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The couple behind Moonstone Crossing Winery are bringing together wine lovers and “heat refugees” in their Trinidad tasting room.
Don Bremm finished building the winery on their West Haven property in 2005 after he and Sharon Hanks started making wine for fun in 2000.
“He’s a natural. He took to it, read a lot of books about it and seemed to have a knack for it,” Hanks said. “In 2009 we used 43 tons of grapes, and that was our biggest year. We have a lot of wine in storage, so we generally work with 15 to 25 tons of grapes a year now. We have no employees. We have some friends — we call them ‘wine angels’ — who help us with bottling, and some help out in the tasting room.”
Hanks and Bremm opened the Moonstone Crossing Tasting Room in Trinidad in 2009.
“People come in for glasses of wine, but it’s more of a tasting room,” Hanks said. “On Thursday nights, we have ‘drink the dregs,’ which is where we drink wine that’s good on Thursday but the following Sunday may not be good. So, it’s wine that’s been open a few days at a discounted price. There are a lot of regulars from the community — it’s fun. People might bring potluck items.”
Bremm said his favorite part of all their work is being self-employed and the pride of accomplishment. The business is always looking for new markets in and outside of the area, he said.
“What got me interested in it was making a product from something else. I’m a hands-on person who likes to create something,” he said. “We hope to get a little more into the Redding area; so many of the people there come to Trinidad and love it. We call them ‘heat refugees.'”
The wine is mostly sold to stores and restaurants in the Humboldt County area, such as Libation in Arcata.
“It’s at a couple different stores in Redding and at Tops Market in Weaverville,” Hanks said. “Some people came into our tasting room five years ago, so now some of our wine is in their stores in North Carolina.”
The pair is known to blend grapes for a lot of their wines — a practice that is more common in Europe than the United States — and their products have won several awards.
“‘Dark as Night,’ won best wine in Humboldt County through the North Coast Journal. This year we won two gold medals at the California State Fair — ‘Midnight Caress’ won best red wine for the California appellation and ‘Wish Upon a Star’ won best red wine for the Sierra Foothill appellation,” Bremm said. “We’re currently serving nine gold medal winners and seven silver medal winners from various contests in the tasting room.”
Trinidad resident and Assistant Professor of journalism at Humboldt State University, Deidre Pike, said Hanks and Bremm are an integral part of the community.
“Trinidad is a small town — they’re at every community event there, and they’re excellent winemakers. They get awards from as far away as New York, use grapes from all over California, bring them to our foggy coast and turn them into complex and marvelous wines.”
The business has been a member of Humboldt Made since the organization started, and Hanks said it does a good job of promoting locally-made products.
“It’s kind of like someone has your back,” Hanks said. “I don’t know if you always find a group that does so well at promoting and also letting us know about events to participate in. They bring the local products together. We’ve met other people who have some really great products here.”
Besides finding time to make wine and have fun — often accomplishing both at once — the couple still has moments left over to donate to charity.
Hanks said a lot of the causes the couple gives money to are environmental.
“We have a Cabernet Sauvignon wine, which is made from grapes in the Dry Creek area of Sonoma County,” she said. “They’re from a vineyard my uncle Gerald had. He and his wife Barbara Fowble are both fairly well-known oncologists and in their name, we wanted to donate some of the wine’s profits to stem cell research at Humboldt State University.”
Before the two entered the winemaking world, Bremm worked as a fisheries biologist and Hanks worked for 18 years at North Coast Children Services as the staffing and supervision director. Hanks moved here from the Bay Area in 1977 to attend Humboldt State University, where she got her bachelor’s degree in psychology, and Bremm came from upstate New York in 1978 to get his master’s degree at the university in fisheries.
“We knew each other from kind of hanging out in the same crowd. I worked for his brother and we got together in 1996,” Hanks said. “A short time later, someone told us about really cheap flights to Europe when the dollar was stronger. We’d go there and taste wines from different countries. The trips are one of the things we both think really peaked our interest in wine. We love wine from Italy and France equally and still visit the countries.”
For more information on Moonstone Crossing Winery, visit www.moonstonecrossing.com.
Jillian Singh can be reached at 441-0509.