San Joaquin RTD picked for new PG&E electric vehicle pilot program

Central Valley Business Times

June 23, 2018

In a first for San Joaquin Regional Transit District and Stockton, Pacific Gas and Electric Company says it will conduct an electric vehicle pilot program to support RTD’s long-term electric transportation needs with chargers and infrastructure improvements.

Recently approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, this pilot will be a test case for PG&E’s new “FleetReady” program, which supports electric charging for customers with medium-duty, heavy-duty, and off-road fleets such as transit agencies, school districts, and delivery fleets.

For this new pilot with San Joaquin RTD, PG&E will test how smart charging and battery storage can lower operating costs and maximize efficiencies for the agency.

Seeking to partner with a transit agency located in a disadvantaged community which already had electric buses and plans for more in the future in order to meet the timelines of the project proposal, PG&E chose RTD.

“Because we already had a plan for adding more electric buses to our fleet and have a long-term goal around electrification, PG&E approached us with this pilot opportunity,” says CEO Donna DeMartino. “Due to our focus on electric transportation, PG&E can jump right into creating the specifics of the pilot, which aligns with our goal of being powered by 100 percent electric vehicles by 2025.”

The budget for this pilot is $3.35 million, which includes:

  • Design of the sites
  • Cost of the chargers and battery storage system
  • Construction from the electric grid to the chargers and battery system
  • Installation of the chargers and battery storage system
  • Software for charge management
  • Collection of data
  • Ongoing analysis and evaluation
  • Handbook that other transit agencies can use to learn more about electrification

http://files.constantcontact.com/2cb20f61601/1708b9fc-8b7e-4db7-a9f1-408e3ef3f803.pdf

10 Best Tech Startups in California-Faraday Future #4

June 11, 2018 0 Comments
FacebookTwitterPinterestWhatsAppEmailShare
The Tech Tribune staff has compiled the very best tech startups in California. In doing our research, we considered several factors including but not limited to:

Revenue potential
Leadership team
Brand/product traction
Competitive landscape
Additionally, all companies must be independent (un-acquired), privately owned, at most 10 years old, and have received at least one round of funding in order to qualify.

Looking for a badge to celebrate your awesome accomplishment? Find it here!

1. Uber
Uber

Founded: 2009

“We believe that by solving some of the biggest problems of our time, we can create a future where there is limitless freedom of movement for people and things all across the world. Just talk to our people — and feel their passion, optimism and curiosity for building solutions every single day on behalf of drivers, riders, couriers, eaters and employees.

While the tough problems we face everyday can be incredibly difficult to figure out, we believe those same problems enable us to personally grow the most. So we welcome people from all backgrounds who have the passion to change the world and also want to help create a supportive and collaborative environment. So that ultimately, we can learn together, solve together, build together, and move the world forward together.”

2. Airbnb
airbnb

Founded: 2008

“Founded in August of 2008 and based in San Francisco, California, Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world — online or from a mobile phone. Whether an apartment for a night, a castle for a week, or a villa for a month, Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 33,000 cities and 192 countries. And with world-class customer service and a growing community of users, Airbnb is the easiest way for people to monetize their extra space and showcase it to an audience of millions.”

3. Lyft
Lyft

Founded: 2012

“Wherever you’re headed, count on Lyft for rides in minutes. The Lyft app matches you with local drivers at the tap of a button. Just request and go.

Ride by ride, we’re changing the way our world works. We imagine a world where cities feel small again. Where transportation and tech bring people together, instead of apart. We see the future as community-driven — and it starts with you.”

4. Faraday Future
faraday future

Founded: 2014

“Faraday Future is a global automotive and technology company, uniting the latest in sustainable transportation and connected digital ecosystems to redefine future mobility – and move humanity forward.”

5. Pinterest
pinterest

Founded: 2009

“Pinterest helps you discover and do what you love. Find recipes, style inspiration, projects for your home and other ideas to try.”

6. Wish
wish
Founded: 2010

“Wish is a mobile e-commerce platform that connects hundreds of millions of consumers with the widest selection of products delivered directly to their doors. Our mission is to provide everyone access to the most affordable and convenient shopping experience on the planet. Wish supports 500,000 merchant partners as well as over 300 million users who rate Wish the best mobile shopping app on the iOS and Android platforms.”

