wine business.  I met Dave at Crushpad in 2008 where I was working as a harvest intern. 

DG and KD:
We are a production winery first and foremost that is dedicated to helping wine enthusiasts be successful.  We are the only custom wine maker in San Francisco.  We think the WineWorks part of our name says it all -- we are a lab or even an incubator -- anything you need to help you realize your dream of making wine.  A customer can be involved from picking the grapes, to blending to bottling. 

So we are primarily a production winery but we also see an opportunity to offer the wine we make to the public through our tasting room and to also offer our winery space to folks looking for a unique spot to hold special events.

Why Dogpatch?

We looked at 30-40 potential spaces in San Francisco for our winery including the former Crushpad spot down the block from here.  Since we had both been involved with Crushpad, we knew the Dogpatch neighborhood pretty well.

We liked that Dogpatch was still a place where people made things -- that fit the vision we had for our winery.  

We liked the red brick of this space -- we felt we could renovate it to be the warm and inviting place that we envisioned.  We like to see the faces of customer's light up as they walk in here from busy Third Street -- they don't expect to see a traditional winery in such an industrial neighborhood.  We like the surprise of that. 

No other neighborhood in San Francisco offers the zoning flexibility of Dogpatch.  The city knows that there is a lot of land that can be developed in this neighborhood and the city was very open to us creating a multi-use facility here.

The owner of the American Industrial Center, Greg Markoulis, where we are located is a straight shooter and we worked with him to get the lease we needed.

Who is another fascinating person you have met in Dogpatch?

There are so many!  Shy at Reno's Liquor Store always makes me laugh -- I always leave with a smile on my face.  Olivier Cordier owns Olivier's Butchery nearby.  It has been fascinating to watch him develop his business on Illinois Street, which doesn't exactly have a lot of customer traffic.  He has a great product and he is great at promoting it.

Tony Hua of Hard Knox Cafe and Julia and Gilberth Cab who own three Dogpatch restaurants are three of the hardest workers I have met.
Dave and Kevin greet visitors at their custom tasting bar.
What is an interesting story that has happened to you since you opened in Dogpatch?

A film school has its offices in this building.  One day they were working on a production where they were using fake guns.  Someone on the street saw them and called 911.  The police, including a SWAT team, shut down our entire block and warned us not to come out of our offices.

It turned out to be a false alarm but it was great to know that they police would come if needed them!

What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?

KD:  I would be making wine somewhere else if not here.
DG:  Everything I have done in my career has led me to winemaking.  If I wasn't doing this I would certainly be miserable anywhere else.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Private Eyes - He's Watching You: Meet Christopher Webster of Hogan's Goat Tavern

Christopher Webster welcomes a guest to his domain. 

The room appears in total darkness as we enter Hogan's Goat Tavern.  As our eyes adjust we see the dapper figure of owner Christopher Webster.  The coolness of the room is a welcome relief from the heat and bright sunshine of the June morning.  Now all we need is a cool drink to quench our thirst.

And there is plenty of liquid to choose from here.  Webster stocks the usual suspects of high-end spirits and beers but he also offers local spirit, beer and wine brands such as wine from SLO Down Wines, vermouth from Sutton Cellars and Anchor Steam beer from Anchor Brewing.  But if your taste is more Budweiser than Anchor Steam, he has that as well.

We take a seat at the glossy mahogany bar and decide to try one of the beers on tap.  The taps may produce beer that has been created as an artistic expression of the brewmaster but the taps themselves appear as small pieces of art.  One of the taps from producer Orange & Black is even signed by the brewmaster.  It being a Giants Game Day, we order the Orange & Black as well as one red wine.

Webster appears to favor order and symmetry not only in his attire, but also in how his bar looks and how he serves his product.  Each beer is served in a glass from the producer of the beer.  Webster explains that he feels it is important to serve the beer how the head brewer envisioned it to be served.  Except for the three flat screen TVs on mute and the pool table in the back of the room, the bar is sparse on furnishings.  This leaves the focus on the spirits being consumed and if you desire, conversation with your fellow imbibers.

The overall feel however is one of peace and quiet -- a good place to have a drink in peace.

As Webster pulled our beer and slid it down the bar to us old style with a flick of his wrist and not a drop spilled, he agreed to swap roles and be the talker instead of the stereotypical listener the role that seems to befall most bartenders.

Why do you do what you do?

It's fun!  I have had a lot of serious jobs in the past and I still work as an investigator for insurance companies.  In that work I primarily gather facts about people and what they did or did not do. 

As a break from the investigator business I started bartending on the weekends at The Double Play Sports Bar.  Long time bartender Jimmy Calonico took me on as an apprentice and taught me a lot.  Eventually I decided I needed to get an official certification in bartending.  From there I moved to the Dogpatch Saloon and finally to buying and completely renovating the Sea Star Club in 2011 which became Hogan's Goat Tavern. 

This job is the opposite of my investigator work.  Here I don't have to pry any thing out of people -- if customers want to tell me things about them that's fine.  Or they can just be left alone and that is fine with me as well.

Why Dogpatch?

