Second winery sought in Newport

It's not quite like Detroit and autos, but Newport Beach is known for producing Balboa Bars, boardshorts, frozen bananas and boutiques.

Now wine?

If the Planning Commission approves its plans next week, the Newport Beach Wine Co. will become the second vintner in the city. It would press, ferment, blend, bottle, label and sell wine all from a 2,500-square-foot space in an industrial complex.

This terra firma near Placentia Avenue and 16th Street is even more unlikely than the other Newport winery, which has its own vineyard on the bluffs of Upper Newport Bay.

Gus DeFalco, owner of the Floor Guys flooring company in Costa Mesa, is taking the gamble to open the business.

It's a soaked market that requires determination to enter, experts say.

"You have to make good wine, spread it by word of mouth, and gain a reputation," said Jim Graver, director of the winemaking group at the Orange County Wine Society in Costa Mesa. "That doesn't come overnight."

The winery will have a tasting room and will sell bottles on the weekends, but DeFalco expects most of the sales through Internet and mail orders, according to his application with the city.

Breaking into the local retail and restaurant scene is tough but not impossible, Graver said.

"There are so many wines that are recognizable," he said. "You have to be a good salesperson."

The other local winery, Newport Beach Vineyards and Winery, has managed to break onto local wine lists.

Its Back Bay Cuvee and other varietals have been sold at Antonello Ristorante, the Cannery Restaurant, Irvine Ranch Market, and Pascal Restaurant and Épicerie, among other places, according to the winery's website.

Richard Moriarty, an heir to the Segerstrom family fortune, started that operation on 3.5 acres overlooking Upper Newport Bay in the early 2000s. Ever since he has been harvesting and producing a number of varietals, including the 2003 period favorite, the OC Red.

Grapes for the Newport Beach Wine Co. would travel from the Central and Northern California. DeFalco plans to have weekend tastings open to the public, at $10 for six pours.

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