They've also made some technological innovations that are fairly specific to a company managing 650 separate fermentations. "Say you have 300 going on simultaneously," says Brill. Traditional small-lot fermentation would require punch downs -- forcible submerging of the must into the juice to aid the fermenting wine in extracting color and flavor from the grape skins. "Imagine five punch downs a day, with four or five minutes a punch down." It's impossible. "So we've created these hybrid pump-over/submerged-cap mechanisms that fit into small fermenters." The caps hold the must under the surface while the pumps circulate the juice around the suspended must... "so that we can really dial in extraction. Also, let's say you're making a barrel of Pinot Noir and you want some new oak in your aging process -- but not 100 percent new oak. We've trialed these things we call 'zebra barrels,' where we'll take an old barrel and a new barrel, break them down, and rebuild them with, say, 50 percent new oak and 50 percent used oak. Just a bunch of stuff like that. We're trying to keep the soul and the intent of the winemaking but aid in the customer's control and involvement."
"Aid in the customer's control and involvement" is as good a mantra for Crushpad as any -- in Brill's view, it's what sets him apart from much of the industry. "I was at this conference in Napa last week, along with a couple hundred movers and shakers in the wine industry, and I mean, there's just not a whole lot of exciting stuff happening. I don't even know where to start -- there was such a lack of focus on consumers and experiences. It's such a producer-centric industry: 'The customer is responsible for their own experience.' Even the whole direct-to-consumer model...I think the only difference is that, instead of a distributor or retailer getting 50 percent of the value, it all goes to the winery. The winery isn't giving a better experience; it isn't giving the consumer a price break. They're not really doing anything more than they used to." That leaves the playing field wide open for companies like Crushpad, companies that will, as he puts it, "shift the industry power from the producer to the consumer."