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Bottling on wheels

 
The 48-ft semi-tractor/trailer looms large over the three men (left to right: John Davis, John Forney and Jaime Velazquez) who operate the bottling line inside.
Bottles travel under a sparger, where oxygen is replaced
with nitrogen
.

LangeTwins Winery, a multi-generational family-operated wine growing and making business near Lodi, CA, grew out of a viticulture partnership between twin brothers Randy and Brad Lange. The Lange family has been involved in argriculture since the twins' great-grandparents Johann and Maria Lange emigrated from Germany to Lodi. “We've been in Lodi for quite literally more than 100 years,” says Marissa Lange, who works with cousin Kendra Lange in the company's marketing department.

Global economy changes landscape

Although running purely agricultural businesses have served several generations of the Lange family well, the newest generations of the family increasingly are impacted by the growing global economy. Marissa Lange explains: “It was becoming apparent that in order to allow the business to continue in a healthy way for the next generation, of which I am one of five of the next generation of LangeTwins to come back and work in the business, the family's best opportunity was to vertically integrate to effectively control the product from the vine to the wine.”

 

Investing wisely

When LangeTwins decided to venture into the winemaking business, it had to make several large equipment and resource investment decisions. Considering winemaking a natural extension of its agricultural talents, the family decided its investment dollars were best spent on winemaking equipment.

In September 2005, the family built a state-of-the art winery that would allow the company not only to make its own estate wines but also would allow LangeTwins to offer bulk wine sales, custom crush-and-juicing services, whole grape sales, and private-label wine brands.

 

Trucking services in

A–T Mobile Bottling Line's (www.ATMBL.net) 48-ft bright yellow semi-tractor-trailer houses equipment from Italy, Australia and the U.S. The new mobile bottling line launched in March 2008 and serves large and small wineries in Northern CA. The A–T Mobile team believes they've not only created a line that bottles wine at speeds up to 100 bottles/min, they've also created a full-service business that allows wineries to concentrate on what they do best—make wine.

LangeTwins has found that mobile bottlers, such as A–T Mobile, allow the family to do exactly that. “We dominantly use mobile bottling,” says Lange. “We have taken our wines to a facility for bottling only once.”

 

Pumping it up

The winery's dock is optimized for use with mobile bottling lines. “Mobile bottlers can hook up their hoses in between our tank and their mobile bottling trucks, and literally just pump wine out of our tank and into their filling tanks,”says Marissa Lange. In addition to providing the bottles, labels and corks, LangeTwins also provides additional manpower to help put the glass bottles onto a dump table.

“After the empty bottles are manually placed onto the dump table, they are pushed onto the electric uni-chains (www.unichains.com) plastic conveyor,” Davis states. “The conveyor moves the bottles to the U.S. Bottlers (www.usbottlers.com) sparger, where each piece of glass is turned upside-down to sparge the bottle with 99.9-percent nitrogen (N) gas, which is made from our Parker Hannifin (www.parker.com/balston) N generator [DB-5 series ].”

“Typically, wineries have dewars [filled with nitrogen] delivered to them every few days for bottling,” says Davis. “With more than 900 wineries in Northern California, the ability to generate your own nitrogen can result in savings to the wineries financially and environmentally.”

Another way A–T Mobile helps its customer wineries reduce their carbon footprints is through steam sterilization, which Davis claims uses 6 gal of water per hour versus hot water sterilization that uses 3 to 7 gal/min. The bottler's Electro-Steam (www.electrosteam.com) LB-30 steamer sterilizer has a steam output rating of 103 lb/hour.

After the bottles are sterilized and sparged, they are fed into a 24-valve, model VG 2400-36 from 4D Machine Co., (www.4dmachine.com) that lifts the bottle to start the filling process in a vacuum-like environment.

The conveyor moves the bottles from the filler to a Bertolaso (www.bertolaso.com) Delta 804 R corker, where sterilized corks are inserted into the bottle under a slight vacuum pressure. Alternately, the bottles can be capped using a Fowler/Zalkin (www.fowlerproducts.com) CAE series 3-head capper, which can apply screw caps at speeds of up to 100 caps/min.

