Valley News -

By Jeff Pack

TVWM's Kramer relishes the opportunity to create


Last updated 4/26/2019 at 2:48am

Jeff Pack photo

Temecula Valley Winery Management co-owner and director of winemaking, Tim Kramer, stands in front of hundreds of wine barrels inside the refrigerated warehouse, located in Temecula's business park.

With wine barrels full of Temecula Valley wines stacked eight high and more than 25 rows deep, the storage warehouse at Temecula Valley Winery Management might be the every wine lover's fantasy room.

For Tim Kramer, a TVWM co-owner and director of winemaking, it's his office.

Kramer has a degree in finance and discovered wine while he was finishing up his education.

"I started by volunteering at Thorton for a couple of harvests and just went down and work," Kramer said. "It was Jon (McPherson) and Javier (Flores) at the time. Harvest was coming up the third year and a tasting room manager at Callaway opened up and I interviewed and got that."

From there, he found himself hanging around the winemaking lab more and more.

"I kind of worked my way into the lab, you know, to hang out with the winemakers, and I just kind of weaseled my way in," Kramer said. "Pretty soon I was working in the lab a couple of days a week, and it just went from there and I caught the bug."

With the financial world well behind him, Kramer interviewed with Mike Rennie and Gary Winder who were planning to start a new winery called Leoness Cellars.

"They needed a winemaker, and Gary Winders' daughter worked for me at Callaway," Kramer said. "They had interviewed a couple of other people, and I came in and I luckily got the job.

"From there we actually developed a business plan. There was nothing to the Leoness site, it was just a vineyard. There was a little barn. So we developed the club, the tasting room ideas, concepts, production plan, the production building, everything," Kramer said.

With wine production underway at the new Leoness site in what is now the barrel room, clients from Rennie and Winder's Stage Ranch Farm Management company started asking Kramer and his team to make wine from the grapes they were growing.

"From day one, we actually custom crushed for other people," Kramer said. "There was Monte de Oro, who Stage Ranch had planted for, their first harvest came on and they had nothing to do with the grapes other than try and make some wine. And we made it for him. And that kind of developed into our first big custom crush clients."

Kramer said from there more clients came calling. They made wines for clients such as Robert Renzoni Vineyards, Fazeli Cellars and others.

"We just kind of outgrew the space we had there," Kramer said. "We decided we need to need to find a warehouse somewhere, and that's how this came to be."

The 30,000-square-foot wine production facility provides everything a small, upstart young winery or winemaker would need to produce wine from their grapes or grapes they purchase.

Kramer oversees the operation that provides winemakers the support they need to make wine in a safe, professional environment.

"Instead of buying all the equipment, buying tanks, buying a crusher and press and everything else, you become what's called an alternating proprietor," Kramer said. "You come to us, we have all the equipment here, we have the space and the tanks and our equipment is basically yours for the day. You know, you, we still run it. We still kind of control everything.

"But you say, I want to make this merlot into a rose, you can dictate as much or as little as you want as far as the winemaking process goes. But it's your own winery entity. Just like any physical location, but it's all housed in our building."

Kramer said he has worked with all kinds of clients, from the highly experienced to the newbies and he enjoys the educational aspect to what he does.

He said they have around 25 different entities making wine in the building at any given time.

"Some we may crush a ton or two for, other ones, we crushed 350 tons for," Kramer said.

Kramer said when they started they used to term winery incubator, meaning wineries could get their start by producing at TVWM until they raised the funds in order to buy their own equipment and leave the nest, so to speak.

It could be said, TVWM is heavily responsible for the growth of Temecula Valley Wine Country.

"We'd start them here, get them going," Kramer said. "They build the funds and everything, and when they're ready to go, they move. We've helped with several wineries that now have brick and mortars. It's kind of cool to drive through the wine country and see that and know that we had some type of a hand in that."

More than anything else, Kramer said he enjoys the diversity of his work.

"Personally, I really enjoy working with all the different people, all our different clients," he said. "Having an opportunity to work with different varietals than I would if I just made wine for Leoness. We've had Spanish varietals and different French varietals. and we would typically use Italian varietals that we don't use. It's been a cool way to kind of learn through having to do it.

"It gets a little daunting at times with, you know, people are constantly coming and going and, but I think at this point I'd be bored if I just made wine for a winery," Kramer said.

It also gives him a sense of pride.

"I love when clients will email and say, 'We just got 90 points on this, or we just won gold here,' or whatever the case," Kramer said. "It does give you pride because I didn't do it all myself, but we had a hand in it."

Kramer was asked what are some of the challenges he sees in winemaking in the Temecula Valley.

"Historically it's been wine quality, and we're making strides and there's more money coming into the valley with some of these new projects," he said. "I believe they'll bring in better winemakers and better sanitary aspects and everything. So, I think just continuing that process of trying to improve our and quality as a whole."

He said from a farming perspective, the valley is on the right track as well.

"I think we're getting there as well," Kramer said. "You know, when we had the (Pierce's disease) epidemic in the late 90s, we were forced in the pull those vines out and replant. For us a lot of the vines were older, they were on their native rootstock. It gave us an opportunity to plant the right varietals with the right rootstock that was good for our climate. It is warmer here and so we need to have some pretty rugged varietals, rootstock and clones."

Jeff Pack photo

Co-owner Tim Kramer said while other wineries serve as wine production facilities, Temecula Valley Winery Management is the only host facility where startup winemakers can become an alternating proprietor.

Kramer thinks that the more diverse, varying styles of winemaking in the valley, the better.

"Absolutely, I think we need more," he said. "It was a few years ago that the county was trying to regulate how much you produced to be a winery. It was like 2,000 cases or something, and I was completely against that because I think we need to have boutique whiners. You need to have the guy that specializes in syrah and that's all he makes is 500 cases of the best in the world. That's going to help put us on the map. Everybody can't produce 50 different kinds of wine and make eight roses. And we have a lot of that, but we have to accommodate a lot of different pallet styles just for our clientele that comes (to wine country), especially on the weekend. But we need some high end too."

For more information on Temecula Valley Winery Management, visit

Jeff Pack can be contacted at [email protected]


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