Located in the hub of the Northern California wine country is a state of the art cooperage where artisan coopers, masters in the art of wooden staved vessel, cask, and barrel making, hand-craft, hand-toast, and hand-finish French and American oak barrels. The cooperage, Tonnellerie Ô, melds time honored practices of barrel making with a mélange of pioneering technology such as a R. Monnot, SA multi-stage jointer, one of a handful of its kind in the world, and an accurate and repeatable up cut saw fence.
“Tonnellerie Ô celebrates the integrity of traditional, artisan barrel making while taking advantage of the newest tools to optimize consistency, precision, workflow efficiency, waste reduction, cleanliness, and the assurance of product quality and worker safety,” explains Director of Operations, Matt Schwanebeck.
It comes to no surprise that collectively, Tonnellerie Ô’s Master Cooper, Quinn Roberts, and his cooperage team have nearly a century of experience crafting barrels. The barrels are used by premiere winemakers throughout the region including the award winning Three Sticks winery known for putting Sonoma County Pinot Noir on the winemaking map.
In addition to handcrafted oak barrels, the Tonnellerie Ô cooperage produces the industry’s finest oak alternatives under the Creative Oak brand. Creative Oak offers French and American oak ‘squares’ (approximately 2” X 2”) in a variety of convection and fire toasts.
The squares are cut to size and then “toasted” over open oak flames in the cooperage's 2,500 square foot brick-lined toasting room. The toasted oak creates complex flavor profiles in the wood used to give winemakers an endless variety of blending options. Creative Oak’s toasts give off the taste and aroma of dulce de leche, coconut, hickory, anise, roasted almonds, marzipan, and butterscotch, to name a few.
The full service company offers support to its customers thanks to its in-house laboratory and cutting edge scientists who specialize in the chemistry of oak, heat, and wine. Its highly trained lab staff offer excellent Sensory Evaluation services using a high tech solid-phase micro-extraction gas chromatography mass spectrometer, or SPME-GC/MS, to analyze the chemical makeup of wine and wood. Tonnellerie Ô’s very own tasting panel works in conjunction with its customers to evaluate the effect that its toasts have on the wine’s palate, mouth feel, tannins, and other structural factors. The goal is to create consistency so that customers can develop wines with aromatic and flavor signatures- key to building a strong wine brand.
Tonnellerie Ô is constantly improving its manufacturing methods. When it noticed bottlenecks in its oak square production process the company contacted Ase Stornetta of the Concord, CA machinery distributor, Klor Machinery. Klor has been supplying woodworking manufacturing solutions to customers in the California region and beyond since 1987. Ase knew just the machine that would improve the toast manufacturing process- an up cut saw fence by TigerStop.
Prior to installing the new TigerStop, all of the small oak squares were cut by hand, a laborious process requiring two production lines and two machine operators using compound miter saws.
Now, with the TigerStop automated positioner, a single technician can operate the up cut saw without sacrificing output by typing in the desired measurement needed and pressing start. Parts are produced accurately and efficiently with reduced labor costs. Matt explains, “The TigerStop has reduced operator time and dramatically increased output by approximately eight times.”
The TigerStop has allowed Creative Oak to maintain its environmentally conscious reputation as well. “With the ability to pre-program the Creative Oak production process with the TigerStop, we’ve reduced waste considerably, and can add programs as needed,” says Matt. He further explains that the TigerStop offers increased operator safety and has reduced supervision requirements.
“The TigerStop is an excellent product! The machine is highly efficient, and the manufacturer delivers a clear-cut explanation of the technology. Moreover, TigerStop provides straightforward operator instructions that make using the machine trouble-free,” says Matt.
With increased productivity tackled, Tonnellerie Ô and Creative Oak can focus on what’s truly important- producing the finest barrels and toasts possible for their large and ever expanding customer base. And to that we say cheers!
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