7. Fair
fair
Founded: 2016

“Fair is an automotive FinTech company that’s revolutionizing car buying by offering unprecedented freedom, flexibility and an end-to-end mobile experience.

We believe fairness matters. That’s why we’ve created a game-changing new app that lets you shop, get approved and pay for a car all on your phone with just a driver’s license and bank account. Get in-app approval for a monthly payment amount that works for you, then head to the dealership and check-out in minutes. You can drive your car for as long as you want, and return it any time you’re ready. That’s the Fair way to drive!”

8. Royole Corporation
Royole Corporation

Founded: 2013

Also honored in: 10 Best Tech Startups in Fremont

“Founded in 2012 and based in Silicon Valley, California, Hong Kong, and Shenzhen, China, Royole develops innovative display technologies and related electronic products, and provides IP licenses, services and solutions for a variety of industries associated with display applications.

Royole creates and manufactures the most advanced flexible displays, sensors, and consumer electronics. In 2014, Royole first introduced the world’s thinnest full-color flexible displays with a thickness of 0.01 mm and a bending radius of 1 mm. Royole’s display technology is expected by many industry leaders to revolutionize the smartphone and consumer electronics industry. In 2015, Royole began mass production of its proprietary flexible electronics at its production facility in Shenzhen, China. In September 2015, Royole launched and started mass production of the world’s first foldable virtual mobile theater device, Royole-X. Royole-X is an artful unison of world’s highest resolution AMOLED displays (3300ppi) and noise-cancelling headphone with its own new operating system, Royole-X OS.”

9. Instacart
Instacart

Founded: 2012

“Instacart (YC S12) is building the best way for people everywhere in the world to shop for groceries. Using your phone or the web, you can order groceries and have them delivered to your door in minutes. You can choose from a variety of local stores including Whole Foods, Safeway, Costco, Mariano’s and many more, as well as being able to mix items from multiple stores into one order.

Every day, we solve incredibly hard problems to create an experience for our customers that is nothing short of magical. We are located in San Francisco, and well-funded by some of the greatest investors in the world, like Sequoia Capital, Khosla Ventures, Andreesen Horowitz, SV Angel, and Y Combinator.”

10. AppLovin
applovin

Founded: 2012

“AppLovin offers a comprehensive platform where app developers of all sizes can connect with their ideal consumers and get discovered. Founded in 2012, the company is focused on helping both indie and established developers grow, with the expertise and insights they need to finance, market, and expand their businesses – all in one place. App developers view AppLovin as a trusted partner, the rare company that understands what it takes to succeed in the mobile app ecosystem and the ability to help them reach their goals.”

 

http://thetechtribune.com/10-best-tech-startups-in-california/

The Table Mountain Rancheria is building a new casino, hotel and entertainment venue


An artist’s rendering depicts a new casino and hotel tower proposed by the Table Mountain Rancheria near Friant. The building would nearly double the gaming floor space of the existing Table Mountain Casino. Table Mountain Rancheria

BY ROBERT RODRIGUEZ AND TIM SHEEHAN

June 07, 2018 04:30 PM

The Table Mountain Rancheria, home to one of the region’s oldest gaming centers, is building a new casino, hotel and entertainment venue, according to an environmental report.
The proposed project will nearly double the amount of gaming floor space to 110,000 square feet, plus add a 151-room hotel with resort-like amenities. The hotel will rise 14 levels, with a restaurant on the top floor.
Inside the hotel will include a fitness center, spa, salon, six conference center meeting rooms and a child care/kids activity center. A new special event center with 1,500 seats will be used for monthly concerts, banquets, and private events.
Dan Casas, the tribe’s attorney and spokesman, said the existing casino, built in 1987, was due for an upgrade. Although a popular place to gamble, people complained about the smoke and the low, 8-foot ceilings.
The new casino will be built just west of the current one and will have an more open feel, be more energy efficient and feature a state-of-the-art ventilation system .
“We wanted to build something that will be able to sustain the tribal community for future generations,” he said. “And we also want to stay within the confines of our promise to keep this on our own land.”
Construction is expected to begin by the spring of 2019 with completion by 2020-21. The older casino will be used for tribal offices.
A larger casino and hotel will also mean more jobs. The project will add 454 jobs for a total employment o f 1,454 workers.
Casas said it has taken several years to complete the environmental review for the project. People interested in viewing the document can find it here. Public comments on the document will be accepted until June 28.
One potential concern for nearby residents is the amount of vehicle traffic. Currently, the busiest day of the week for the casino is Saturday, generating 3,795 cars daily. The proposed project is estimated to produce 7,755 cars a day.
A public meeting will be held on June 28 at the Ramada Inn, 3224 E. Shaw Ave. Fresno. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. and will run until the last comment or 9 p.m.

