[caption id="attachment_20166" align="alignnone" width="504" caption="Adobe Creek Wine & Storage, Redwood Empire Wine Storage and Eagle Transportation (pictured) worked out a deal to offer the more than 150 wineries they serve together the option of saving some of the money for trucking wine from their warehouses to fulfillment houses."][/caption]

Adobe Creek, Redwood to collaborate along with Napa's Vin-Go on shipping

PETALUMA and SANTA ROSA -- Two competing wine casegoods warehouses in Sonoma County this spring plan to collaborate on a new direct-to-consumer shipping venture through a recently launched local provider of wine order fulfillment and regulatory compliance services.

Chuck Holmes, an owner of Adobe Creek Wine & Storage in Petaluma, and Mark Burris, part-owner and president of Redwood Empire Wine Storage and trucking company Eagle Transportation in Santa Rosa, have known each other for years.

Owners of Adobe Creek Wine & Storage in Petaluma and Redwood Empire Wine Storage and Eagle Transportation in Santa Rosa worked out a deal to offer the more than 150 wineries they serve together the option of saving some of the money for trucking wine from their warehouses to fulfillment houses, where it must be inventoried and repacked for shipment directly to consumers or trade accounts.

In the new arrangement, bulk wine and casegoods hauler Eagle would move cases from Redwood Empire Storage to Adobe Creek to be repacked into fewer-bottle packages for club shipments and orders.

“It’s a little bit different that two competitors can work together,” said Mr. Burris.

“We’ve been friends for a very long time,” said Mr. Holmes. “We trust each other.”

They’ve been working together for years since Adobe Creek opened in 2001. Redwood Empire Storage, which opened in 1991, can store up to 1 million cases, and Adobe Creek 1.2 million. When Adobe Creek filled up recently, Mr. Holmes worked out a deal with Mr. Burris to use his facility for overflow storage around harvest.

They’ve independently been looking for opportunities to get into order fulfillment to give wineries more reason to continue to use their warehouses. Yet the federal court rulings on interstate shipping of wine has made the prospect daunting.

However, a number of local warehousers have added fulfillment services by partnering with logistics and compliance providers. For example, Sonoma County Vintners Co-op partnered with Pack n’ Ship Direct, which also has formed in-house fulfillment agreements with warehousers in Napa Valley.

Such partnerships and a suite of software can streamline the process of moving a consumer’s order from the winery to the warehouse to the fulfillment service to the carrier and finally to the customer.

The Adobe Creek and Redwood Empire Storage direct-shipping venture is set to launch in May and June, respectively. The companies are finalizing an agreement with Napa-based fulfillment and compliance service Vin-Go LLC. It opened in July 2009, offering an order-to-delivery software package to automate shipments to 45 states and alliances to allow for lower-cost shipments during more months of the year.

Vin-Go is led by Chief Operating Officer Mike Steinhauer. For the past two years he was director of compliance and audit for large Napa-based fulfillment house New Vine, which was rescued and then acquired in mid-2009 by Inertia Beverage Group also of Napa, as well as director of internal audit at San Diego-area software maker Kintera. Before that he was controller for Auberge du Soleil in Calistoga.

Vin-Go has formed alliances to provide forward warehousing in the key wine-consuming states of New York, South Carolina, Florida, Texas and Arizona, according to the company Web site. Refrigerated trucks would move cases or packages to chilled warehouses in those locations.

Common carriers would take the packages the “last mile” to the consumer’s or trade account’s address.

The practice is called “zone skipping” because the product is moved to warehouses, saving common carrier costs for moving individual packages across a number of states. For the wine business, skipping across states in chilled trucks rather than the typically unrefrigerated carrier allows wineries to sell and ship wine during hot summer months.

That’s particularly true for hot climates such as Texas, where Vin-Go has arranged for climate-controlled vehicles to make final deliveries.

Mr. Holmes said Adobe Creek would be packing orders in Petaluma, and Vin-Go’s system would arrange for the chiller trucks to move the items to the last-mile distribution points. Adobe Creek currently has a full-time staff of 16, with six in the soon-to-expand office in the facility. The warehouse workers already pull certain orders for customers and apply certain required labeling.

“I’m hoping this opens a whole lot more sales for wineries,” Mr. Holmes said of the Vin-Go forward-warehousing feature.

For more information, contact Adobe Creek at 707-769-9317 and www.adobe-ceek.com, Redwood Empire Storage at 707-586-9766 and www.eagle-redwood.com, or Vin-Go at 707-603-2203 and www.vingo.net.