by Jennifer Nicole Dienst | May 01, 2008

Wine-blending at CrushPadNowhere near Napa? No worries. You don’t have to traipse to the vineyard to give your group an authentic vino experience. At urban wineries in cities from coast to coast, groups can learn about wine, make their own, or just chat and sip in the midst of fermenting grapes and aged oak barrels.

Hip Chicks Do Wine, in Portland, Ore., is one such spot, launched in 2003 by Laurie Lewis and Renee Neely ( The women buy local grapes and churn out 3,000 cases of wine annually at their downtown facility, where they also host tastings, classes and events for up to 75 people. “It just made sense,” Lewis says of the location. “Why drive 45 minutes out to a vineyard when you can drive 10?”

On the East Coast, Michael Dorf, founder of New York City’s famous Knitting Factory nightclub, will open City Winery, a 21,000-square-foot venue in Manhattan this fall (

Dorf says he got the idea after visiting CrushPad, a winery in San Francisco’s Mission District ( “The stainless steel, the barrels and the large, open space -- I loved the setting,” Dorf recalls. He plans to offer private barrel ownership, allowing individuals to make 250 bottles of customized wine. “A company that owns a barrel and hosts an annual event here could give away the 250 bottles as favors,” Dorf notes. For events, City Winery offers a built-in stage plus private rooms for up to 50 people each, and a large, open area that accommodates 200 seated or 400 standing.