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Discovering Sustainability on the Vine

Sit down and enjoy a glass of Kind Vines wine. And relax. You’re actually reducing your own carbon footprint. This is a sustainable wine for eco-imbibers because of its zero waste reusable bottles and reduced transportation costs to get that glass into your hand.

If it sounds too good to be true, it isn’t. Flagstaff resident Dave Williamson, the owner of Kind Vines, has a good idea whose time has come.

“I sell my wine to different retail outlets and restaurants. If you buy my wine at Bashas’ [or a number of other outlets], there is a $2 deposit. If you bring the bottle back to the store, you get your $2 back,” he said.

Then he returns to pick up the empty bottles so he can refill them and bring them back to the store or restaurant.

He said people like the idea of doing something to help the environment while enjoying Kind Vine’s chardonnay or cabernet he buys by the barrel.

“I buy wine from all over California. The wineries sell the same wine with their own label. I always tell them I don’t put the name of their winery because I can sell for less because my packaging and distribution costs are lower.”

A bottle of Kind Vines sells for $10.99, say, at Basha’s. He said the same bottle of wine with its winery’s own label costs about $5 more.

The son of an instrument technician in mines in Arizona, Williamson was born in Tucson. When his father was transferred to a Kingman mine, the family was moved there. Williamson went from second grade through high school in Kingman.

“I ran cross country, played football. I was kind of a jock in high school. I was a four-year letterman,” he said.

After high school, he went to DeVry Institute where he earned a degree in electronics.

“I worked for Western Electronics and Communications. We worked on police radios, pagers were kind of new at the time and I worked on television translators, anything to do with communication in Mojave County.”

Williamson worked only two and a half years in electronics before he switched careers into adult beverages.

He started in the beer and wine industry in 1980.

“I worked for a distributor for 21 years. I did all kinds of jobs. I started in the warehouse, then into the office and then sales and then as district sales manager. I worked in the outlying areas of the state, never in Phoenix or Tucson.”

In 2001, he got into microbrewery in sales and marketing.

“I started to get into the productions side of the business. I learned about the challenge of production and packaging costs, which are extremely high. I started looking into ways to reduce costs.” That is when the idea of refundable bottles came to his mind.

He started in the business incubator at NACET.

“They couldn’t allow a tasting room because it is city property and no alcohol consumption was allowed,” he said. “Right now, we are moving to our new location where I will have a tasting room. It looks like January, but it could be February.”

 

At the moment, Kind Vines offers a chardonnay and a cabernet, but once he is settled in his new location, he plans to expand with two additional varietals.

His lab at NACET was about 300 square feet.

“It was not very big, but it was perfect for trying out my business idea. NACET also gave me mentors who were a big help and the SETI [Institute] helped with moral support and networking opportunities,” he said.

Along his career path, Williamson met his wife, Diane, and they married in 1984.

They have two grown sons, Alex, a former Marine who did tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He now is a diesel mechanic for a major trucking company. Son Eric is the outdoorsman of the family, running a whitewater rafting company in Oregon and managing a rock-climbing gym.

Williamson is on the boards of SETI and Friends of Coconino County Parks.

For fun, he and Diane do some whitewater rafting.

“We have all our own equipment and do our trips usually down the Grand Canyon,” he said.

The two are also both registered sommeliers.

He recently partnered with the homeless shelter to have some of the residents make wine racks out of pallets that were destined for the landfill. They are paid for their work; the shelter gets a portion of the proceeds when the racks are sold in restaurants and other stores.

Recently, Williamson got some very exiting news.

“NAU picked my business to do a complete carbon footprint analysis,” he said.

This means the university will break his business down to determine how much it reduces the greenhouse effect and packaging and transportation costs – “things that really save the environment.”

With the results of this study in hand, it will be much easier to approach potential customers with his eco-friendly plan.

The university will start the study in January. FBN

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