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(Editor’s note: The Business Journal features profiles of North Bay construction projects that are complete or nearly so. Send details to jquackenbush@busjrnl.com or fax to 707-521-5292.)

Ganau America cork distribution facility

[caption id="attachment_23506" align="alignright" width="265" caption="An architectural rendering of the Ganau America facility, set for completion this month (courtesy of Del Starrett Architect)"][/caption]

21900 Carneros Oak Lane, Sonoma

Owner: Ganau America, Sonoma

Description: 40,000-square-foot wine cork finishing and distribution facility on 2.8 acres

Completion: August 2010

Contractors: general -- Jim Murphy & Associates, Santa Rosa; metal building -- Soule Building Systems, Cotati

Architecture: structure -- Del Starrett Architect, Santa Rosa; landscape -- Parker Smith, Sebastopol

Interior design: Camerin USA, Sonoma

Engineering: mechanical -- TEP, Santa Rosa; civil -- Bedford Associates, Santa Rosa; structural -- ZFA Structural Engineers, Santa Rosa; electrical -- Ray E. Slaughter and Associates, Petaluma

Ganau America is a subsidiary of family-owned Sugherificio Ganau S.p.A., Italy’s largest producer of cork wine bottle stoppers. In May 2008, Ganau America purchased 2.8 acres in Carneros Business Park in the Eighth Street East wine-related industrial cluster on the southern outskirts of Sonoma.

At 40,000 square feet, the new facility is nearly double the size of Ganau America’s current location about a half-mile away and has four times the amount of laboratory space, according to Mariella Ganau, chief executive officer.

Testing of wine closures has become increasingly rigorous in the past decade because of concerns about tainted wine in a small percentage of bottles. Sources of contamination from the main taint culprits, microbial chemical byproducts TCA and TBA, have been found to include cork and other wood items such as barrels and pallets as well as certain paints and plastics.

As a result, wineries and cork suppliers have been stepping up sanitation technology and methods from the cork forest to the bottling line. In the past 15 years, Sugherificio Ganau has installed high-temperature, high-pressure steam systems to sterilize cork wood in various phases of the production process, starting with whole slabs of bark. The company also has high-technology testing equipment in Europe to check for contaminants in concentrations as miniscule as a few parts per trillion.

Samples of stoppers are checked again when bales arrive at Ganau America for distribution to U.S., Canadian and Mexican vintners. The Sonoma-based distributor is part of the Cork Quality Council, which is made up of several North Coast distributors of natural and agglomerate cork stoppers. The council has contracts with local laboratories for using similar high-tech analyses on member samples.

The in-house laboratory at Ganau America allows winemakers to verify cork cleanliness by soaking samples of corks in wine and other liquids. A larger laboratory will accommodate the doubling of production, which had been 80 million closures a year.

The Sonoma operation separates stoppers into quality grades, firebrands them with brand messaging and applies lubricants to help with bottling and uncorking.

Other features of the project include a high level of insulation, high-efficiency lighting, solar electrical power and other measures to limit energy usage while keeping the corks cool.

In 2008, the project was estimated to cost $5 million, but the final price tag wasn’t disclosed.

The Ganau family started Sugherificio Ganau in 1941. The company acquired its North American distributor, Italcork, and expanded the operation in 2003.

Carneros Business Park developer William A. Saks & Co. of St. Helena secured approval of the 53-acre development in 2006. Construction on the Ganau America project started last September. Another project there is a 30,000-square-foot plant for Laura Chanel’s Chevre dairy products. A 40,000-square-foot industrial condominium project was completed in the park in 2009.