When Fruitcraft Fermentery and Distillery dropped anchor in Hillcrest two years ago, it primarily carried on the work of its original brand iteration, California Fruit Wine. That is, it fermented wine from virtually every type of fruit other than grapes. A look at its drinks menu today reveals a business that has diversified and then some.
1477 University Avenue, Hillcrest
Fruit wines are still there — including cherry, pomegranate, pineapple, and sparkling cranberry wines — but represent a mere fraction of the total offerings. Fruitcraft now produces more conventional wines, grape wines, including tempranillo and petit syrah using grapes from Northern California. It’s contract distilled many of its wine products into eau de vis spirits, used to concoct one of the city’s most distinctive craft cocktails program. The options don’t end there either. Visitors to the tasting room and restaurant will also find house meads, hard ciders, and hard kombuchas. Pretty much, any beverage that may be produced under a winemaking license.
“The only thing that wineries are not allowed to ferment on their premise is grains,” specifies Alan Haghighi, who originally co-founded the business with identical twin brother Brian a decade ago in Vista. Though Brian has given up a day-to-day role with Fruitcraft, Alan Haghighi has been quite active in expanding the business’s offerings. Though distilling eaux de vis was always in the works, Haghighi says he initially balked at the idea of diversifying into cider, mead, and kombucha, which have become customer favorites. “I knew other people were doing it,” he says, “but I’m a twin: I’ve never been able to copy anyone’s stuff. Literally it was just pride and stubbornness that stopped us from bringing about products that people wanted.”
All the same, Haghighi take a unique approach to producing fruited versions of theses drinks. Whereas other local producers routinely add fruit purees to flavor their ciders, meads, and kombuchas, even sometimes co-fermenting fruit with the base apples, honey, and teas, Fruitcraft instead blends its fruit wines into the finished product. This results in a drier finished product, but thanks to the slow and low fermentation technique he’s developed for his fruit wines, it still yields noticeable fruit flavors.
“If you’re going to be fermenting corn, cane sugar, potatoes, grains — whatever it is, you can run fast and hot with the fermentation,” he explains, “because you’re not trying to keep the delicate corn flavors.” With a more valuable base product such as fruit, he says, “You want to ferment at low temperatures for extended periods of time to keep your delicate and volatile aromatics.” Consequently, his cherry pomegranate hard cider still retains the essence of those fruits, though their sugars have long since been converted by yeast.
The diversity of adult beverages has paved the way for a tertiary income stream for the bar and restaurant: as a wedding venue. Haghighi says hosting events is “single handedly now the biggest part of our business,” and that Fruitcraft has already booked more than three dozen weddings in 2019. Which explains why, when the restaurant next door closed its doors, Fruitcraft expanded into its space, converting it into a dedicated events venue, including a small banquet hall, bar, and outdoor area.
All this is merely the beginning of Fruitcraft’s expansion. Later this fall, Haghighi plans to launch a WeFunder campaign, seeking to raise $500,000 so Fruitcraft may open a second and possibly third location in popular neighborhoods within the city and in his native North County. The crowdfunding campaign will include revenue sharing, perks, and member discounts on what has become a lot of different types of drinks.