Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Bottling wine used to be one of the more time-consuming processes for Glenn Foster and the folks at Meadery of the Rockies in Palisade, Colorado. But that was before Foster -- whose Talon Wine Brands includes the meadery, Talon Winery, Confre Cellars, and St. Kathryn Cellars -- installed a "Rube Goldberg"- style bottling machine, a contraption of moving parts and pieces seemingly invented by a Mad Scientist -- that has made the bottling process amazingly fast and efficient.
The machine was built by Gai, an Italian manufacturer that specializes in bottling systems, and it lets Foster bottle his wines and meads at a rate of three cases, or 36 bottles, per minute.
“It goes three times faster than the line we were using,” Foster says. “It’s really a top-quality machine.”
Under the previous system, Foster and his workers moved bottles by hand through various stations where the bottles were filled, corks were placed in them, metal or plastic capsules were secured over the bottle tops, and labels were placed.
Filled bottles then are sealed with either a cork or a screw-cap. The Gai machine can be set up to use either method. From there, bottles move to a station that puts capsules over the bottle top. Foster said the machine can place all types of capsules on bottles, including heat-shrunk PVC caps and metal caps that require a twist to tighten them down. Finally, the machine places labels on each bottle and can be set up to apply either one or two labels per bottle.
Foster has been using the machine since last July and says it significantly improved the efficiency of bottling 12,000 cases of wine and mead that his facilities produce in a year.
The equipment cost about $200,000 and has reduced the number of workers required for bottling operations from 10 to seven.
“As we expand our marketing efforts, there will be plenty of room for growth (in bottling capacity),” Foster says.
The bottling machine operates at the Meadery of the Rockies, 3701 G Road in Palisade. It is installed in plain view of the tasting room so visitors can watch it run.
Above Right: Glenn Foster poses with his bottling assembly line.
About the Author: Bob Kretschman is a freelance journalist in Grand Junction and is owner of Kretschman Communications, a custom writing and editing service. He is being remunerated by the Wine Country Inn for his contributions to this blog.