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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, May 14, 2012, 6:40 am

Vintners Co-Op, M.A. Silva expand to Napa Valley

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    AMERICAN CANYON — Sonoma County Vintners Co-Op, Inc., which provides wine storage, distribution and fulfillment for a few hundred vintners along the West Coast, has expanded further into Napa Valley with a new warehouse, and the first customer is M.A. Silva USA’s rapidly growing wine bottle business.  

    M.A. Silva USA, a U.S. wine cork and bottle distributor partly owned leaders of Portuguese cork giant M.A. Silva, launched the bottle business two years ago, partnering with the co-op for storage and distribution from that organization’s main Windsor warehouse and with Yandell Truckaway for services from a Benicia warehouse, according to Neil Foster, M.A. Silva USA president and co-owner.

    Mr. Foster and Dave Hammond started Vertical Glass & Packaging in 2010.  Lessons learned from the bottle business were rolled under the M.A. Silva USA brand. A strategic partner for glass sourcing is Chandler Resources, an New Zealand importer of high-quality glass from plants in China. Sales of bottles has been growing rapidly, 300 percent of last year’s. 

    One lesson learned was the need for consistent pairing of wine containers with closures, and M.A. Silva USA had plenty of insights from its now dozen years in business. Glass from China, though potentially less expensive than bottles made in North America or Europe, had a reputation for inconsistent quality.

    “We saw that the specs on bottles was varying,” Mr. Foster said. “Often, similar bottles that looked the same based on appearance, but the interior neck finish would not allow it to run well on the bottling line and be a good closure for wine.”

    M.A. Silva has vertically integrated cork production from tree to delivered stopper, so going the next step in ensuring consistently sized corks will fit in consistently sized bottlenecks.

    By prequalifying glass manufacturers in China and having onsite staff to monitor each run, Chandler helps provide consistency, Mr. Foster said.

    Another lesson learned about the bottle business was on-time delivery at the winery, a requirement that has grown more important with increased use of mobile bottling services. Chandler helps keep glass runs and transoceanic shipments on schedule.

    The Windsor-based co-op, which has 140 member vintners in Sonoma and Mendocino counties and serves 190 others between Santa Barbara and the Oregon border, already had somewhat of a presence in southern Napa Valley for three years, according to Stephen Schwitalla, co-op chief executive and founding partner of Vynapse, which does business as Pack N’ Ship Direct.

    Pack N’ Ship Direct Napa has expanded from just 49 customers of The Wine Services Cooperative to 105 vintners in Napa Valley today, operating from a 30,000-square-foot facility at 621 Airpark Rd.

    Sonoma County Vintners Co-Op in January leased 12,500 square feet of a warehouse at 1175 Commerce Blvd. in American Canyon. The co-op also has warehouses in Paso Robles, Santa Maria and Oregon.

    “We’re testing the water for our entry into that market in terms of storage and distribution for wine,” Mr. Schwitalla said.

    Shawn Johnson of Keegan & Coppin represented the co-op in its American Canyon lease deal with SDB Commerce 201, LLC.

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