Backyard Hobby Grows into Full Time Winery

When Ryan Pedvin went away to college at Sonoma State University to study pre-law and philosophy, his dad had jokingly suggested he learn how to grow a vineyard, too. His dad, who lives in Upland, California (about an hour east from LA), had about ¾ of an acre of unused land on his property. “I didn’t really take him all that seriously,” says Ryan. But once he graduated and moved back to Southern California, the notion of turning his dad’s empty acreage into a vineyard came back to light. “I bought some books on how to take care of plants and started a small backyard vineyard the following spring,” Ryan tells us. The backyard vineyard consisted of about fifty vines in the spring of 2015. 

“We just fell in love with it,” Ryan admits.

During his time at Sonoma State, Ryan explored lots of various drinks and the science behind them: how they’re made, what makes different varieties within the same category, etc. From coffee and beer to wine and tea, Ryan began to educate himself on the intricacies of these beverages. Once he got working on his backyard vineyard, Ryan cultivated his interest in beverage sciences, realizing just how passionate he was when it came to working outside with the plants and being able to taste the results in the (literal) fruit of his labor. “I never got into drinking wine too much while in Sonoma, but I began taking a local class at the university down near my dad’s house. The whole thing was just a ton of fun.”

Then in the fall of 2015, Ryan headed back up to Sonoma to enroll in an enology program at the local community college. Once he finished the program in the spring of 2017 with an Associates of Science degree in winemaking, Ryan started producing wines for his mom’s business, A&A Food Service. A&A Food Service is a wholesaler, selling fruits, veggies, dairy, eggs, dry goods, frozen goods and desserts to restaurants, country clubs and hospitals. Ryan’s initial idea to distribute his wine to a variety of customers was to include his product in the annual gift boxes that A&A Food Service distributes to their clients, which he did for the first time last year.

In Ryan’s dad’s backyard lives a shed-type outbuilding that sits about five feet high and measures about 8×8 feet. Ryan, his brother and his dad had built out the structure back when they were young as a family project. The former owners had probably planned to construct a pool within the building, but Ryan’s dad has used it as a storage facility ever since the family outfitted it with proper walls, etc. Once Ryan began producing more than a couple of gallons of wine at a time from the backyard vineyard, he had the idea of using the shed for cold storage. He insulated the shed and cut out a hole for a regular window A/C unit. The space could fit about 200 gallons of wine snuggly, with four barrels stacked on top of one another. 

Shortly after Ryan’s makeshift A/C solution, Ryan’s uncle sent him a link to CoolBot’s site and he began to do some research. He ended up investing in his first CoolBot as summer was approaching, concerned his shed wouldn’t stay cool enough in the extreme Southern California heat. Once installed, his shed dropped right down to an optimal 55 degrees. When Ryan generated his next batch of wine in 2019, he used his shed cooler again, which was “very helpful, of course.” 

This year, Ryan decided to go commercial with his wine production, establishing his own winery called LePoidevin Cellars. This required a major cooler upgrade from the backyard shed.

He looked into buying a walk-in cooler for his warehouse, which would cost a massive investment of about $20K. Revisiting CoolBot’s site, Ryan discovered that we sold turnkey coolers and perused his options. “The CoolBot turnkey cooler was the only way I’d be able to start the business,” Ryan divulges. He ended up purchasing a 10×20 foot turnkey unit with a 48 inch door, our widest door available! (For reference, the standard cooler door measures 34 inches.) “I couldn’t really afford another $20K at the moment. The cost to cut a hole in the roof of the warehouse and get a crane (to install a regular walk-in cooler) was going to be a big headache.”

With help from his dad and brother, Ryan was able to put the cooler together pretty easily in about four hours. When the cooler was delivered, Ryan was still recovering from a recent back surgery and wasn’t allowed to lift anything, so he was glad to have the help from his family. He was so impressed with how easily the cooler went together, he recommended A&A Food Service invest in one, also. 

Opting for the wider door allows Ryan to easily move giant plastic tote tanks in and out of the cooler. Each plastic tank is the size of a palette, about 40×48 inches. “Without the bigger door, I wouldn’t be able to put the tank in. That would make it a lot harder to put in the racks and transfer the wine from the tank to the barrels,” explains Ryan. Now, Ryan is able to store about twelve barrels at a time in his new cooler, with enough wiggle room for about four more barrels plus space to store bottled wine. He will likely invest in a second cooler over the next several years to expand his operation, but for now, the 10×20 foot turnkey cooler is the right size for him. He’s also added a motion sensor LED lighting system to his cooler that comes on whenever the door opens.

Ryan produced about 300 cases of wine this year, which equates to about 3600 bottles. “I think that’s a good start for a first year winery,” he says. “I’m making wine from Santa Barbara County, which is the closest vineyard to my home. They can grow anything from chardonnay to pinot noir to cabernet sauvignon. I’m focusing on two types of pinot noir right now and a rare white wine called Roussanne. There are only about 100 acres of Roussanne grapes grown in California, and I want to make it more popular. I’m also making a zinfandel from a vineyard established in 1918, which I’m really excited about. We used grapes from that same vineyard last year, and the wine turned out amazing.”

Ryan educates us on the history of the nearby Cucamonga Valley region, which used to be among the biggest grape growing regions in California – even more so than Sonoma or Napa! – prior to prohibition. The vineyards of Cucamonga have since been replaced by houses, for the most part. There are still about 400 acres left, compared to the several million that once existed. Grapes grown in this region are those that thrive in hot weather, such as zinfandel, syrah, grenache, etc.

Ryan’s favorite types of wine that he produces include pinot noirs, which he describes as a “red crowd pleaser,” jammy ripe zinfandels and Roussanne, which “is like a red wine drinker’s white wine, rich and can handle oak.” He also enjoys syrah from Santa Barbara, which he tells us is a “darker wine and more complex and fruit flavored.”

Ryan strives to make wine that could appeal to almost anyone, with “something for everyones” in his portfolio.

Ryan’s most recent vintage is currently resting before it can be bottled, sold and distributed. “You make the wine, put it in barrels and wait about six to thirty six months before you bottle and sell it,” Ryan walks us through his process.

“I haven’t bottled this year yet, so I haven’t sold anything. So I can’t really tell if the pandemic has affected wine sales yet, but the industry was already hurting badly from smoke damage and wildfires. Santa Barbara was actually the only area not affected by nearby smoke, and thankfully the zinfandel grapes from Cucumonga were picked prior to the fires near us,” says Ryan.

“We’ve been pretty lucky not to be directly affected by the fires at all, but Covid has definitely hit the California wine industry hard by decreasing the workforce. And the fires have been awful. For most wineries, 2020 was the vintage from hell. Thankfully I didn’t have to deal with most of it, because I don’t grow a commercial vineyard. The one at my dad’s house is mostly for fun and to just try my hand at the craft of grape growing.” 

Hopefully, Ryan’s new cooler brings him much luck and success as a fledgling winery striving to “revitalize the historic Cucamonga Valley wine industry, elevating Southern California wines to the heights of Napa and Sonoma County” in the midst of the worst wildfire season on record and a global pandemic.

We can all agree that 2020 calls for an extra glass of wine (or two!).

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