A balance of high-tech and high-touch

October 30, 2010

A spot on Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) focused on the efforts of one woman, Barbara Steele, co-owner of Cowhorn Wines in Oregon’s Applegate Valley, and self-proclaimed organizer of The Rinse Project.

In the United States, 300 million cases of wine are sold each year, and 70 percent of the bottles end up in landfills — not recycling centers, according to another published story about Cowhorn’s efforts, this one on Naturalproductsmarketplace.com.

“Winemaking at Cowhorn is a balance of high-tech and high-touch,” Steele told Naturalproductsmarket.com.

“Getting (rinsed) bottles back that are cleaner and greener than new glass is an added value for Cowhorn customers who support sustainable business in spades and increasingly won’t settle for less,” she said.

It’s a great idea, and since Californians tend to be trendsetters, I hope a Santa Barbara County winemaker or winery can take a cue from Oregon’s Cowhorn Wines.

“Rinse and Recycle” could be a great step to staying green, reducing and reusing.

Sure, there’s sterilization of the glass to consider, but I assume Steel’s got that angle covered as part of her Rinse Project.

– Laurie Jervis

The grapes are in!

October 29, 2010

There are some great days on the winemaking calendar. Definitely one of the top best days is when all the grapes are safely in the winery – sleep comes easier that night! Cowhorn’s 2010 season was a nice surprise.

Regarding ripeness, the Marsanne and Grenache came in better than ever! Both are exhibiting a plushness that is intriguing and opening up options for blending. Our Viognier and Roussanne are exhibiting characteristics very similar to last year so Spiral fans can rest assured the 2010 will not disappoint. As for the Syrah clones, all came in the same or better than last year in terms of the ripeness as analyzed in the lab and in terms of how they taste in your mouth.

I am expecting our most complex wine yet once this one is ready to drink. As for yields, our whites will be about the same as last year – again Spiral fans can breathe easy! Perhaps the best news is that the Grenache yields were above plan. Since the 2008 sold out in a matter of months, this is great news!

If there is a downside to this year’s harvest, it would be the yields on the Syrah which came in below plan, principally due to smaller cluster size. Happily, smaller clusters are usually a good thing so I am thrilled with its quality and not so focused on its quantity.

– Barbara Steele

Wine bottles might have a new shelf life

October 27, 2010

Used wine bottles could find themselves back on the shelves
When you set your used wine bottles at the curb, you may be under the impression they’ll be reused or recycled into new bottles.

That would be wrong.

No glass picked up in the Rogue Valley lives again as a wine bottle — or any other kind of bottle. That doesn’t mean it’s not recycled, because much of it is crushed and reused.

That’s better than nationally, where, of the 300 million cases of wine sold each year in the United States, 70 percent of the bottles end up thrown into landfills.

But neither locally or nationally are wine bottles being reused or recycled to hold wine again — something a local winery is hoping to change.

The Applegate’s Cowhorn Winery is sending wine bottles this month to a new company in Sonoma, Calif., called Wine Bottle Renew, where they can be de-labeled, sterilized and sold back to wineries.

“This is revolutionary for the wine industry,” says Barbara Steele, co-owner of Cowhorn. “People think they’re recycling wine bottles at the curb,” says Steele, “but there are over 600 different types of wine bottles” and no machine has been able to sort them.

Local wine bottles typically aren’t reused because “it’s a great distance to recyclers (in the Willamette Valley) and it’s cost prohibitive to transport,” says Steve DiFabion, general manager of Recology Ashland Sanitary Service, “and the cost would get passed on to consumers.”

So, what happens to all the glass collected here?

All of it — 744 tons last year, with about 60 percent coming from wine bottles — gets crushed by bulldozers at Dry Creek Landfill, then used as aggregate for roads, parking lots and culverts at the landfill, and to encase perforated pipes that draw energy-generating gases from the landfill, says Lee Fortier, landfill general manager.

So the glass is actually being recycled, just not as glass containers — which the state Department of Environmental Quality considers a “beneficial use,” says DiFabion.

Wendell Smith, manager of Rogue Disposal and Recycling, welcomes the news of wine-bottle reuse. “It’s got to be a good thing … it’s not going to hurt us at all.”

DiFabion agrees. “That would be phenomenal. It’s exactly what the valley needs, being so far from good recycling markets. It will have a huge local impact.”

Bruce Stephens, CEO of Wine Bottle Renew, thinks his operation will be successful because recycled bottles will cost less than new bottles and reuse will reduce the carbon footprint of wineries, where 60 percent of the carbon output comes from making and disposing of bottles. Plus, he says, he’ll always have the right bottles in stock. More than 300,000 cases of 150 bottle styles are already in stock, he adds.