Valley employers need mechanics; people need jobs. How this program serves both

BY KEN CARLSON

June 19, 2018 03:26 PM

Opportunity Stanislaus and its industry partners created the VOLT Institute for adults like Gustavo Amezcua of Oakdale.

Amezcua, 27, worked as an operator for Rizo Lopez Foods before the company gave him the chance to become a maintenance mechanic at the McClure Road cheese-making plant.

It’s a prime opportunity for Amezcua to earn a larger income for supporting his young family. On average, industrial maintenance mechanics earn $27.80 an hour in Stanislaus County.

Local industries struggle to find qualified maintenance mechanics and the demand for those blue-collar jobs is forecast to increase 15 percent over the next six years.

Amezcua is among 30 students in the first graduating class at the VOLT Institute, launched in October by Opportunity Stanislaus, industry partners like Pacific Southwest Container and E&J Gallo Winery, and the Stanislaus County Office of Education.

In 2016, SCOE offered space for the trade school in the former Modesto Bee building, at 13th and H streets, which was purchased by SCOE for expanding its services.

Dave White, chief executive officer of the business development agency, Opportunity Stanislaus, said there are 200 unfilled positions for maintenance mechanics in the county. With economic growth, those workers are in short supply as veteran mechanics retire and fewer high school students are trained for vocations.

As the VOLT Institute is further developed, it’s also expected to provide training in electrical systems and maintenance of automated production equipment. The program is supported by major employers in the county that face a critical need for skilled mechanics to maintain equipment and keep production lines running.

“The typical students in our program are in their 30s and looking for a better job,” White said. “There are a lot of people who have a job, but it’s not a good job, not a living wage and the chances of going to college has passed them by.”

Of the 40 students who enrolled in the VOLT Institute last fall, three quarters were in the 18 to 35 age group. Some were “incumbents” or employees of local companies that want them to upgrade their skills; others were young adults with lower-wage jobs, jobless people referred by county Workforce Development, and SCOE adult education graduates.

The group included a teacher looking for a career change.

Though a high school diploma is a minimum requirement for the VOLT institute, 52 percent of the students had attended some college and 9 percent were college graduates.

Deborah Rowe, director of career training programs for SCOE, said last week that 10 students dropped out for personal reasons or discovered the mechanics’ vocation was not for them. Twenty-six of the students set for a graduation ceremony June 27 are employed and the other four are actively seeking jobs, Rowe said.

Ron Losinski, master instructor at VOLT, said he’s well aware of the need for mechanics and other technical positions at manufacturing plants in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. When he was a maintenance manager for a plant in Lathrop, he said, it was impossible to hire qualified people off the streets.

He said plant closures were an opportunity to snatch up skilled workers and some employees were trained in an apprenticeship program at Modesto Junior College.

At the VOLT Institute, trainees first take a three-week course (12 hours a week) to learn the soft skills of working in the manufacturing environment, including ethics, communication, resolving conflicts, decision making and public speaking.

They advance to mechanical courses offered in the morning, afternoon or evening, where they learn the basics of machine tools, mechanical drives, pumps, pneumatic and hydraulic systems, metal working, torching techniques and mechanical circuitry.

The students can complete the vocational training and be job-ready in eight months.

Students in an afternoon class last week spent an hour on computers absorbing concepts, followed by an hour or two of hands-on learning at training equipment stations.

“Quite a few of our students have no mechanical experience,” Rowe said. “We try to team them up with incumbents who have mechanical skills.”

Cameron Jones and a Crystal Creamery employee were tested at one station on regulating the actuating speeds of a mechanical system. Jones has been working for a shoe business at Vintage Faire Mall and heard about the Volt Institute from a friend, he said.

“I like some of their shoes but don’t get enough hours to buy them,” said Jones, who is close to completing the training and is applying for jobs.

