On the Wine Road

California's wine country is full of family-run businesses with the kind of commitment to place that ripens over decades. Two such businesses are Biagi Bros. Warehousing & Transportation (www.biagibros.com) and Jackson Family Estates, makers of Kendall-Jackson wine and many others in the U.S. and abroad (www.kj.com). When the two family-owned organizations recently teamed up to create a new enterprise,

California's wine country is full of family-run businesses with the kind of commitment to place that ripens over decades. Two such businesses are Biagi Bros. Warehousing & Transportation (www.biagibros.com) and Jackson Family Estates, makers of Kendall-Jackson wine and many others in the U.S. and abroad (www.kj.com). When the two family-owned organizations recently teamed up to create a new enterprise, VinLux Fine Wine Transport (www.vinluxtransport.com), making it a green company was just naturally part of the plan.

The VinLux partnership leverages Biagi Bros. experience and expertise, according to Tom Tunt, president of the joint venture. “VinLux really came about because nobody was offering a high-end service,” he says. “We provide short-term storage and direct delivery of premium and luxury wines by the case or even by the bottle to retail stores, hotels, restaurants and so on. We offer what we call a ‘concierge level’ of handling and service. Every load is tracked from the minute it is pulled from the warehouse and hand-stacked in the truck.”

Started in February, VinLux is already making about 700 deliveries per day out of two warehouses with its fleet of 37 temperature-controlled, medium-duty trucks.

The two newest vehicles in the fleet are diesel-electric Model 335 hybrids from Peterbilt Motors. The trucks, which use a parallel hybrid system with a Paccar PX-6 diesel engine, an Eaton hybrid drive system with a 340V motor/generator, an Eaton 6-spd. UltraShift transmission and two lithium-ion batteries, are expected to dramatically reduce emissions and deliver 30 to 40% fuel savings as they go about their rounds.

“The hybrids are just perfect complements to the other initiatives already in place to make our company greener, to be a good member of the community,” says Tunt. “Besides the hybrids, for instance, we have all low-voltage lights in our warehouses that are motion-activated. If there is nobody in the area, the lights are off. We also recycle all our cardboard, and we have a program in place with PG&E [Pacific Gas & Electric] to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

From their first days on the road, the hybrids were attracting positive attention, according to Tunt. “Our drivers say they get all kinds of positive recognition out on deliveries,” he notes. “People honk and wave and give them a thumbs-up. It is still early on, of course, but if the trucks perform as expected, our intention is to buy more hybrids.”

VinLux partner Jackson Family Estates also has numerous environmentally friendly initiatives in place, including a commitment to sustainable agriculture that incorporates practices such as recycling of water, reforestation, development of open spaces, the use of cover crops and integrated pest management.

In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency named Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates winner of the 2002 Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award to honor the company for its leadership in banning methyl bromide (a key ozone-depleting component) and several other chemicals from its worldwide vineyards beginning in 2000. Several of the company's wineries are certified as eco-friendly by the Sonoma County and Bay Area Green Business Program. The company's Skylane Cellars was also named a “Facility of the Year” in 2002 by the California Water Environment Assn.

Partner Biagi Bros is likewise continuing its commitment to environmental stewardship and optimizing productivity by evaluating the best power options for each of its various fleet applications, according to Stacey Biagi, corporate equipment manager.

“We have the hybrids at VinLux. Now we are taking a look at the best power choices for all our vehicles,” she says.

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