Jackson Family Wines, the largest wine company in Sonoma County, is moving ahead with an innovative $1 million pilot project to significantly cut down the water it uses at its Kendall-Jackson production facility north of Santa Rosa.
The technology, which holds the promise of being employed widely in the wine industry, would enable the company to reuse its rinse water up to 10 times, thereby reducing the potable water used when barrels, tanks and bottling lines are washed.
Academics who have been monitoring early versions of the filtration system say it could be applied not only in the wine industry, but for dairies and olive producers, among others.
"Yes it's in the forefront, cutting-edge," said Roger Boulton, chairman of the viticulture and enology department at UC Davis.
"If it shows to be promising, you will find people adopting it," he said.
The recycling process uses vibrating membranes to separate wine material and other particles from the water, removing 99 percent of impurities, said Katie Jackson, a family representative who leads the company's sustainability programs.
"It's very revolutionary for the wine industry," she said. "It has a lot of potential to change the way we use water in winemaking facilities."
It also can reduce energy use and cost because the recycled water retains much of its heat.
Healdsburg officials were enthusiastic enough about the new system that they agreed last week to partner with Jackson Family Wines in applying for a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Reclamation to help fund the pilot project.
It would be located at the main Kendall-Jackson production facility on Kittyhawk Boulevard, near the Sonoma County airport.
The wine company needed the backing of a utility to apply for the money and approached Healdsburg, which runs the only municipal-owned electric department in the county.
Carolyn Wasem, Jackson Family's lobbyist, contacted Councilman Gary Plass who brought the proposal to his fellow council members.