Dan Martin, director of facility services at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto, said he’s hired two students from VOLT’s inaugural class to maintain motors and pumps in the hospital, wire lights and handle repairs.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the community because we have such a decline in individuals that have the proper skills for doing maintenance-type work,” said Martin, who’s on the advisory board for VOLT. “We will interview and interview many times just to get a few people who are qualified.”

Martin said the new hires will start at entry level pay for mechanical positions and soon jump to higher levels when they learn the health care side of the business.

As for VOLT’s minimum requirements, the new students must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma and complete the WorkKeys Assessment that measures skills for success in the workplace. Trainees must have the reading skills to understand manuals.

Tuition for the maintenance mechanic program is $2,500 per quarter or a total of $7,500. Companies sending employees through the training program may cover all or part of the cost. Self-pay students may be eligible for loans or scholarships and assistance may be available for students coming from adult education or the county workforce development program.

The VOLT Institute was launched with a $700,000 investment from private sources. Rowe said the funding that SCOE receives for the program requires six-month and 12-month reviews on how the graduates perform.

Rowe said the former Bee building is taking shape as a career center also offering training in construction, health care and other industries.

When she was principal of Enochs High School, Rowe said, 45 percent of the 550 students in a graduating class would attend college and not all of them would finish with a four-year degree. The military was always an option, but a large number of graduates were faced with earning a living wage without a college degree.

“I want to work for those who are not going to college and not going to the military,” Rowe said. “College is great but we are leaving a lot of folks behind.”

Those interested in training at the VOLT Institute may call 209-566-9102 or send an email to info@voltinstitute.com. For more information on programs, visit http://opportunitystanislaus.com/VOLTInstitute.

http://www.modbee.com/news/business/employment-news/article213140454.html

COMMUTER TRAIN THROUGH KINGS, TULARE COUNTIES PROPOSED

The green line in this map shows the route of an existing train track proposed to be used for a commuter rail line between Huron and Porterville, with stops at several cities, Lemoore Naval Air Station and the California High-Speed Rail station planned near Hanford. Source: Tulare County Association of Governments

Published On June 19, 2018 – 1:33 PM
Written By David Castellon

Imagine living in Porterville and heading to work daily via a 60-miles-plus drive west to Lemoore Naval Air Station.

Now imagine that lengthy commute without driving, but instead taking a commuter train to work and back.

That may one day be an option, and the Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG) took the first step to make that happen, with its governing board—composed of representatives from each city in the county and the county government—approving the Cross Valley Corridor Plan.

That plan essentially involved taking an existing freight rail line stretching more than 80 miles between Porterville and Huron and running on it commuter trains, like those used in major cities to transport passengers.

Those freight tracks go through several cities in Tulare and Kings Counties, including Huron, Lemoore, Hanford, Goshen, Visalia, Farmersville, Exeter, Lindsay and Porterville, along with Lemoore Naval Air Station. The current plan is to have the commuter train stop at each, though transit centers would have to be built in some of the cities.

Ben Kimball, executive director of TCAG —which plans, coordinates and obtains funding for commuter and transit programs in Tulare County—said Visalia already has a transit center, and the train tracks run right by it, so a train platform would need to be added to the site.

While a train would allow easier east-west commuting between the two counties than the existing bus services, the train also would have a stop near the proposed site for the California High-Speed Rail station near Hanford. So between the two rail lines, a person could live in Kings or Tulare County and commute to and from the Silicon Valley, once both rail lines are completed.

“This plan represents an opportunity to transform public transit in the region,” TCAG Executive Director, Ted Smalley said in a written statement.

His statement goes on to say that in 2016 TCAG partnered with the High-Speed Rail Authority to launch a corridor planning and community engagement campaign to identify how transportation can be improved and to look at public transit alternatives for the future.

“Our goal here is to identify how the corridor can provide convenient transit service, but to also plan how the High-Speed Rail station will connect our communities throughout the state,” Smalley’s statement continues.

Current estimates are that the High-Speed Rail line between the Central Valley and the Silicon Valley may not be completed until 2026, and it likely will take longer for the commuter line between Huron and Porterville to be up and running.

“The horizon year of the plan is 30 years,” with initial planning occurring in the first decade, which would include seeking funds for the project and making sure busses run between the transit stations in each city and outlying communities, so more people can take the train, Kimball said.

