Inside an unassuming warehouse on Treat Avenue near 19th Street are rows of barreled red wine waiting to be distributed to refined palates across the country. And not just any red wine — artisanal, vineyard-specific pinot noir.
“One sip of California Pinot Noir was all it took,” 50-year-old Andrew P. Vingiello says on his website. He might have added that, for a man who spent decades in finance, finally deciding to pursue his passion of winemaking was no small feat.
He started small. And although he knew what he loved, it wasn’t until 2005 that he made the full-time switch, contracting plots in various vineyards and opening up shop at 622 Treat Ave., where he processes the grapes that he oversees.
Nowadays, he distributes thousands of his bottles to restaurants and retailers all over the United States under the A.P. VIN label.
Italian-born and New York-raised, Vingiello grew up in Tuxedo Park in northern New York, a town famous for being one of the first gated communities. He left to Boulder, Colorado, for college, and fell in love with the West. He landed in the Mission District in 1990.
Having moved from one gentrifying town to another, Vingiello seems accustomed to the constant change that is the Mission. After nearly 30 years here, the fact that he lives in a special place isn’t lost on him.
“It’s the city I love to hate,” he says with a chuckle. “And I mean that in the best sense. I still love the grit and the people and just the atmosphere [of the Mission]. I think it’s awesome.”
The feeling seems to be mutual. Reviews on Google and Yelp refer to it as the perfect example of an “urban winery” — a comparable alternative to heading up north to Napa. Although tastings are by appointment only, it might make sense to save the gas. While produced here in San Francisco, his fruit comes from world-class vineyards, including Garys’, Rosella’s, Clos Pepe, Spring Hill, Sun Chase, Rancho Ontiveros and Turner.
With vineyards in Santa Barbara, Monterey and Sonoma counties, it may be surprising that his business isn’t impacted at all by the recent fires. On a personal level, though, he’s not far removed from the tragedy — many of his colleagues and friends were affected.
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“You’ll see as time goes on and the media stops the hype about the wine industry — the biggest impact is on families, their livelihood, and their homes,” Vingiello said.
This year’s harvest was picked before the fire started and went smoothly. Vingiello attributes this to timing. The ripening periods of the fruit, when scattered, allows for breathing room in the harvest process. But that isn’t usually the case. More often, harvests are brutal.
“If you’re not passionate about making wine, you might as well do something else, because it’ll just kind of eat you alive,” he said. “It very much separates people who think they want to get in the wine business and people that really want to do it.”
Once the two-month harvest period starts, processing the fruit takes 14-hour days, seven days a week. He recalls 2014 being particularly horrific, leaving himself and his interns completely burned out.
“It all comes at once and it’s just this huge crescendo,” Vingiello said.
It’s certainly been a labor of love — and one that might soon need scaling. “The whole life of the winery, it’s been a one-man show,” he said, quickly adding that he also gets help from his wife, Brenda, and input from friends.
“Sometimes I think I know it all, but it’s not always the best answer,” he laughs. “Someone else’s input might be better.”
By any measure, Vingiello can count the winery a success. His wines are rated in the 90th percentile and have won accolades in well-known publications.
“I’m still here,” he said. “I’m still in business, I’m doing something right.”