Oregon Winemaker Joe Dobbes Starts Mobile Bottling Company With Winemakers in Mind
November 10, 2017
Veteran winemaker Joe Dobbes is branching out with the launch of his new company, Dundee Mobile Bottlers, with the promise of reduced bottle shock duration, quicker turnaround time, improved product ageability, reduced labor costs, and competitive pricing—available to any winery within an hour’s radius of Salem, Oregon.
Dobbes still makes wine for Dobbes Family Estate and Wine by Joe, but is transitioning to new opportunities after 32 years spent with the winery. He has now thrown himself headlong into mobile bottling and is using state-of-the-art equipment manufactured by GAI, the Italian winery equipment company.
“As a winemaker growing up in the industry working for others, I ran bottling lines,” said Dobbes. “I saw an opportunity to make money, I saw an opportunity to better serve my own interests as a winery, as a winemaker. I get first dibs on the line instead of scheduling when the line was available, as has been the case as more and more wineries want the service. The demand for mobile bottling has skyrocketed and I also knew the technology had changed a lot over the years. I took a look at what my company was spending on mobile bottling companies. I looked at the cutting-edge technology that was out there and I thought to myself, ‘Gosh, maybe my company, Wine by Joe/Dobbes Family Estate should invest in a mobile bottling line and share it with other wineries.’"
The Winemaker's Bottling Line
Up until recently, GAI only produced mobile bottling equipment with mechanically operated filling valves, which only worked when filling bottles with still wine. In the last year, however, GAI introduced electro-pneumatic filling valves engineered to decrease the dissolved oxygen (DO) accumulated during bottling.
“What’s separates electro-pneumatic filling valves from the mechanical filling valves is that DO measurements drop from parts per million to parts per billion,” said Dobbes. “As a winemaker, I know that wines with higher amounts of DO at bottling experience an increased risk of bottle shock, diminished freshness and a shorter shelf life.”
Dobbes said he started Dundee Mobile Bottling because he personally wanted a mobile bottler run from a winemaker’s perspective and there weren’t any. “In fact, when my bank asked me why other mobile bottlers did not offer electro-pneumatic bottling equipment, I replied ‘Because they are not winemakers—and the equipment is expensive.’”
Dundee Mobile Bottling’s counter-pressure, electro-pneumatic machine is capable of bottling everything from sparkling and still water, cambucha, cider and spirits, in addition to both still and sparkling wine.
All the equipment is housed on a 53-foot trailer which is followed by a 28-foot chase trailer. The system can run at a 4,200 bottle-per-hour maximum when corking; for screw caps it’s about 4,000 per hour. The trailer is manned by two people, though additional crew will need to be supplied by clients.
“The machine has crown caps, screw cap and cork applicators on it, with 20 spout fillers and a 16-spout pre-rinser. It's all built in. This machine was custom-built for our needs and purposes and because it's electro-pneumatic and not mechanical, it is putting wine in the bottle at the industry’s lowest dissolved oxygen content, bar none,” said Dobbes. “We do that with the 16 spout pre-rinser, air blower and sparger and we invert the bottle. Then we go to the filer and here's where the difference is: we have the option to pull one or two vacuums on a bottle that's already been sparged once with nitrogen,” Dobbes said. The line also has its own onboard nitrogren generator.
“What truly makes the electro-pneumatic bottling equipment we have different from other mobile bottlers serving the wine industry is that we can also handle sparkling wines,” said Dobbes. “This is the same type of machinery that breweries use, cider houses, etc. Obviously, if you're going to put bubbles in the bottle you have to have a counter-pressure machine—you can't do it with a mechanical machine that is not under pressure. We can adjust the amount of pressure in the head space, in the bowl of the bottle. We can carbonate in line. We can take Methode Champenoise, we don't disgorge and all that, but if somebody wants to disgorge then we can put the bottles on the line and fill it, top it off and put on a Champagne cork and a wire hood and a foil.”
Dobbes wants to be a resource for the Northwest wine industry. “I'm charging the same price that everybody else is, but I'm supplying my customers with generated nitrogen, which saves them all the BS. There are a lot of soft costs that are realized. With our 20 filler spouts versus 16 or 18, we're going 10 or 20 percent faster, so that's saved bottling days. Less set up, less clean up so that's less wear and tear on the staff and plugging up the cellar. On top of it we can apply a printed case label with a UPC code, numerically numbering the cases, with date and time stamps. The cost is about $2.20 a case,” said Dobbes.