A mobile wine bottler’s plans for a sizable south Napa custom winery just got bigger after a merger with a 12-year-old wine barrel-cellaring business.
As Napa-based Top It Off Bottling was moving into a 112,400-square-foot new facility, it inked a fast-closing deal to combine with Napa Barrel Care, effective May 1. The barrel warehouser’s founder, Mike Blom, became a partner in Top It Off and director of barrel operations, according to Michael Glavin, founder and president.
The combination comes as Top It Off is experiencing rapid growth.
“About a year ago, we were going to buy Napa Barrel Care, and the deal fell apart,” Glavin said. With Napa Barrel Care’s lease expiring for 60,000 square feet of warehouse space at 1075 Golden Gate Drive in June, Blom’s real estate agent, Bill Kampton of Colliers International, approached Glavin about taking a second look. With due diligence on the company already done, the deal came together this time in 30 days.
Napa-based Biagi Bros. Transportation & Warehousing is undertaking the delicate process of moving 11,000 barrels full of wine from Napa Barrel Care over 20 days to Top It Off’s new location at 2731 and 2747 Napa Valley Corporate Drive.
That’s the former Dey Labs–Mylan campus, now owned by the county of Napa and called its South Campus. Top It Off last summer signed a 25-year sublease deal for two buildings there. The barrel business is going into roughly half the 62,400-square-foot building for now. The barrels will move again next year to all the 50,000-square-foot building next door, to make room for a custom winery in the larger structure, set to be ready to start taking in grapes by fall 2018, Glavin said.
Top It Off plans to hold onto its 25,000-square-foot existing blending and bottling facility at 201 Devlin Road for the time being, using it for storing finished wine after the production equipment moves to the new site, Glavin said.
The company has started talks with the county about subleasing the remaining 40,000 square feet of available industrial space in the South Campus, using it for a stationary bottling facility, Glavin said. He’s also considering options for a similar amount of space in nearby properties, but availability of such-sized space in south Napa Valley is nil.
That new space would become a pressing need if deals come through with three large wineries for handling about 1 million cases a year, Glavin said.
As it is, Top It Off’s revenues are up 30 percent year-to-date from the same period last year, and 2016 already was a big year for the company. Part of it is coming from owners of wine brands looking for new producers, after the acquisition of big North Coast custom wineries by E&J Gallo in 2015.
Glavin and Blom had crossed paths at previous ventures. Coincidentally, they both started their companies in 2005.
In addition to storing filled barrels, Napa Barrel Care offers racking, blending, filtration, fining, cold-stabilization and topping services. It has equipment for cleaning barrels with ozonated water and steam one at a time. Top It Off is considering adding some automation to barrel handling, such as devices that clean four barrels at a time, Glavin said.
Blom’s barrel business had been hit with a two unforeseeable blows in the past few years, Glavin said. The August 2014 Napa quake made for epic photos of toppled, punctured barrels and spilled wine. Since then, Blom has been sharing best practices for barrel storage to more efficiently use facility space and reduce seismic risk.