Recycling makes most people feel better about themselves.
It made Brian Scott and Steve Burch question how they could do even better—for their children, planet and way of doing business.
As longtime wine industry professionals, Scott and Burch witnessed up close the massive amount of waste in the form of bottles, corks and cardboard boxes that wine distribution leaves behind.
Their solution: reusing.
Scott, a wine company sales manager and certified sommelier, and Burch, a highly regarded winemaker with more than 400 wines to his credit, turned a lifelong dream into reality when they opened Acheson Wine Company tasting room in midtown in August.
At Acheson, you buy a flip-top bottle, have it filled with your choice of locally made wine on tap, then bring the empty back to refill when done.
It’s a model Acheson’s co-owners envision expanding into other Sacramento neighborhoods and neighborhoods far beyond. “Climate change is very real.” Scott says. “We’ve known for a long time that the way wine has been delivered to market is not sustainable, so we’ve been looking for something else.”
Scott and Burch dreamed about doing something big together while cutting their teeth at Sacramento’s wine-forward Enotria Cafe & Wine Bar in the late 1990s. Twenty-five years later, it’s go time.
Acheson makes wine like any winery, in a tank and/or barrels, but then puts it in 5-gallon stainless steel kegs instead of bottles. It’s preserved until it’s drawn out of the tap system in the tasting room, most days by tasting room manager Daniel Darden, who goes back to the Enotria days with Scott and Burch. The wine should then be consumed within a few weeks.
Acheson’s bottles are made of high-quality Italian glass; the label has been powder coated and baked onto the glass. Customers are asked to simply rinse the bottles and return them to be sanitized.
“The energy it takes to recycle a wine bottle is the same as it takes to create a new one,” Scott says. “This, coupled with the fact that for economic reasons most wine bottles are not recycled, adds to the negative environmental impact. I don’t know of any winery that is using recycled glass. There is no cost benefit and it is easier to purchase new.”
Burch makes Acheson’s wine at one of three locations, and up to eight varieties are offered at a time. In November, a sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, dry rosé, zinfandel, red blend and cabernet sauvignon were on the menu. Costs run between $17 and $24 a liter (with no markup needed for a distributor, retailer, shipping or packaging).
“We want to make great, affordable wine that can be consumed every day,” Scott says.
“And more importantly, we want to make it convenient with our ‘milkman style’ wine club,” says Burch. “These wines produced into traditional bottles and sold via the three-tier system would cost $35 to $40 on the shelf.”
Because the wine must be acquired from the tasting room, most of Acheson’s customers come from within a few-mile radius. Scott and Burch envision a wine community emanating from each tasting room where neighbors stop by as part of their daily grocery shopping rhythm and can meet the winemakers and learn the intricacies of the product.
The early returns are promising, with more than 1,000 bottles refilled in Acheson’s first three months. “We are going to start a counter on our website soon that will list the number of bottles we have refilled and therefore kept out of the landfill,” Scott says.
1629 19th St.,