As for how TCAG and the Kings County Association of Governments —which hasn’t yet voted on whether to approve the Cross Valley Corridor Plan—would pay for all this, he said, “It would basically be who pays for transit now – a combination of federal and state transit funds,” along with savings from eliminating some bus routes and seeking other funding.

Kimball added that no cost estimate for the project had yet been determined.

And don’t expect to see any commuter trains running any time soon in the two Valley counties. Kimball said the reason this is a 30-year plan is to let expected population growth in and around the cities along the rail line—including Strathmore and Armona—to increase enough to create a sufficient demand for commuter rail service.

As such, the plan is for Phase Two to occur in about 20 years, a launch of rail service between Visalia west to Lemoore and Huron.

And in 30 years, the plan calls for fully launching the service along the full line, all the way to Porterville.

https://thebusinessjournal.com/commuter-train-through-kings-tulare-counties-proposed/

Study Ranks Wonderful Co. as Top Growth Leader in Produce, Consumer Packaged Goods

Wonderful Pistachios

Wonderful Pistachios

Los Angeles-based Wonderful Company was named the no. 1 growth leader in produce and no. 1 in consumer packaged goods last year, according to a study released June 14 by the Boston Consulting Group and market research firm IRI.

Wonderful Company, which grows, markets and sells pistachios, almonds, citrus fruits, pomegranates, bottled water, wine and floral arrangements, took the top spots among mid-sized U.S. companies with sales between $1 billion and $5.5 billion.

“The Wonderful Company is relentlessly focused on driving healthier eating options,” said Adam Cooper, vice president of marketing for the Wonderful Company, in a statement. “Over the past 10 years, we’ve invested more than $3 billion in capital and $1 billion in marketing and brand building. With these investments, and consumers increasingly seeking nutritious choices, Wonderful is poised for even more growth in the future.”

According to the BCG report, Wonderful and other consumer packaged goods companies saw sales rise thanks to developing a range of offerings, targeting consumers, growing their portfolios and expanding into new markets.

“The market continues to be sluggish, but in identifying this year’s CPG growth leaders, we found that there are clear steps companies can take to uncover areas of growth,” said Peri Edelstein, a BCG partner and coauthor of the study, in a statement. “This includes developing a deep understanding of consumer demand, innovating to meet new occasions and using pricing strategically to enhance volume growth instead of as a tactic to drive dollar growth.”

The report looked at more than 400 public and private consumer packaged goods companies with annual U.S. retail sales of more than $100 million. The companies were ranked on dollar sales growth, volume sales growth and market share gains.

Privately held Wonderful Co. is a $4 billion company with 9,000 employees worldwide. Its brands include Wonderful Pistachios, Wonderful Halos, POM Wonderful, FIJI Water, Justin Wine and Teleflora.

The company is owned by Stewart and Lynda Resnick, who are ranked no. 7 on the Los Angeles Business Journal’s list of Wealthiest Angelenos with an estimated net worth of $6.5 billion.

http://labusinessjournal.com/news/2018/jun/14/study-ranks-wonderful-co-top-growth-leader-produce/

Datapath acquires Fresno-based IT firm

Central Valley Business Times

June 14, 2018

  • Valley Network Solutions acquisition creates Central Valley’s largest IT company
  • “Brings together two great companies”

Modesto-based Datapath Inc. says it has acquired Fresno’s Valley Network Solutions, doubling Datapath’s size and creating what it says is the largest IT provider in the Central Valley.

“We have been extremely pleased with the growth in our company and the growing need for leading technology services in our region,” says David Darmstandler, Datapath CEO and cofounder.

“Adding an office in Fresno, staffed with very knowledgeable technical experts, not only expands our footprint, but also greatly improves our ability to support clients with multiple locations throughout the Central Valley.”

Financial terms of the acquisition were not revealed.

