NAPA -- Backed with new funding, VinPerfect is moving into larger-scale production of its design for a screw cap and liner combination that allows winemakers to control oxygen transfer to the wine after the bottle is sealed.
Use of aluminum screw caps has been growing worldwide for ease of use and reuse as well as to allay concerns about closure-related tainting of the wine. But caps can be too good of a seal or not good enough. Cork wood stoppers can allow oxygen through slowly, helping wine to age without oxidizing from too much air in the headspace between liquid and closure or reducing from not enough oxygen. VinPerfect is aiming to provide the best of caps with the best of cork via an aluminum cap with tiny holes in the top together with a multilayer cap liner to control the rate of gas transfer.
[caption id="attachment_54606" align="alignleft" width="308" caption="VinPerfect plans to license the patent-pending design for the multilayer screw cap liner seal, shown here, and the aluminum screw cap with tiny holes in the top to allow controlled oxygen transfer."][/caption]
The seven-person company, started in 2008 from a concept developed by three University of California at Davis MBA students, raised $885,000 from 38 seed-round funders in the past 12 months and is accelerating production after the sale of the first closures last fall.
VinPerfect (707-252-2155, www.vinperfect.com) on May 18 doubled the size of its south Napa development, production and distribution facility with a move to nearly 6,000 square feet at 831 Latour Court, Ste. B1. Expected to arrive in July is equipment that will allow the insertion of 10,000 liners an hour, compared with only 1,500 now.
"We're at the point where we're getting more orders than we can sustain at this rate of production," said Collin Casper, co-founder and chief operations officer.
Orders have come from 16 wineries so far, including the 25 Brix brand made by VinPerfect co-inventor and Chief Executive Officer Tim Keller, consulting winemaker for Alta Ridge Vineyards near Sonoma Mountain. Some are buying for entire production runs, and some are acquiring some for testing.
VinPerfect has opened a $1 million series A funding round to cover the increased production, finance inventory to keep up with demand and hire a third production worker and two commissioned salespeople in the next three to six months. Coming on board recently as director of investor relations is Chris Gutek, described as an active angel investor who was involved in Keiretsu Forum's due diligence on VinPerfect.
While VinPerfect is ramping production in Napa, including a special type of laser etching of the caps based on customer designs. But ultimately, large-scale production must happen elsewhere, according to Mr. Casper. More than 21 billion wine closures are sold globally each year, and screw cap share currently is 15 percent and growing. In the next six months, VinPerfect hopes to secure licensing agreements with aluminum screw cap manufacturers to produce the perforated caps and insert the liners. The company is developing international distribution contracts.
The VinPerfect concept came together in 2007 and won the school's Big Bang! business plan contest the following year. VinPerfect moved from Davis to Napa in late 2010.