BENICIA -- The wine division of St. Louis-based packaging supplier TricorBraun plans to move its Northern California distribution facility to a larger, automated distribution facility in Fairfield early next year.

TricorBraun WinePak (, 707-747-1055) leased a 126,200-square-foot former Meyer Corp. warehouse at 2280 Cordelia Road in Fairfield and plans to relocate the first week of January, according to Andrew Bottene, vice president of the wine division.

"We're growing and expanding in Western states and in Canada and Mexico," he said.

The Benicia-based division is the largest wine bottle distributor in North America and has warehouses throughout the Northwest with close to $100 million in annual sales.

The operation is the preferred West Coast distributor for Verallia, formerly Saint Gobain Containers, and for Amocor's Stelvin line of aluminum screw caps. Other glass suppliers are Saverglass, Fevisa, Vetri Speciali, Saverglas and Asian imports. Also available are bag-in-box packaging and PET plastic wine bottles.

Compared with the existing warehouse and distribution center -- nearly 100,000 square feet at 603 Indiana St. in Benicia -- the new facility will have storage equivalent to a 165,000-square-foot warehouse because inventory can be stacked higher.

Also, the company is installing about $2 million in fully automated repacking equipment. The system will be able to automatically convert 8-foot-high layered pallets of bottles into custom 12-bottle cardboard cases for delivery to wineries. This will allow the division to move more orders more quickly and at a lower cost than repacking by hand, as had been the industry practice, according to Mr. Bottene.

"Our customers need more flexibility to pull what they need when they need it to maximize their dollars," Mr. Bottene said.

This is part of a shift in the packaging industry toward bulk-to-case automation, he said.

"It gives flexibility to our customers in packing whatever they need," Mr. Bottene said.

Some wineries have been installing automated equipment for removing bulk glass from pallets -- depalletizing -- and feeding the bottles directly to their bottling lines.

Automation at the Fairfield facility will result in an undisclosed reduction in the size of the distribution center staff, he said. Nearly a year ago, TricorBraun Winepak had 68 employees in Benicia.

TricorBraun acquired Caliber WinePak in 1997 and changed the name at the beginning of this year. Companywide sales are around $900 million a year.

W. Stevens Schmid of CresaPartners represented TricorBraun in the Fairfield lease. Glen Dowling, Matt Bracco and Chris Neeb of Cushman & Wakefield represented building owner Meyer Corp.