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Monday, August 19, 2013, 6:30 am

Custom winery to top off mobile bottler’s new Napa hub

Winery has 300,000 cases committed

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    NAPA — A major cost in setting up a new custom winery is the equipment to get wine into the bottle, but a Sonoma Valley mobile bottling and filtering company bets it has that covered as it prepares to roll into a new operations hub and blending facility in southern Napa Valley.

    Top It Off Bottling plans to fill available time on its three mobile lines by using them at a planned Napa wine-blending facility. (image credit: David Crawford)

    Instead of spending three-quarters to a few million dollars to install used or new high-speed equipment, Top It Off Bottling (707-933-0310, topitoffbottling.com) plans to back up any of its available mobile bottling rigs to the winery being set up in the 25,000-square-foot former HF Hillman distribution center at 201 Devlin Rd. in south Napa. The goal is to be open there in November.

    “The reason we’re moving is a couple of our clients have been telling us they prefer the Napa name and would like for us to consider moving and setting up a blending facility,” said President Mike Glavin.

    Those two clients have committed to 250,000 of the 300,000 annual cases’ worth of production business lined up so far. The winery project, designed and managed by Ward Architects of Napa, is envisioned to be able to blend and bottle at least 500,000 cases a year.

    “If big guys want to do something up here, we will do that as well, but the core of our business are the little guys,” Mr. Glavin said. “We’ll do as few as 1,000 cases, but the sweet spot it 5,000 to 20,000 cases a year.”

    Custom wineries have been budding and growing in south Napa. Safe Harbor plans to expand into another building. The Spelletich family recently opened a 16,000-square-foot winery and launched the Crush94 custom winemaking service. Bin to Bottle doubled capacity a couple of years ago.

    Grapes wouldn’t be crushed at the planned Top It Off winery. Clients would have purchased bulk wine trucked to the facility.

    Process wastewater from the facility would be hauled offsite. That’s something Top It Off Bottling wouldn’t be able to do cost-effectively at its current location. where water-quality regulators require pretreatment of the high-organics-content water from washing wine and grape material before the water goes into the sewer. Though wineries in a neighboring warehouse under the same ownership on Eighth Street East have pretreatment capacity, it would have called for piping the wastewater across a property line, something that’s not allowed.

    In Napa, the company is seeking a go-ahead from county government that the former cigarette and convenience store goods warehouse can be converted to a wine-blending facility. Top It Off holds state Alcoholic Beverage Control Department type 14 and 22 licenses for public warehousing and blending, respectively. To accommodate alternating proprietorships in the planned blending facility, Top It Off is going for a type 02 winegrower license.

    Top It Off serves more than 130 wineries with 28-, 35- and 53-foot-long bottling trailers fitted with lines that handle 40–60, 60–80 and 80-100 bottles per minute, respectively, depending on bottle and label design.  The company also has a cross-flow filtration system in a 15-foot trailer, air-conditioned trailer.

    A second mobile cross-flow filter is planned, and it likely will be dedicated to the blending facility, according to Mr. Glavin. A fourth mobile bottling line is expected to be added to the fleet in the first quarter of next year, if demand continues to be strong.

    Mr. Glavin was a partner in The Old Blake Printery from 1969 until WS Packaging acquired the San Luis Obispo printer of high-end labels in February 2002. He stayed on as head of the operation until retiring from the printing business in June 2004.

    Top It Off Bottling started in 2005, and partner Randy Ramos joined a year later. The company now has seven employees and plans to hire three more after the new facility opens. Sci-Tek Staffing of Napa has supplied temp-to-hire second members of the two-person truck teams.

    Bill Kampton of Colliers International represented Top It Off Bottling, LLC, in the lease deal for 201 Devlin. Michael Moffett of Coldwell Banker Commercial Brokers of the Valley represented property owner Devlin Road, LLC, led by Bob Hillman, who recently sold HF Hillman to Pitco Foods of San Jose earlier this year.

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