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Sonoma County wineries' leftovers transformed into snack food

  • Dan Brinker, left, and brothers Mike and Tom Keefer are partners in Wild California, which produces an all-natural baked snack product that includes the ingredient grape flour, which is made from wine grape skin and seeds. (Christopher Chung / The Press Democrat)

A new snack food is the first product shipped on a mass scale containing “flour” made from the milled seeds and skins of Sonoma County wine grapes.

Wild California Crisps are the creation of a Santa Rosa company that won recognition at this winter’s Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. The company recently began shipping its two brand flavors to New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois.

The snack crisps, which can be purchased at independent county grocers, contain grape flour from a company owned by two prominent leaders in the wine industry: Barbara Banke, chairwoman of Jackson Family Wines, and Peggy Furth, former co-proprietor of Chalk Hill Estates & Vineyards. Their Santa Rosa-based WholeVine business takes the leftover seeds and skins from wine production and makes gluten-free cookies, culinary grape seed oils and flour sold to professional chefs and bakers.

But Wild California is breaking new ground with the grape flour.

“It’s the first one that’s going into the mass market,” said WholeVine manager Paul Novak.

Wild California was founded by three Cardinal Newman High alumni: brothers Mike and Tom Keefer and friend Dan Brinker. The three received seed money from silent partner Dale Cox, whose Petaluma-based company distributes the crisps in Sonoma and Marin counties.

“We wanted to come up with a healthier option in the snack aisle,” said Mike Keefer, a former vice president of sales at Clover Stornetta Farms. The twice-baked snack chip has two-thirds less fat than the typical tortilla or potato chip, he said.

The company’s crisps won recognition as one of the eight trend-setting natural and organic products from January’s Fancy Foods Show.

The crisps typically retail for $4.59 for a 5-ounce bag.

The top two ingredients of both Wild California’s Fruit N’ Nut and Apricot Ginger crisps are buttermilk and organic wheat flour. Grape flour constitutes about 7 percent of the ingredients, Keefer said.

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