A long row of metal machines buzzes as the printing press churns to life, a roll of paper 5,000 feet long turning and gliding through the presses as it’s painted and embossed.
At the end of the 63-foot-long printing press, the finished product emerges: a series of carefully cut labels for a 2012 Napa Valley merlot from Martin Ray Vineyard.
Vintage 99, a wine label printing company, recently expanded its operations from Livermore to Santa Rosa, to better serve clients in the North Bay.
Its labels run the gamut from Martin Ray’s subtle, traditional embossed look to a blaring orange and purple sunset scene adorning the label for Agajanian Vineyards’ cabernet sauvignon.
“Every label is unique in itself,” said Mark Gonzales, owner of Vintage 99. “Some are easy, but then you have more difficult labels. By the time you get it up and running, you love the label.”
The Livermore-based company brought the skilled art of label printing and the tradition of family business when it expanded to Sonoma County in late 2013.
Gonzales joined a printing shop when he was 18, and learned the trade on the job.
“In the old days, they had apprenticeship programs, where you could start at the bottom and work your way up and learn the machines,” Gonzales said.
Gary Cane, who runs the Santa Rosa office as director of operations for Vintage 99, learned printing skills in a four-year apprenticeship in the United Kingdom, where printing is classified as a trade. While he was a pressman before, he no longer has the eyes to do it, he said.
“It takes skilled people to do it, craftsmen,” Cane said. “You’re creating something different every day ... Some days you don’t get that perfect label and it’s a struggle, but we overcome it.”
The company employs six people in Sonoma County and about two dozen total, including the Livermore facility.