July 17, 2024

VA Filtration USA, which specializes in helping California premium winemakers solve chemistry problems before the pricey wine makes it to consumers, has expanded .
For two decades, the Napa-based business has been sending its mobile rigs or selling systems to deal with removal of smoke-related compounds, filtration before bottling, reduction of alcohol or, especially with this drought-hit season, adjusting for the impact on parched grapes.
“As the consumer has demanded better and better quality wine, the wine industry has been able to do that, using some techniques that allow them to … smooth out the year-to-year variances,” said Bryan Tudhope, owner of VA Filtration USA LLC.
Several 100-degree-plus days in the North Coast early this month resulted in some inquiries from vintners about grapes coming off the vines with more dehydration than is normally desired to result in the intense concentration of flavors desired for wines that retail for dozens to hundreds of dollars a bottle, according to Tudhope.
“The heat wave caused a lot of problems in the vineyards,” he wrote on the company website on Wednesday.
Tudhope heard accounts of dehydrated grapes harvested at very high sugar levels — 40 degrees brix, compared with measurements topping out in the mid-20s typically in grapes bound for the boldest cabernet sauvignon wines.
And some of those high-sugar grapes have high volatile acidity levels (over 1 gram per liter, compared with desired limits below 0.7), which can result in vinegar-like odor and flavor. And acidity that high can frustrate wine production, resulting in a “stuck” fermentation.
Tudhope has learned from experience that dealing with this situation involves getting the sugar and acidity down before the wine can be adjusted further. A chemical engineer by training, Tudhope adapted reverse-osmosis filtration used for sterilizing drinking water in South Africa to help a winemaker there deal with high volatile acidity. That’s how VA Filtration was born in 1998.
One method lowering sugar and acidity is could be adding water, then using a regulator-approved process for removing added water to get the concentration of the wine to the desired level to continue the winemaking process.
The company expanded to the U.S. in 2001, settling in Napa Valley two years after that. Services and the line of equipment expanded over the years to a staff of about 20, particularly after harvest, and a fleet of roughly 30 equipment rigs that visit wineries or are placed at facilities under long-term rental agreements.
So the company was looking to expand from its rented facilities in American Canyon just before the pandemic. To qualify for Small Business Administration financing to purchase a facility, the ownership had to be all American, so Tudhope bought out the other two partners in 2020.
Tudhope’s D’Vine Investments LLC purchased a 32,500-square-foot industrial building at 125 Gateway Road E. in April from builder Innova for $6.57 million, according to public records. SBA financing was secured through First Republic Bank and Bay Area Development Company.
Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction and real estate. Before coming to the Business Journal in 1999, he wrote for Bay City News Service in San Francisco. Reach him at jq**********@bu*****.com or 707-521-4256.


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