The best way to get a coveted liquor license in San Francisco is to buy from a business that already has the license.  When the Sea Star became available I was interested in it because of its existing liquor license.   I also already knew many potential customers here from my bartending work at The Double Play and the Dogpatch Saloon.

I also liked how Dogpatch is so easily accessible to people coming from the Peninsula or from other parts of San Francisco.

Who is another fascinating person you have met in Dogpatch?

Julia and Gilberth Cab are the owners of three Dogpatch restaurants and probably the hardest workers I know.  I think they actually work EIGHT days a week.

What is an interesting Dogpatch story that has happened to you in Dogpatch?

It's not a story that has actually happened to me but one of my customers is the librarian at San Quentin prison.  He has some very amazing stories about what it is like to work there. 

What would you be doing if you weren't pouring drinks and letting customers bend your ear?

I love this work -- this is what I want to be doing every day.

And finally, why did you name the bar Hogan's Goat Tavern?

It is an old expression and the favorite saying of the father of my partner.  You can find several different meanings of the expression but the one he used all the time was, "you are as f***ed up as a Hogan's Goat.  We thought it would be a fitting name for a bar.

Article Written by Patricia Kline, Photos by Scott R. Kline

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Bringing People Together: Meet Bibby Gignilliat of Parties that Cook

Bibby Gignilliat in the colorful digs at Parties that Cook. 
The nondescript office building on Minnesota Street gives little indication of the vibrancy within its double doors.

The bright colors of purple and green greet us as we walk up the stairs to meet Bibby Gignilliat, founder and CEO of Parties that Cook.  We soon realize that the electric color palette isn't creating the only energy in the room.

Founded in San Francisco in 1999 as Gourmet Gatherings and later relaunched as Parties that Cook, the company focuses on staging hands-on, interactive culinary events primarily for corporate team building events.  Gilgnilliat has grown her company to include 100 employees and has opened offices in Seattle, Portland and Chicago.

Or as Gignilliat likes to say: "4 cities, 12 years, 50,000 Guests, a million memories"!

And paying guests are not the only ones to benefit from her success and the talents of Parties that Cook, Gignilliat and her company donate their time and money to more than 50 nonprofit and charitable organizations.

Why do you do what you do?

I love to bring people together.  And I love food and entertainment.  Parties that Cook combines all of those interests.  In addition, I have a real passion for entrepreneurship. 

As a Midwesterner, I like to think of myself as a hard-worker or actually as I prefer to say -- scrappy and gritty!  I don't mind getting my hands dirty or working hard on a project I believe in.

One of my first money-making projects was to collect golf balls off of the local golf course.  My friend and I would wash them, put them in an egg carton and resell them to the golfers!  We also offered refreshments.  Even then I was combining a good money making idea with food!  My friend and I made $300 that summer -- not bad for a 10-year-old kid.

Looking back, I can see how the various positions I held over the years have all had elements of what I love, working with teams of people, marketing, food, which then all came together to become Parties that Cook.

I moved to California in 1988 to work as a tour leader for Backroads Travel Company.  I soon helped them with their marketing as well as leading tours.  A stint in the fashion world with I. Magnin department store followed and I eventually landed at Williams-Sonoma.

While at Williams-Sonoma I realized that I was meant to go to cooking school next and I enrolled and graduated from the professional cooking program at Tante Marie, a small cooking school located in San Francisco. 

It was at Tante Marie that I got my first opportunity to organize and lead corporate cooking events.  My first client was a result of this experience.

My "composite career", as I like to call it all led to the founding of Parties that Cook.

Why Dogpatch?

In 2007 we had grown to six employees but we were still working out of my house in San Francisco!  We knew we needed to find an office for us and for all of our equipment and supplies but were having a hard time finding just the right spot.

We wanted not just a nice office building but also, since we are all women, it was critical that the office be in a safe location.  My real estate broker was great but it was actually one of my employees that discovered Dogpatch.  The neighborhood was easy to get to, felt safe, had ample parking and great weather.  In addition, the building we liked had "good bones" -- I knew we could make it into just the right home for us.

Who is another fascinating person you have met in Dogpatch?

I guess it wouldn't be just one person but so many!

Dogpatch is a place where people like to get things done.  I feel like they are scrappy and gritty people like me!  Sher Rogat, one of the owners of Piccino, and Mark Dwight, the founder of Rickshaw Bags, are just two examples.

In addition, we have loved teaming with other merchants in Dogpatch to host events or to rent their space for one of our parties.  We used to do quite a few events with the Crushpad wine folks but they have since moved to Sonoma.  We loved how they were committed to letting everyday people make wine.  Dogpatch Wineworks has moved into their old space on Third Street and we hope to do more events with them.

We even host a cookbook club that we sometimes invite a Dogpatch neighbor to attend.

What is an interesting Dogpatch story that has happened to you in Dogpatch?

Well, it isn't really something that has happened to me but one of the things we heard about this neighborhood is that it was Hells Angels territory -- that they had their headquarters here.  Being an all woman company that somehow made me feel safer!

What would you be doing if you weren't running a company, donning a chef's jacket, planning parties, hosting charity events.........

I love what I do so if I couldn't do this, I would retire and travel around the world!