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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, May 8, 2006, 3:00 am

Wine shipper to build storage facility

Windsor project for wineries, collectors; includes party area

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    WINDSOR — With half of her 10-pallet stockroom taken up by tasting room purchases that can’t be shipped, Janet Montrose of Martinelli Vineyards & Winery in Russian River Valley looks forward to the opening of Sonoma County’s largest personal wine storage facility this fall.

    Wine Country Shipping

    7686 Bell Road
    Windsor, CA 95492
    Phone: 707-836-7748
    Fax: 707-836-7918
    Contact/title: Dan Laskoski, owner
    Founded: 1996
    Revenues: $3 million
    Facilities: 15,000 square feet
    Staff: 15
    Customers: About 100 boutique to mid-sized wineries in Russian River, Alexander and Dry Creek valleys.

    Wine Country Cellars in Windsor is intended to serve customers of small wineries who can’t have their tasting room or mailing list purchases shipped home for a variety of reasons that include weather or state laws restricting direct shipments of wine, according to owner Dan Laskoski.

    Starting at $36 a month per nine-liter case, collectors will be able to rent one of the 2,500 metal lockers that can hold up to 12 cases each. The facility also will have floor space for 100 pallets of wine for small wineries.

    Last week Mr. Laskoski had applied for building permits and expected to start construction in mid-June on the 15,000-square-foot climate-controlled warehouse and private hospitality area. Because of the value of wines to be stored there, the building will have video surveillance and keypad access to the storage area and on each locker.

    Soule Building Systems of Cotati will be erecting the metal building next to his wine fulfillment business, Wine Country Shipping, at 7686 Bell Road. Intentional Contracting of Ukiah is the general contractor.

    Wine shipping business rises

    Mr. Laskoski started Wine Country Shipping in 1997 after selling his Santa Rosa Dental Lab in 1996. The concept came from his wife, Janice, former manager of DHL’s North Bay center in Marin, and sister-in-law Phylis Zouzounis, former winemaker at Mazzocco.

    The company’s 15 employees and three trucks pick up wine from more than 100 boutique to mid-sized wineries in Russian River, Dry Creek and Alexander valleys and pack them for common carrier delivery to customers.

    With customers in 39 states accessible to varying degrees of wine shipments with of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last June, the company expanded last August from Santa Rosa to Windsor.

    Revenue and case volume jumped 30 percent to $3 million last year from 2004, and first-quarter revenue is 35 percent above the same period last year. Rent from the cellar business could add another revenue increase.

    After trucking cases from northern Sonoma County wineries to existing personal wine storage facilities, such as 55 Degrees and Napa Valley Wine Storage in the Napa Valley, Mr. Laskoski decided 18 months ago to build one of his own.

    Because only a quarter of Wine Country Shipping’s customers are outside California, he decided it should be a place where collectors can store and enjoy their libraries.

    “They ask us to store wine from various wineries and periodically ship to them,” he said.

    Thus, O’Malley Wilson Westphal of Santa Rosa designed the building with a hospitality area at the rear for collectors to host wine parties. It will have a conference room with seating for 18 and a widescreen television for sports events, small catering kitchen and landscaped patio.

    Collectors who have signed up for the privilege will be able to host parties Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

    Many local wine lovers have their own cellars, observed Tom Dehlinger of Sebastopol-based Dehlinger Winery. In a survey of the couple thousand members of the winery mailing list, half have such storage, but those with large collections may want to store excess wine at a location they can visit occasionally, he added.

    Demand for more storage

    Demand for more wine storage has been keeping local wine cave excavators busy. Also, self-storage facilities are being built or retrofitted for wine storage.

    Case in point is Self-Storage Emporium of Sonoma in unincorporated south Santa Rosa. It is set to have 40,000 square feet of mostly pallet-size, metal-partitioned wine storage. However, the nearly completed project is more than $1.4 million over budget and almost a year late in opening because of disagreements with county staff on facility construction, according to co-owner Conny Oosterbahn.

    Two other Sonoma County personal wine storage facilities include The Squire cigar shop in Santa Rosa and Always Cool at 3351 Industrial Drive.

    This month before hot weather arrives, Always Cool will be completing an expansion of its climate-controlled space to 3,000 square feet, according to owner Len Hammond.

    Unlike Wine County Cellars, Always Cool has just a fraction of its space devoted to 10-case lockers for local collectors to rent at $3.50 a month per case. Most of the 5-year-old business’ 2,000 total and 500 active clients have their wine delivered to the facility from wineries they visit, accumulate the wine there at $4 a case per month until the weather cools then have sister company, Fitch Mountain Packaging of Healdsburg, prepare the cases for carrier shipment.

    For more information, call Wine Country Shipping at 707-836-7748.

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