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Mobile bottling unit will get $250K upgrade

DUNDEE—Many wineries in the Finger Lakes are small, so may not buy their own bottling equipment.
That is what Highland Cellars Winery owner Peter Oughterson initially decided when he started in 2001. However, wineries still need to bottle wine. He explained other winery owners in the area said they would pay to use the bottling equipment if he bought it. So in 2002 Oughterson started a mobile bottling unit out of a semi-truck with five other wineries as customers.
He explained 36 wineries from all over the Finger Lakes now use his mobile unit. Oughterson is making a $250,000 upgrade this year by buying new equipment and a new truck trailer. He said the new unit should be ready for use in July. In the meantime, Oughterson has already started bottling wines this week with the old equipment.
The new equipment, like the original unit, is being made to his specifications in Italy. He explained the company has a satellite office here in the Finger Lakes. Oughterson said the truck trailer is being built in Kentucky by a company that designs trailers for NASCAR and NASA.
Oughterson said the equipment will mostly be the same. The unit is set up in the truck trailer to run bottles down a conveyor belt to be filled, corked and labeled. The conveyor belt loops around the inside of the trailer, starting and ending at the back door. The bottles are then packaged up by the winery owner. Oughterson said the new equipment will be able to attach screw tops onto bottles and operate 25 percent faster. He explained the old equipment could do about 1,000 cases of wine in one day, while the new equipment will be able to do 1,600 cases a day. The increase in wineries using screw tops led to Oughterson adding that equipment to the upgrade.
“It started out being a fad, but now it’s more of a trend,” he said.
The new trailer will also feature hydraulic lifts. Oughterson said a lot of wineries he goes to for bottling have uneven ground. He explained many times when he’d stop the truck the trailer would not be level. The hydraulic lifts will allow him to more easily level out the trailer.
While Oughterson only bottles wines for area wineries, he said he has gotten offers from outside the state, including Virginia, Michigan and Ohio. However, he said he will only bottle locally; the farthest he has gone is Buffalo or Skaneateles. Oughterson added he is the only mobile unit in New York and knows of few others throughout the country.



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