During the wine-bottling process (top photo) Jason Stacy washes bottles, vintner Katie Gill puts the bottles on the conveyor and Crystal Earhart packs the bottled wine into cases. Stacy and Earhart both volunteered their time to help Peacebul Bend in the bottling process. Stacy is the brewer at the Public House in Rolla and Earhart operates Murphy’s Place rental cabins, which is located near Peaceful Bend.
Just about any kind of business can be found on wheels these days, but a bottling company on wheels is a new trend in the wine business. Old Woolam Custom Bottling Company is just that—a wine bottling company on wheels that travels the country from vineyard to vineyard providing bottling services to small wineries. The company visited Peaceful Bend Winery in Steelville in late May and performed approximately three months of work in just four days.
Brent Baker, owner of Old Woolam Custom Bottling Company, had a custom trailer built to withstand the weight of the contraption, which is full of refurbished parts as well as new parts from Canada. The trailer is fully equipped with a loading area, conveyor belt, labeling and corking mechanisms, all with room to walk around freely. According to Baker, this machine provides the same professional service that large wineries get indoors, and he can provide the service anywhere in any kind of weather.
The process is really quite remarkable. It takes at least four people and the winemaker to run the operation. One person removes the empty wine bottles from their cases and rinses them with fresh water before placing the bottles on the conveyor belt. Sterilization is not necessary due to the nature of both newly made bottles and the relatively low pH of wine. The machine then leads the bottles through an area that places them in position to be filled.
Large hoses are connected to the winery’s holding tanks, and a gravity system fills each bottle to the exact amount before coming around to be corked. Corks are fed into the dispenser, and a foil, tamper-evident capsule is manually placed on each corked bottle. The machine secures the capsules on with a heat or pressure-roller device, depending on the style of capsule used. The bottles are then moved along to be labeled and continue on the conveyor belt back to the opening in the trailer where they are inspected and placed into the boxes and sealed.
“There is just better time spent for wine makers,” said Clyde Gill, owner and winemaker at Peaceful Bend. “Before this, we did everything by hand, and it took us about three months to do it all. We would fill and cork one day, and cap and label another day.”
In four days at Peaceful Bend, Baker’s mobile bottling plant put 4,400 gallons of wine into 22,000 bottles. “We’ll do it again when we have a break in action,” Gill explained. “About half of our production is complete. It’s nice to get things done around the place that I needed to catch up on.” Gill explained that with the newly found time he and his wife, Katie, will have more time to spend marketing their new project, Grapes of Raft—a flexible pouch of wine that can be taken on the river, as well as take on other projects around the winery.