Sonoma Firm Bottles Wine in Texas

Mobile unit drives to Lone Star State yearly to help far-flung Texas wineries

by Paul Franson
Bravo Bottling
The Bravo Bottling operation can handle various sizes of bottles, as well as cork/capsule or screwcap closures.
Sonoma, Calif. -- Texas has 172 wineries strewn over a wide area according to Wines & Vines’ IndustryBase, but it still lacks some of the services taken for granted in winery-dense areas like Northern California.

In particular, Texas hasn’t had the convenient mobile bottling lines that travel from winery to winery, eliminating the need for expensive specialized equipment and talent that is only used a few days of the year.

Now, however, at least two companies offer that service in Texas. One is owned by Texas Hills Vineyard in Johnson City, Texas, and operated by Dale Rassett.

Another, Bravo Bottling, owned by Meeker Vineyard in Sonoma County, Calif., has started taking its operations regularly to Texas. Manager Eric Harnett, son-in-law of the Healdsburg winery’s owner Charlie Meeker, says he learned that most Texas wineries either had to buy their own lines or truck their wine to other sites for bottling, and he decided he could help fill the need for mobile services.
Bravo Bottling
Sonoma County's Bravo Bottling takes its 42-foot mobile bottling line on the road to wineries in Texas as well as Oregon and Idaho.

He’s made three trips so far with his 48-ft. trailer, starting in March 2008. He visits multiple wineries while there, of course. “I won’t go for less than 10 weeks,” he says.

It takes him an hour or so to set up at each winery. He charges $2 per case for rinsing, sparging, filling, closing and labeling, and can use either cork and capsule or screwcap closures. The set-up fee is $350, and line changes cost $225 after the first change. He can also fill magnums and 375ml bottles.

In addition, Bravo offers the capability to etch bottles with serial numbers and codes, which is sometimes required for antiterrorism traceability.

On his most recent trip in January, he started south of Dallas at Comanche, then traveled to the hill country near Fredericksburg before heading for the high country around Lubbock, where some of the state’s best grapes grow at 3,500 feet.

He doesn’t charge for travel time or lodging, but is often invited to stay in winery guesthouses. Harnett also travels to Oregon and Idaho.

That’s a lot of traveling, but he admits, “It’s fun to see other areas.” He also avoids the competition of the well saturated Napa and Sonoma mobile bottling markets.

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