Thursday, June 27, 2013

Secondary Fermentation

Thanks for reading the new WinePod Winemaker Blog.  I will try to keep it focused and unfiltered.  I don’t know how often I will post, but I will post when I have something to say about the world of winemaking.

I think I should start by telling you the story of what actually happened to ProVina, Inc., the former company that created the WinePod.

In 2008, business was booming.  We were shipping a lot of units and nearly all customers were  happy with the experience and the results.  We had the typical problems of a start-up, such as lower than planned gross margins and technical glitches here and there, but overall things were very well.   I remember flying to New York when Lehman Brothers went bankrupt.  I knew everything had just changed, but I was still confident that somehow we would get funded to keep on moving.   However, orders slowed down, the economy went into a deep freeze and the WinePod, like that rare fermentation, got stuck.

We decided that our only choice was shutdown the company and surrender the physical assets to ProVina’s creditors and auction off the intellectual property.  In time, I was able to reunite the intellectual property and some inventory.  But to unstick things, we needed to sit it out till economic spring came. 

Despite it all, during this period, people still kept coming looking for WinePods and it began to become more and more common even though we weren’t in business anymore.   As time moved on, wines made in the WinePod matured and I was able to enjoy the wines that I and my friends had made and I also sometimes got to taste wines that WinePod customers made.  A lot of people made a lot of great wine!   I began to notice a common characteristic to the wines made in the WinePod from the great fruit we supplied.  Sure there were a few duds.  I myself  made a particularly heavy handed dry Syrah that was so over extracted and alcoholic that it wasn’t  pleasurable to drink.  As a result, I learned not to experiment with a submerged cap fermentation on unacidulated 26° Brix Syrah!  Live and learn.

But the wines made using the normal WinePod methods had a naturalness and focus to them that was unique.  Unlike almost all commercial wines, they are single lot, unfined, unfiltered, unblended wines, 100% varietal and gently made.   The whites retained there fruitiness and the reds had great mouthfeel.    I think the latter two things are a direct result of the low temperature and the extended warm maceration capability of the WinePod, respectively.   There really is a big quality difference when you have the ability to heat and cool a small scale fermentation.  

Today the economy has come out of its deep freeze.  It feels like the time to start again.  Actually, it seemed like it was time to start again about eight months ago, but putting things back together again was harder than we thought.

Like anything challenging its always the “unknown unknowns” that you can’t plan.  Sure there were issues getting suppliers to supply parts, I figured that much would be problematic.  In some cases, the suppliers disappeared.  But one thing I could never have anticipated was a conflict between two WinePod parts suppliers relating to some other company that they jointly supplied.   Our parts were quite literally held ransom at a factory in Asia due to a financial, and apparently deeply personal conflict, between these respective companies.  Five months later and after many thousands of dollars wired to Asia,  I got the parts and we were able to build WinePods again.  The U.S. company held their nose, paid off the Asian ransom and made good on their promise to get me the parts.  

We finally made it to the part where we could start again!   This new company of ours will happily support all the installed base of WinePods with service, spare parts and winemaking advice and support.  And of course we will be shipping WinePods again.  So far, we have built and shipped 15 WinePods to test our supply chain, improved designs and our assembly techniques.  We have a better temperature control system and a better wine press.  The WineCoach software is unchanged Rev. 2.1.4 and is fully compatible on Windows 7 and 8.  My hope is to update that software.  I have so many ideas on how to make it even better, but it will have to wait for now.

The website still allows you to upload data and see videos and the other things it did before.  The store, however, isn't working.  We had an issue with a customer who wanted to return his WinePod when the company shutdown.  He got his money refunded, kept the WinePod and I got put on the credit card company's naughty list. We can do PayPal now with all the protections it affords, and I am working on getting the WinePod back on the nice list.

I should mention something else interesting:  We have begun exporting WinePods to China.  We signed an exclusive export deal with a large Chinese company with a focus on wine lifestyle products.  Wine is booming in China and we want to teach people in China how to make great wines with the WinePod.  We are making Chinese versions of our winemaking methods via online and video tutorials to be served from the Chinese mainland.  The WinePods we have shipped are doing a 10 city tour of China this summer.

So that's whats happened in the last few years. Starting again is not really a fermentation, of course, but it seems like it.  This journey, like a wine, isn't complete without secondary fermentation.   I hope that I can help you create your dream wine some day.

-Greg Snell


  1. Excited to see the rebirth if you will of the WinePod. A really amazing product and hopefully an economic environment now that can let it thrive again. Best of luck!

    1. Great news. I think I fermented some of the last frozen buckets of Provina grapes that found their way into the secondary market and it still came out great last summer. We called it freezer aged. Hope to order more when you get your site up.

  2. Great Greg
    I never managed to buy your product but I really loved it.
    Good to see you are back in business. Keep it small and with high quality like an artisan should and you will succeed.
    Can you make your software run on Apple computers ?

    From the motherland of wine, Italy, best Baccus wishes.
    Stefano Ferroni

  3. Greg, good to see that your back in business. I hope to extensively use the winepod when I get to permanently live in Italy (have been living overseas for a long time).
    Mats Knutsson