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After surviving pandemic, St. Helena’s Erosion Wine Company expands into brewing

  • 2 min to read

Erosion Wine Company opened its downtown St. Helena tasting room in February 2020, which turned out to be one of the worst times in human history to launch a business. One would have been forgiven for expecting it wouldn’t last.

On the contrary, Erosion is not only still around. It’s expanding into brewing.

“When the pandemic hit, we were just opening, and there was no way we were giving up,” owner Patrick Rue said Monday. “We’d put too many resources into this. We were highly motivated to make it work.”

Next Tuesday, April 6, Rue will ask the Planning Commission to approve Erosion Brewery in a warehouse at 995 Vintage Ave. He plans to brew about 56 batches per year, at 108.5 gallons per batch.

He already secured a temporary use permit to serve beer at a new taproom in the space next to Erosion formerly occupied by Cricket, probably starting in July or August.

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Patrick, Rachel and Charlotte Rue

Patrick, Rachel and Charlotte Rue in the Erosion Wine Company tasting room.

The two spaces would be connected in the back, but each would have a unique feel. While the wine tasting room, which reopened at the beginning of March, is dominated by shiny mirrors and lots of pastels, the new taproom will have a more gritty, industrial feel.

“It’s going to have more of a masculine beer vibe,” Rue said while showing off the new space, which is still under construction. “If you’re more beer-oriented you’ll probably be more comfortable here, and if you’re more wine-oriented you’ll probably be more comfortable over there. But you can always have wine on this side or beer on that side.”

The taproom will have a small kitchen preparing primarily savory and sweet dips to accompany the beers and wines.

Rue’s interest in beer dates back to his years in law school, when his wife, Rachel, encouraged him to take up home brewing as a hobby. It turned out that his destiny lay in beer, not law. In 2008 he opened The Bruery in his native Orange County. He described it as a craft brewery specializing in “big barrel-aged beers, 15 to 20 percent alcohol.”

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Sam Dearden and Patrick Rue

Tasting room manager Sam Dearden and Erosion Wine Company owner Patrick Rue in Erosion's downtown St. Helena wine tasting room, which will soon be supplemented by a a beer taproom next door.

The Bruery was a success, but Rue ultimately sold a majority of the business, moved to St. Helena, and founded Erosion Wine Company.

His approaches to beer and wine have been complementary.

“In the past I specialized in making really esoteric beers and trying to elevate beer to wine status,” he said. “Then when I got into wine I tried to bring wine to beer status.”

That approach is evident in the Erosion tasting room, where the Instagram-friendly décor, playful vibe and fancifully named wines like Unicorn Eyes and Afraid of Clowns make it feel more like a millennial-friendly craft brewery than a typical Napa Valley tasting room.

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Erosion Wine Company

Some of the swag for sale at the Erosion Wine Company tasting room.

In contrast to The Bruery’s heavy offerings, Erosion’s beer will be “the kind of beer you’d want to taste after you’ve been drinking cabs all day,” Rue said. “You’re going to want a 4 percent crisp lager.”

Looking back on Erosion’s rocky first year, Rue said it’s always tough to get a business off the ground, “but we never could have anticipated something like this.”

“But hey,” he said. “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

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You can reach Jesse Duarte at 967-6803 or jduarte@sthelenastar.com.