With the backing of a host of well-known Napa County names, a new American Canyon-based company is preparing to wash and sell re-used wine bottles on an industrial scale.
Wine Bottle Renew will wash the first of 200,000 cases of discarded wine bottles at its Stockton plant beginning in August, thanks to a new-style bottle washer the size of a semi-truck, said Bruce Stephens, the chief executive officer of the $3.5 million startup venture.
“Our motto is that we’re going to be cleaner than new,” said Stephens, a businessman and a home winemaker based in Sonoma.
Stephens said he came up with the idea about two years ago after coming across bottles for his homebrew that were not clean. While Europeans reuse wine bottles, the concept has never taken root in the United States for technical and other reasons.
The president of the company is Bill Dodd, a Napa County supervisor. Stephens and Dodd were fraternity brother at Chico State University.
“I was completely blown away” by the concept, said Dodd, who was formerly associated with Culligan Water.
Other officers include Chris Ronson, the chief operating officer, who used to head a bottle washing company in Stockton, and Sonoma businessman Bill Angeloni.
The company decided to base its offices in American Canyon because of its proximity to the wine industry. “You want all the publicity that comes with Napa,” Stephens said.
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Washed bottles will sell for up to 40 percent less than new. The goal is to boost production to 2.5 million cases in five years. Company equipment can sort 100 styles of bottles.
They chose to process the bottles at a 92,000-square-foot former Del Monte plant in Stockton partly because of lower lease costs, Stephens said.
The company’s 40-plus investors include Napa Recycling and Waste Services, BLT Enterprises, Biagi Trucking, VinLux, Luna Vineyards, Jackson Family Wines, and Trinchero Family Estates.
Reusing whole discarded bottles is more environmentally friendly than using new bottles or melting recycled glass cullets — pieces of broken glass, Stephens said.
Reusing discarded wine bottles saves 95 percent of a bottle’s carbon footprint, Stephens said.
“We’re always trying to be a green company,” said Bob Torres, senior vice president of operations at Trinchero Family Estates.
"Wine Bottle Renew promises a great way for wineries to reduce their carbon footprint by enabling the clean and safe re-use of wine bottles,” said Caroline Shaw, chief communications officer at Jackson Family Wines, in an e-mail.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Greg Kelley, manager at Napa Recycling and Waste Services, which collects recycling and garbage in Napa, said of the new business’ green credentials.