Less-popular bottle styles will be sold to glass manufacturers, he says. To be reused for wine, the bottles must be unchipped. Those not able to be reused will be sent to the Green Glass Co. in Wisconsin for use in custom glassware, he says.

“Wineries overwhelmingly want to buy our bottles,” says Stephens, “and most of our buyers are in California now. We start washing bottles in November, and they’ll be available for buy-back then.”

– John Darling

Winery promotes reusing over recycling

October 26, 2010

The “Rinse Project”–an effort to encourage winemakers to actually reuse old wine bottles, rather than simply recycling them–is being pioneered by Cowhorn Winery of southern Oregon.

According to Barbara Steele, co-owner of Cowhorn Winery, as much as 90 percent of wine bottles end up in landfills… and, surprisingly, on roadways. That’s why Cowhorn is starting to send her winery’s used bottles to Wine Bottle Renew, a company that uses a high-tech method of cleaning glassware and providing the newly cleaned bottles for wineries to reuse. According to the Wine Bottle Renew website, “Every case of Renew wine bottles will offset the equivalent C02 emissions of 138 gallons of gasoline.”

Steele’s behind the environmental mission of Wine Bottle Renew and as such, is not just making efforts for Cowhorn–she’s also encouraging other wineries to start considering quitting the curbside recycle habit in favor of reusing their bottles. For her–the logic is simple: “We’re going to be able to lessen our energy footprint and at the same time spend less time worrying about glassware so we can spend more time making fine wine.”

– Sam Ewers

Oregon winery leads effort to re-use bottles

October 22, 2010

A southern Oregon winery is trying to reduce waste by spearheading “The Rinse Project”. The idea is for winemakers to re-use bottles instead of recycling them curbside.

Much of the carbon footprint of the wine industry comes from its bottles.

Cowhorn Winery in Applegate Valley plans to send bottles to a new California company called Wine Bottle Renew. The company uses a high-tech method to sort and clean glassware.

Barbara Steele: “To a standard most likely cleaner than I get new glassware now.”

Barbara Steele is co-owner of Cowhorn wines and organizer of The Rinse Project. She says as many as 90 percent of wine bottles end up in landfills or on roadways.

Barbara Steele: “We’re going to be able to lessen our energy footprint and at the same time spend less time worrying about glassware so we can spend more time making fine wine.”

Steele says the project is just in the beginning stages. She’s trying to convince other southern Oregon wineries to participate.

» Listen to radio interview

– Rachel McDonald

Oregon winery joins bottle reuse program

October 21, 2010

An Applegate Valley winery announced Thursday that it will work with a wine bottle recycling company to set up a regional program to rinse and reuse wine bottles.

The Rinse Project will join forces with Brooks-based Agri-Plas and Stockton, Calif.-based Wine Bottle Renew to ship bottles between the Cowhorn winery’s estate to a bottle-washing station in California. The hope is that other wineries in Oregon will sign on to the program.

Barbara Steele, co-owner of Cowhorn and organizer of the project said that the washed bottles are both “cleaner and greener” than new glass and can actually result in better wine.

The winery reports that of the 300 million cases of wine sold each year in the United States, 70 percent of the bottles are still ending up in land fills — not recycling centers.

– Christina Williams

Applegate Ascending

October 1, 2010

By Courtney Cochran

Applegate Valley’s “Eye Openingly Good” Wines

I was utterly charmed by Rhône-inspired pours from southern Oregon’s new Cowhorn Wine at a Biodynamic® tasting in San Francisco earlier this year. I reviewed all of my favs from the event herefor Wine Country, though I must say that Cowhorn stuck out for its gorgeous packaging and branding (checking out the website is a must!) that – along with the winery’s excellent pours – set the spot apart as one positioned to put not only über green wines but also the Applegate region itself on the vinous map.

Stretching 50 miles north from the California border to the Rogue River, Applegate Valley is a warmer area than much of Oregon’s wine producing regions, which means Rhône-style wines such as Syrah and Viognier are at home there. One of just about 10 wineries that currently call the region home, Cowhorn is part of the Applegate Valley Wine Trail, an affiliation of the area’s vintners that open their doors to visitors and host events throughout the year. Visitors can expect warm, unaffected Oregon hospitality alongside spectacular sightings of the Applegate and Rogue rivers, the great western wilderness and wildlife such as raptors – which are known to perch protectively over vineyards.

With its flair for things good and green, Applegate looks to be a region on the rise.

– Courtney Cochran