James Bates, Datapath CTO and co-founder, says the acquisition of Valley Network Solutions “brings together two great companies with expanded resources, talent, and geographic reach to better serve all our customers, expand our team, and better serve our community,”

http://files.constantcontact.com/2cb20f61601/72aca2b5-df66-4b79-b173-ddd8b6fb8b62.pdf

Faraday Future Receives Permit and Announces Bernards as General Contractor for Hanford Factory

ONSITE CONSTRUCTION WORK HAS COMMENCED AS FIRST SET OF EQUIPMENT IS INSTALLED TO FACILITATE DELIVERY OF THE FIRST FF 91 BY YEAR’S END

LOS ANGELES, JUNE 7, 2018 – Faraday Future (FF) announced today that Bernards, a commercial builder located in San Fernando, California, will serve as the general contractor for the 1M square foot FF factory in Hanford, California.

The Hanford factory is a turn-key facility, strategically sited between the country’s two largest EV markets, Los Angeles and Silicon Valley. This marks a significant step forward for FF in its mission to deliver FF 91, its first production vehicle, to market by the end of 2018. FF has received the permit from the city government of Hanford for its onsite work to begin construction, prior to manufacturing and delivering the first FF 91.

“We are honored to be chosen as the general contractor for Faraday Future’s Hanford factory in the valley,” said Falco DiGiallonardo, VP of Bernards. “EV is the future of mobility and we look forward to working with FF to have the factory set for production later this year.”
As of February 1, the property was completely vacated. FF completed the planning phase, including interior and exterior design, progressing to the next phase of production.

“We appreciate the support given to us by the City of Hanford,” said Dag Reckhorn, SVP of Global Manufacturing of FF. “As of now, our on-site abatement, demolition, and refurbishment work has started, and we have ordered all the long lead-time equipment. We are extremely excited to have Bernards on board to work with us to ready our factory with our aggressive, yet workable, timeline.”

On-site demolition and construction work began in March, as the first batch of production equipment has already been installed and tested to begin manufacturing.

FF is also collaborating proactively with local Hanford institutions and agencies to ready the recruitment cadences and hiring efforts for the factory. Several local training programs have been designed and hiring has already started.

FF announced its Hanford factory last August. The facility will employ up to 1,300 employees, working a 3 shift schedule.

ABOUT FARADAY FUTURE

Faraday Future is a user-centric, advanced mobility company with headquarters in Southern California. Our global team leverages the talents of leading thinkers and passionate creators from the technology and automotive industries to bring premium, intuitive, and seamlessly connected electric vehicles to people worldwide.

FOLLOW FARADAY FUTURE:

www.ff.com www.twitter.com/faradayfuture

www.facebook.com/faradayfuture

www.instagram.com/faradayfuture

www.linkedin.com/company/faradayfuture

#FaradayFuture #FF91

For more information about Faraday Future, contact: press@ff.com

New company launches to incubate Central Valley businesses

The Central Valley is home to thousands of businesses and now one organization wants to showcase entrepreneurs on a bigger platform.

“Fresno is a great place, not only are we a great place to raise a family, but we’re a great place to start a business and there’s profit to be made here, ” said Jennifer Lopez with Valley Innovators.

Lopez sees a major discrepancy in the way venture capitalist are investing in businesses.

“About 60-percent of VC (venture capitalist) funding goes to California companies, less than one-percent of that comes to the Valley,” Lopez said.

A lot of that has to do with marketing or perception. So Lopez and others funded Valley Innovators– a company that helps the business learn, network and market themselves and eventually attract big investors.

Valley Innovators hopes to serve businesses ranging from taco trucks to technology. They said the Valley is becoming home to a diverse amount of companies and owners.

“It means having more success stories come out of their organization, it means possibly having to expand their organization and contributing to the marketing of Fresno and the Valley as a whole, as a great place for innovation. A place for talent and a place for making things happen,” Lopez said.

The passion runs deep for this Valley native and former Bay Area resident.

“There’s talent here, there are people that are ambitious and want to give back and flex their entrepreneurial muscles,” Lopez said.

Valley innovators launches Tuesday night at the Tower Theater. Over the next few months, they’ll host educational opportunities and networking for businesses and one day a pitch contest in the spring. They believe the next great idea could be incubated in the Valley.

http://abc30.com/business/new-company-launches-to-incubate-businesses/3565352/

Berkeley winery finding success with Lodi winegrapes

By Nora Heston Tarte

Jeff Morgan’s company Covenant Wines purchases grapes from Lodi’s Mettler family for its wines.

LODI—This area’s reputation as a profitable region for winegrapes, especially zinfandels, is no secret.

