EC3 is quenching thirst for wine and cider worldwide though partnerships with companies around the globe

The grape harvest in South America, which takes place when it’s springtime in the Finger Lakes due to its location south of the equator, is good news for a thriving business at Hazlitt’s Red Cat Cellars.

The winery in the village of Naples, where Hazlitt produces its signature Red Cat wine, is also home to sister enterprise East Coast Crush & Co-Pack. The beverage process and packaging plant, aka EC3, is a growing go-to for customers in South America, New Zealand and beyond. By shipping their wine or juice to the plant in Naples, EC3 customers can save on transportation and other costs, while taking advantage of the state-of-the art equipment and technology used at the facility. EC3 offers custom crush and production of wine, cider and juice; bulk production; as well as bottling, storage and warehousing.

“Demand is growing,” said Steve Cromwell, Hazlitt’s production and supply chain manager. Calls come in every week looking for EC3 services, he said. Some businesses are start-ups and others are long-established. They may not have the space or ability to produce, package or store their own product, he said. They may want to save on transportation.

For example, a California winery can save money by shipping its wine in bulk to Naples, where its bottled and then distributed for sale along the East Coast. “It’s about half the freight cost to send it in bulk liquid here,” Cromwell said.

About 40 percent of the bottling done at Red Cat Cellars is for other customers. Of that, about half is packaging for customers outside the United States. It’s especially advantageous for EC3 in the case of customers from South America. While wine production ramps into high gear in fall from the Finger Lakes harvest, wine arrives from South America for packaging in the spring due to their harvest season, and that helps keep EC3 busy all year long.

Serving customers thousands of miles away is big business — shipping containers from France and other overseas sites arriving at a port in New Jersey are then hauled by tractor trailer to Naples. There are plenty of customers much closer, as well. There’s crushing, pressing and packaging for clients in the Finger Lakes region. A range of bottling and packaging services go for wine, cider and private/control label projects. Co-packing can be for still, carbonated, pouch kegging and canning. The 3-million gallon production facility uses special computer-controlled presses that are gentle on the grapes, which caters to the making of high-end wines. Repeat customers include those from areas such as the Hamptons, the exclusive seaside resort on Long Island.

Hazlitt’s toasted the opening of EC3 at Red Cat Cellars in 2011. The multimillion-dollar investment came on the heels of its purchase of the former Widmer Wine Cellars from Constellation Brands Inc. in 2010. Owned by the seventh generation of the Hazlitt family, Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, based in Hector, Schuyler County, counts Red Cat Cellars as its second home. Open year-round, Red Cat books guided tours for behind-the-scenes look at winemaking, offers tasting room and gift shop, hosts special events and offers overnight accommodations at a classic Victorian home overlooking the vineyards, with a scenic one-mile hiking trail to boot.

Learn more at Red Cat Cellars: