Ed O’Keefe Jr., founder, chairman, and CEO of Chateau Grand Traverse on Old Mission Peninsula north of Traverse City, has long dreamed of developing a pouring system that extends the life of wine by more than six months. That’s quite a challenge, given a bottle of wine, once opened, often spoils within three or four days.
“We’ve done a lot of R&D, testing, refining, and finally we have the machine ready for the market after five years of work,” says O’Keefe, also chairman and CEO of ePour Technologies Inc. in Traverse City. “We have a patented vacuum technology that delivers wine from a bag.”
The goal is to sell or lease the by-the-glass wine-dispensing machines to bars, restaurants, cruise ships, commercial aircraft, hotels, banquet facilities, sports stadiums, and numerous other venues. The machines, which come in various colors, offer an optional credit card reader — or, in the case of a hotel, guests can swipe their room card to receive a complimentary glass of wine or two for every day of their stay.
“The software we’re using for the machines not only collects data, but it can track the amount of wine dispensed, to eliminate any theft issues,” says Bob Kalik, COO of ePour Technologies and former president of the American Vintner’s Association. “A screen on the machine can show information about the particular wines, or advertising. There’s also an optional driver’s license scanner.”
The refrigerated machines, which either run on electricity or a battery, can be equipped with casters and brakes for easy movement within a banquet hall or on a cruise ship. Tabletop units are offered, as well. The system comes with two, four, six, or eight spouts, and can hold up to eight cases of wine.
Housing the wine inside oxygen-inhibiting, recyclable pouches offers several benefits over bottles, O’Keefe says. Combined, 40 cases of wine in glass bottles weigh more than 1,500 pounds, while a similar amount in pouches tips the scales at 826 pounds. In addition, the machines pour a perfect glass of wine, which eliminates the chance a bartender may provide too much to patrons.
According to the company, a venue that serves 40 cases of wine each month can save close to $52,000 a year by using the ePour machines. Serving wine from pouches results in a 55 percent smaller carbon footprint and an 85 percent reduction in landfill waste (over bottles).
“Most everything was developed in Michigan, and we’re looking to do as much of the production in Michigan (as possible),” says O’Keefe, who is working with Great Lakes Stainless in Traverse City. “We’re talking to a lot of wineries and end-users. We’re showing them how they can save money and boost their profits by moving to a more efficient, wine-by-the-glass system.”
The machines will start shipping soon, and the cost per unit is based on volume and other factors. “This is a game-changer,” Kalik says. db