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  • Craftsmanship Dominates at Ultra-Modern Tonnellerie Ô


    BENICIA, CA, May 27, 2009 -- While immaculate, self-contained rows of modern and prototype machinery make the first impression, Tonnellerie Ô's Master Cooper Jason Butler points out the hallmark of the wine industry's newest French oak cooperage will be the accumulated skills of his cooperage team rather than the state-of-the-art equipment that fills the Benicia facility.

    Opened for business in early May, Tonnellerie Ô showcases an impressive collection of technologically advanced computer-calibrated machinery. But it's no accident that the heart of the cooperage is a 2,500 square foot brick-encircled toasting room where technology is traded up for the talents and skills of disciplined coopers.

    "In building Tonnellerie Ô, I got to choose what was modern and what was traditional, to combine the best of both aspects," explains Butler, a 17-year Master Cooper. "The precision of our equipment offers us greater uniformity, efficiency and quality. But most importantly, every minute this equipment saves my coopers is invested more effectively into critical areas that demand skilled handcraftsmanship."

    The benefits of this marriage between technology and tradition are now being offered to wineries around the nation. Expected to produce 750 handcrafted French oak barrels in its first year, Tonnellerie Ô will keep production limited to ensure quality and the integrity of its house style. That style relies exclusively on tight-grain French oak, air seasoned for three years by one of five carefully selected French stave mills.

    To maintain barrel integrity, Tonnellerie Ô receives imported oak as rough stave blanks into its humidified storeroom. This allows the cooperage to control every phase of production, including the complex jointer, which shapes the blanks into finished staves with computer precision accuracy. The one place technology is noticeably absent is the specially designed toasting room, where only the fine-tuned skills of Tonnellerie Ô's veteran coopers are employed to ensure ideal toasting levels and fire temperatures.

    "For the rest of the operations we can rely on computers to assist us, but here in the toasting room what's essential are the well-trained eyes, nose and talents of an experienced cooper," Butler insists.

    Even this artisanal skill, however, is backed by science. Dr. Carlos Macku runs Tonnellerie Ô's on-premise Oak Flavor Lab and conducts extensive testing on finished barrels. Macku, who specializes in flavor chemistry, explains, "Our goal is to use cutting-edge technology, such as our in-house SPME/GC-MS instruments, to correlate analytical sensory data with the artisanal achievements of highly skilled coopers who are practiced in the art of delivering consistent barrels. This powerfully advantageous combination of art, science, and technology will enable us to craft, measure and assure the perfect flavor balance."

    And while Macku's team collects data, Butler is confident of what the results will show. "He's going to come back verifying the consistency of our toast levels. Just as a winemaker relies on his senses and experiences to blend wine flavors, we're relying on our combined 40 years of coopering expertise to know exactly how long to hold a barrel on the fire in order to coax the perfect toast levels from our oak. That's an art of coopering that no machinery can replicate."

    Tonnellerie Ô's collection includes Burgundy, Bordeaux and Chateau style French oak barrels. "We're inspired by the fine details inside and out that are an expression of the artisanal quality of our woodworking. But even more importantly, we're absolutely focused on producing a Tonnellerie Ô style that we believe will age wines with greater consistency than any other barrel in the world," says Butler.

    As the newest member of Cork Supply Group's family of brands, Tonnellerie Ô® will leverage the organization's international resources to maximize quality and service. That includes taking advantage of the group's state of the art Global Quality labs and expertly trained staff to verify that all oak purchases meet quality standards for moisture, style, grain tightness and linear feet before leaving France. Additionally, the cooperage has already implemented an innovative tagging procedure developed by Cork Supply™ to ensure traceability of wood from arrival through production. And finally, while Tonnellerie Ô maintains an independent sales force, it will capitalize on Cork Supply USA's virtuoso service personnel to ensure customers of comprehensive support for all barrel sales.

    Contact Tonnellerie Ô at (707) 752-6350 to arrange a tour of the new cooperage and learn more about America's newest producer of fine French oak barrels.

    Ron Glotzer
    Global Brand Marketing Director
    Tonnellerie Ô
    Tel: (707) 752-6350
    Email: rglotzer@tonnellerieo.com

    EDITOR'S NOTE: Photos Available Upon Request

Please also visit these Cork Supply Group brand sites: Cork Supply Tonnellerie O Creative Oak Creative Oak Store VinOak Studio Labels