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Rombauer Vineyards to Boost Production

by Kerana Todorov
October 04, 2019

Rombauer Vineyards easily won the greenlight this week from the Napa County Planning Commission to boost production at its south Napa County facility by more than 36 percent, earning praise from commissioners for its water-saving measures implemented at the plant.

The Napa County Planning Commission on Wednesday approved Rombauer’s plan to increase its wine production from 880,000 gallons to up to 1.2 million gallons a year, a step the St. Helena-based company is necessary to meet demand for its Chardonnay program. The size of the building near Napa County Airport remains the same – about 108,000 square feet.

The St. Helena-based company earned praise from commissioners for its water-saving measures at the facility. It used about 1.7 gallons of domestic water to produce 1 gallon of wine in 2018 – or about 28 percent less than in 2016. The city of American Canyon supplies water to the winery and other facilities in the airport area.

Rombauer installed in July 2018 a new wastewater treatment system from Cambrian Innovation. The system uses an aerobic and anaerobic systems to process more waste water and reduces the need to haul wine waste off site to East Bay Municipality District for disposal. The Cambrian system was first used in the beer industry, said Lynn Sletto, corporate counsel and director of human resources at Rombauer.

Commissioner Anne Cottrell was among the commissioners who praised the winery for its water-saving measures. She also noted the location near the airport, which she said, makes a “ton of sense.”

Another commissioner, Jeri Hansen, echoed her colleague’s comments. “It is precisely where it needs to be,” she said, referring to the plant location. “Efficiency and sustainability can mean better wine quality,” she added.

Richie Allen, director of viticulture and winemaking at Rombauer, spearheaded efforts to reduce water usage at the facility, saving thousands of gallons of water every day. Cellar workers use spray nozzles. The winery uses the “PIGs” system – or pipeline inspection gauges – to move wine from one tank to another with less water. A sponge ball tucked inside a 2-inch line is propelled with Nitrogen. Wine is then pushed along hundreds of feet of lines at the facility. The PIGs-equipped lines are then cleaned with 20 gallons of water and sterilized with steam.

Steam is much more effective, Allen told the commission. “And it’s absolute.”

Rombauer also saves water by using steam to sanitize its bottling time, according to the company.
Traditionally, cellar workers use 5 to 6 gallons of water to wash a barrel, getting rid of the tartrates and lees, Allen said. Workers now use about 2 gallons of 190-degree Fahrenheit water – the hottest water available – under pressure to wash the facility’s 140,000 barrels.

Rombauer produces about 300,000 cases of wine a year, according to the company. The company owns a winery in Plymouth in addition to its home winery on the Silverado Trail near St. Helena and its south Napa County production facility.

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