So, when Jeff Morgan, winemaker and co-owner at Covenant Winery in Berkeley, wanted to add a Lodi zin to his lineup of vinos, he turned to Mettler Vineyards in Lodi.

“The Mettlers are the classic, good-natured American farmers,” Morgan said. “You know that a handshake from a Mettler means as much as any legal document.”

Morgan was familiar with the Mettlers before he moved his Napa wine operation to Berkeley in order to achieve an urban offering in a more populated area. For many years he enjoyed a career as a wine journalist for Wine Spectator magazine.

“My job was to know who the best growers were,” Morgan said. “The Mettler’s reputation proceeded them.”

The move also allowed Morgan and his team to ditch the custom crush facilities they were using for production and begin offering more brands under the Covenant aegis.

Today, Covenant Wines makes 18 wines on seven labels under the Covenant umbrella, including an Israel brand, Covenant Israel. All wine by definition is kosher, but Covenant goes the extra step, assuring every bottle produced by Covenant is handled in the cellar by only Sabbath-observant Jews.

Jeff Morgan, co-owner of Covenant Wines stands with a load of Mettler-grown grapes that are used in making the company’s wines.

Three of the brand’s wines are made exclusively from Mettler grapes. Two of those varietals, the zinfandel and the roussanne, are part of the Mensch label, a Yiddish word meaning a really nice person. The third wine, a chardonnay, is part of The Tribe label also sold under the Covenant umbrella.

Morgan, his wife Jodie Morgan and Covenant co-owner Leslie Rudd source grapes from other regions, including Napa Valley and Sonoma County to make many of their wines, but the only Lodi grapes used come from Mettler Vineyards.

Covenant produces 7,000 cases annually out of its Berkeley facility, plus an additional 3,000 cases in Israel. Mettler wines make up about 20 percent of total production for Covenant in the U.S.

“The wines that we have made with Mettler grapes have done quite well with the wine critics,” Morgan said, adding it’s not just the zin performing well.

Larry Mettler, owner of Arbor Vineyards and Mettler Family Vineyards, said the partnership with Covenant is going well. Every year the Lodi farming family is able to meet Covenant’s needs and orders have grown since the initial 2013 bottle Covenant produced using Mettler grapes.

“We know a little bit about the needs of wineries and small wineries because we are one,” Mettler said.

With 1,600 acres of wine grapes on farmland either owned or rented by the Mettler family, Mettler Vineyards has access to a lot of grapes, boasting 15 different varietals. Popular choices are cabernet sauvignons, zinfandels and petite sirahs.

Lesser-known varietals are also abundant, including pinotage, mourvedre and grenache, as well as whites such as chardonnay, which Covenant buys, and albarino.

Lodi’s climate is responsible for the variety. Grape availability is high because the climate and soil are both conducive to growing several varietals.

“If wineries are looking for product, Lodi is a good place for them to look,” Mettler said. “We can always supply the grapes in the highest quality because we can get them ripe.”

In all, 90 percent of the property’s grapes are sold to other wineries throughout California. The Mettlers have an estimated 12-15 buyers in all.

The other 10 percent is used to create the wines Mettler sells under its own label—Mettler Family Vineyards.

Mettler said word of mouth brings in most of the vineyard’s customers and the mid-range price in Lodi helps. A small brand may start with as little as one ton of grapes from Mettler, but larger wineries like Gallo and Constellation take more.

“We’re all across the board as far as size and volume,” he said.

Morgan cited the price point as one reason the Berkeley-based urban winery decided to shake hands with Lodi farmers. Once known for its Napa Valley cabernet, the Morgans were aware their wines came with a hefty price tag.

In order to reach a larger audience, they wanted to make more accessible wines that didn’t lack quality.

Their first attempt was with a Mensch zinfandel because the Lodi region is best known for its zins. After they found success with one, Covenant expanded to the other two varietals, both whites.

“They’re light, they’re fresh and they’re eminently quaffable,” Morgan said. “As we all know, wine is made in the vineyard, so we attribute that to the quality of the grapes.”

The first year Morgan purchased five tons of grapes from Mettler Vineyards, enough for 250 cases of wine. Today, annual orders range from 30-35 tons.

“Its been a good relationship,” Mettler said.

Berkeley winery finding success with Lodi winegrapes