Cordi Winery

Cordi Winery, Vineyard Branching Out With VAPG Funds

Sandra Yerges

Despite having no experience with grant writing, Emily Cordi, assistant winemaker at Cordi Winery, took the plunge into the grant writing process in 2020 with the USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG). As a former psychology student who felt the pull to work at her family’s farm after college, her influence on the business has allowed them to thrive with the financial assistance they needed to branch out to new customers in the state of California.

The road to this point, however, was not a straightforward one. The farm Emily’s parents, Reece and Teresa, farmed when she was growing up was focused on the harvesting of almonds, not grapes. It took one destructive storm in early 2008 to change the trajectory of the business for good. They knew that the region in which their farm was located would be suitable for grapes and would be a sustainable option for them. With this idea in mind, they decided to plant a vineyard and switch to winemaking once the grapes grew in.

Running a business like this requires agricultural upkeep, such as pruning and mowing. Weather permitting, these tasks typically occur from the late summer to mid-fall. One of the positives of this type of venture is that maintenance for grape growing is low, adding to the benefits of switching from almond farming.

When Emily made her way back to the farm after this switch occurred, she worked closely with her father in learning the ropes of the winemaking process. From hand-picking the grapes to crushing and fermenting them in their on-site tanks, the two work hard at crafting the inventory of wines offered at their establishment.

There are a dozen wines created at their farm with nine available to try at their on-site tasting room. Most of the options are made with Italian varietals that thrive in the volcanic soil in their area with their  most recognizable being their Primitivo.

Being that the winery is located in a state where wine tourism is strong, they made strides into working with other businesses to attract visitors. Cordi Winery is conveniently located by two other vineyards, which allows them to work together to create worthwhile experiences for tourists in the area. “We kind of have a little wine trail of our own going,” Emily explained.

A unique attribute of the products created at Cordi Winery is that they only offer single varietal wines. This means there is no blending involved in the creation process to maintain the flavor of the one grape variety. According to Emily, blended wines are a norm for many businesses, so theirs aren’t “very typical in the industry.” This adds to the uniqueness of their offerings and allows them to stand out in their region.

The primary focus of this company is to offer their wines to an in-state market both in supermarkets and at their winery. Emily admitted that the process of alcohol shipment is a laborious undertaking due to licensing requirements, so the farm made the choice to keep their reach close to home. Even with their local roots, there is always room for growth: the reason Cordi Winery consulted the VAPG.

Reece was first informed of this grant opportunity, and after consulting with Emily who would take on the grant writing process, they decided it would be a good fit for their future aspirations. Her hands-on winemaking background along with her father’s shared expertise throughout the years allowed her to approach the grant with determination.

During the preliminary stages of the writing process, Emily was grateful for the tool kit she received from the USDA. This guide showed her not only how to format the application, but it also covered some frequently asked questions to guide her understanding. Being that this process was successful, Cordi Winery received access to their grant funding in August 2020.

Through the many marketing options available, including print and online advertising, this business worked to spread the word about their wines to areas outside of their close region. Their hope was to gain a larger customer base including those within a 50 mile radius of their winery. Furthermore, the grant allowed them to reach out to and sell their products in new retail locations, such as Raley’s and Bel Air.

In the height of the pandemic, the VAPG also was convenient for the growth of Cordi Winery’s online store. With in-person regulations making it difficult for customers to visit their tasting room, the online shop’s new e-commerce platform allowed the offerings to remain available to those in the region.

As their first grant experience, the VAPG was both a positive and influential part of their business. For Emily, she found this process to be highly beneficial in figuring out how to budget their operations with a forward-thinking mindset. Without having to focus as much on financing certain aspects of their winery, they were able to expand their wine offerings and test out new varieties of grapes for their products. “There’s so many possibilities with the grant,” she shared.

Even though Cordi Winery found success with their current expansion efforts, their goal for the future is to “keep the momentum going” while reaching more customers in California. This family is committed to their local roots and hope to share their products and their passion for winemaking to all who cross their business’ path.