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Brad Lange, left, and Aaron Lange stand at the crushing station of LangeTwins Winery.

Brad Lange, left, and Aaron Lange stand at the crushing station of LangeTwins Winery.

The new LangeTwins Winery, which opened for custom crush and winemaking last year, is an example of the sustainable philosophy that guides the viticultural practices of the Langes.

The estate winery was designed to show the dedication to wine quality and the environment held by Brad and Randy Lange, identical twins who cofounded the LangeTwins vineyard management company, and, more recently, the winery, headquartered in Acampo, –California, north of Lodi.

When driving by the winery, you can’t miss the up-front, elevated crush station. Looking more like a four-lane highway overpass than a grape receiving station, the ramp towers above three dump stations, four bladder presses, and numerous tanks. "The ramp in front of the winery is the most visible quality statement we can make to winemakers," said Brad.

Gentle, gravity-flow transportation and wide conveyor belts deliver grapes to the presses from the elevated crush station. The gravity-flow transport reduces pressure on the fruit during movement and delivers them in better quality to the presses, he explained. The last screw (or auger) that touches the grapes is the at the crush pad.

The winery footprint is designed to eventually handle 40,000 tons of grapes. Everything, from transfer pipes and plumbing to electrical power and wiring, is designed for 40,000 tons, Brad said.

"We planned to crush 12,000 tons in 2009, but we did that much business (13,000 tons) the first year," he noted. "I don’t know how quickly we’ll hit 40,000."

Environmental attributes

Though the winery is surrounded mainly by Lange vineyards, the family’s concern for the environment and desire to be a good neighbor are reflected in many aspects of its design.

Outdoor lights point downward, with most turned off when the plant is not operating. Compressors and truck noise are purposely contained to the side farthest from their lone neighbor. Glycol is used to cool the stainless steel tanks. Though more expensive than ammonia, it allows the tanks to radiantly cool the building. Ozone is used in the sanitation process instead of chlorine.

Hot water at the winery’s workstations, heated by natural gas, is available on demand. On-demand hot water is more expensive to produce, but helps reduce the amount of water used at the winery. Brad noted that the average water usage at a winery is six gallons of water to every gallon of wine produced. In their first year of operation, they used less than three gallons of water for each gallon of wine.

Additionally, the winery was designed to support superior workmanship by building extra-wide workstations to give winery workers more room to maneuver hoses and equipment. Even the locations of the tank intakes were carefully thought out during the design process to encourage a smooth work flow.

Space under the crush station ramp—some 12,000 square feet—will be used as the barrel storage warehouse.

"Being creative in one area—like squeezing the barrel storage under the ramp—allows us to put other money where it’s really needed," said Aaron Lange, viticulturist and operations manager. Aaron is Randy’s son.

To comply with regional water quality laws, the Langes had to install a water treatment method that would purge salts and other byproducts from the winery wastewater before it could be reused on a nearby pasture. Two double-lined ponds were built to recycle the wastewater with the Swanson Advanced Integrated Pond System that uses anaerobic and aerobic processes for energy-efficient and odor-free treatment. The ponds are monitored by the regional water quality district to ensure that contaminants do not reach nearby Mokelumne River. A separate pond, which has a grassy island in the middle for fowl and wildlife, provides water for fire prevention.

The Lange family is big on solar energy. They installed a 250-kilowatt solar panel system on the winery’s roof and plan to install solar, photovoltaic panels to provide shade above the crush station and generate power at the same time—another example of innovative thinking. Three solar panel systems are already at work in the vineyards, capturing the sun to generate nearly all of the power needed for pumps and headquarters.

Brad admitted that the solar panels would not be cost-effective without tax credits, rebates, and financial incentives offered by the state and Pacific Gas and Electric, the power company. "But I hope that in time, the panels will produce more energy and play a bigger role. I’m convinced that producing your own power is the way to go."

Placement and size of the winery’s laboratory also shows the twins’ attention to detail. In many wineries, the lab is an afterthought, but at LangeTwins, the roomy, fully equipped lab is located upstairs to allow easy access to the tanks. Winemaking materials are also stored on the second level, hoisted into place by forklifts, to minimize manual lifting up to the top of the tanks.

Winemaker David Akiyoshi does all of the winery’s juice and wine analyses in the lab. "When you do better analyses, you get a better idea of how to approach the wine. A good analysis gives you more keys to the season and greater confidence in winemaking," he said. Akiyoshi was a 25-year veteran winemaker at Robert Mondavi in the Woodbridge winery before joining LangeTwins.