Della Taffola sees upswing in demand as wine market returns

WINDSOR -- A major Italian manufacturer of winemaking equipment plans to build a North American distribution and light production facility in this Sonoma County town.

Della Toffola S.p.A., which has facilities in Italy, France, Spain, Chile and Argentina, purchased about two acres of freeway frontage land at 100 American Way in a Windsor industrial park on April 29 for $826,000.

The project will require town of Windsor approval, but the goal is to start construction this fall on a 20,000- to 25,000-square-foot light-industrial building with room for a sales office and inventory warehouse with room for building tanks and assembling equipment.

"The business is growing so fast, the owners decided to build a facility here," said Maria Angela Guarienti, chief executive officer of Della Toffola USA Ltd.

Sales for the first four months of this year are four times what they were in the same period last year, and the prospects for this year appear to be on track to surpass those just before the economic recession started in late 2007, she said.

That's a lot better sales environment than when the North American sales office opened in May 2009. Della Toffola has been in business for four decades and selling equipment in the U.S. for 20 years through agents and distributors. To have more control over representation in its markets, the company in 2009 sent Ms. Guarienti to establish a North American sales branch in Sonoma County, currently in leased space in a nearby Windsor industrial area.

As fine wine sales plummeted in the first half of 2009, capital spending on winery equipment was squeezed. Without the agent's sales leads, she was dependent upon incoming service or spare parts requests for the large installed base of Della Toffola equipment. In 2010 she started receiving purchase inquiries for systems.

The various Della Toffola companies produce a range of products for winemaking, food and beverage processing, water and process wastewater treatment, and filtration and treatment equipment chemical and pharmaceutical production. The companies employ about 300 people and have annual sales turnover of about 50 million euro, roughly equal to $71 million today.

U.S. sales are going to established wine regions such as California as well as up-and-coming regions of other states and Canada. The company's tanks, fillers, screwcappers, labelers, filters, valves and piping systems serve not only the wine industry but also beverage makers and producers of any other thicker fluid products such as ketchup and mayonnaise.

For the wine industry, eight of 10 systems sold tend to have some custom aspects, ranging from size restrictions to operational enhancements to new production concepts. That leaves open the potential for some assembly of equipment in Windsor, saving time and money in shipping and employment. Yet European labor laws limit production staffing fluctuations, so the company has to keep those on staff in European plants as productive as possible, according to Ms. Guarienti.

Della Toffola picked that Windsor site -- and decided to build rather that opt for a number of available industrial spaces of the desired size -- to gain visibility from Highway 101, according to Ken Lafranchi, whose Lafranchi Architecture and Development is designing the facility. The street, sidewalks and utilities were extended to that property and surrounding ones several years ago to limit the time needed for construction. The Della Taffola project will need town of Windsor design review, Planning Commission and Town Council approval. A formal proposal is expected to be submitted shortly.

Representing Della Toffola USA in Windsor land purchase was Bob Green of Coldwell Banker. Connie Bradley and Ron Reinking of Cornish & Carey Newmark Knight Frank negotiated the deal for seller DG&H Developers, LLC, led by homebuilder Doyle Heaton.

For more information about Della Toffola USA, call 707-544-5300 or visit www.dellatoffola.com.