[...] according to the government, it isn’t a winery. The startup, housed in a Dogpatch warehouse, produces synthetic wine: a petri-dish cocktail of ethanol, water, sugar and various chemical compounds, made not in a vineyard but in a lab. “We could make a Cab here that smells like a Moscato d’Asti,” says Alec Lee, a co-founder of Ava, as he takes me through the lab. The lab is divided into two rooms: one for data collection, one for data execution. In the first, samples of “real” wine are put through machines that perform gas and liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry to isolate and identify their chemical makeup. At $2.7 million, the lead investor in Ava’s seed round was Horizons Ventures, a Hong Kong venture firm that is also a major funder of Impossible Foods, of plant-based burger fame, and Modern Meadow, which biofabricates leather. Both Impossible Foods and Modern Meadow are proposing solutions to a fairly obvious issue: the ethics of how we use animals. [...] displayed behind a glass case, was Mike Grgich’s famous 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, winner of the Judgment of Paris. [...] they’re tackling Moscato. Synthetic wine would seem at odds with the belief systems of many sommeliers, and ironically, Decolongon had worked at a natural wine bar before joining Ava. “Going into this project I was scared of revealing it to my wine friends,” says Decolongon, who holds a sommelier certification and a level 4 diploma from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. Lee talks about creating the ultimate delicious flavor profile — what he calls “digitally optimizing wines.” Is this Moscato, saccharine and untoned, what Americans want to drink? “There’s a snobbery in wine that doesn’t correspond with people’s actual taste,” he says. Ava can use an estimated 10 to 100 times less water than a traditional winery would, for starters, but the larger environmental issue is climate change. [...] Ava makes the case for replicating wines — re-creating and sharing specific, famous bottles like the 1973 Montelena. The goal will never be to make counterfeit wines — not pretending to be the ‘Mona Lisa,’ but printing ‘Mona Lisa’ posters. Eventually, Lee and Chua want to create synthetic versions of other luxury food products that, like wine, are resource-intensive, geographically limited and expensive. With just one wine expert on staff, I wonder if Ava can’t understand that the whole reason why people like me like wine in the first place is because it conveys a sense of place in a nuanced and mysterious way — we love it because we can’t fully understand it.
NYS Entity Status
NYS Filing Date
MAY 28, 2014
NYS DOS ID#
NYS Entity Type
DOMESTIC LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY
2014 - CONTINENTAL WINE & SPIRITS LLC
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