After the bottles are corked or capped, they are moved to a Robino & Galandrino (www.robinoegalandrino.it) Superbloc F8 foil applicator/spinner. Sticks of foils are loaded manually onto the foil applicator's staging tray, where they are separated automatically, blown on top of each bottle and pressed down to the correct height. The bottles then move to the applicator's 8-head spinner, which smooths the foil down. A conveyor then moves the bottles to an Impresstik (www.impresstik.com) 3000 VAC labeler, which applies both front and back labels.

After the bottles are labeled, they are marked at speeds up to 300 feet/min by a Markem (www.markem-imaje.com) SmartLase 130i laser coder. “Because of the bioterrorism act, we laser code every bottle that comes off our line with a Julian [bottling] date and time,” says Davis.

After the bottles are marked, they are moved to a packoff table, where they are inspected again for quality and placed back into the case. The packed cases slide down rollers to a Bell 270 hot gluer, from Wexxar Packaging Inc. (www.wexxar.com).

Squid Inc.'s (www.squidink.com) PZ Pilot Plus case printer images the side or end of the case with information such as the variety, appellation, alcohol content, and bottle date and bar-code. “We are the only mobile wine bottler to offer this service,” says Davis. “Customers said they wanted up to 3-in. of data printed on either the short-end or the long-side of the case, and we knew we had to do up to nine cases/min. Squid Ink was the only manufacturer that could help us accomplish this goal economically.”

Cases are manually palletized then robotically stretch-wrapped. “While John Forney, my bottling line manager, and I were attending Pack Expo West in Las Vegas, we came upon a robot named Leonardo, made by Italdibipack (italdibipack.sitespro.com) in Italy,” says Davis. “Leonardo is a pallet/case stretch wrapper that takes a minimum amount of space to operate and does a great job. I figure our labor savings are between a quarter to half person per day. It's even more economical, because Leonardo does a better job in less time and uses about 5 percent to10 percent less stretch-wrap material consistently.”

Overall, the Lange family is very happy with its first filing run with A–T Mobile. Marissa Lange states: “We worked with John and A–T Mobile Bottling Line for one bottling run, which went very well. Certainly, we look forward to working with them more in the future. Bottling lines for wine are very sophisticated pieces of equipment, of which John can tell you much better than I, and for the foreseeable future, LangeTwins will continue to build relationships with copackers, because it's in the best interests of both my business as well as theirs.”





More information is available:
Squid Ink Mfg., Inc., 800/877-5658. www.squidink.com.
A–T Mobile Bottling Line, 707/257-3757. www.ATMBL.net.
WS Packaging Group, Inc., 800/236-3424. www.wspackaging.com.
4D Machine Co., Inc., 707/568-4010. www.4dmachine.com.
Electro-Steam Generator Corp., 609/288-9071. www.electrosteam.com.
Entwine Design, 510/978-4459. www.entwinedesign.com.
Fowler Products Co., a division of Pro Mach, 706/549-3300. www.fowlerproducts.com.
Gallus, Inc., 215/677-9600. www.gallus.org.
Gruppo Bertolaso S.p.A., 39-04-4245-0111. www.bertolaso.com
Impresstik Pty Ltd., 61-2-9736-8400. www.impresstik.com.
Italdibipack Group, 39-0-2939-6461. italdibipack.sitespro.com.
Markem-Imaje Business Group, 866/263-4644. www.markem-imaje.com.
Nagy Design, 925/275-8189. www.nagy-design.com.
Parker Hannifin Corp., 800-343-4048. www.parker.com/balston.
Robino & Galandrino S.p.A, 01-4182-1411. www.robinoegalandrino.it.
uni-chains Mfg., Inc., 800/937-2864. www.unichains.com.
U.S. Bottlers Machinery Co., 704/588-4750. www.usbottlers.com.
Wexxar Packaging, Inc., 604/930-9300. www.wexxar.com.



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