Vintage 99 Label Relies on Plant-Wide Inspection Technology, Automates Workflow

“It is the most technically challenging label we produce,” says Bill Bartee, vice president, plant operations at Vintage 99, referring to the 50th anniversary ZD Pinot Noir label.

“It has print, two emboss elements—textured emboss and a sculpted emboss—and two foils—gold and pearl. It is difficult because of all the elements, and the high degree of quality expected. The customer is very demanding.

Wine labels are anything but ordinary. They have been meticulously designed to elicit an emotional response from the consumer at the point of purchase, says Kathleen Gonzales, president of Vintage 99 Label.
All photos courtesy of Vintage 99 Label

“Register must be perfect,” Bartee continues. “That means the print, foils and embossing must all be in perfect register to each other, or it is not acceptable. The depth and detail of the embossings are also difficult to achieve and maintain. The die cut matches the label outline, so there is no room for any print-to-diecut variation.”

Vintage 99 Label Mfg of Livermore, CA has won awards for this label, and others. It specializes in “technically challenging” wine labels. With 28 employees and two plants—Livermore and Santa Rosa—it prints flexographic and offset on three inline presses, one digital press and one finishing press; plus, it converts with three different rewinders.

Six Core Components

Wine labels like this are anything but ordinary. They have been meticulously designed to elicit an emotional response from the consumer at the point of purchase. Roughly 70 percent to 80 percent of all wine purchase decisions are made at the point of sale, so a label that is “technically challenging” simply helps sell more wine. Kathleen Gonzales, president of Vintage 99 Label, states, “The label is the brand, but the brand loyalty comes from what is inside the bottle.”

According to Gonzales, Vintage 99 has built its reputation on exceptional service and absolute quality. There are no “typical” jobs at Vintage 99. Most have unique combinations of the six core elements—print, foil, emboss/deboss, coating, texture and die cutting.

Five Critical Keys

Bartee manages the plant, buys materials, does the scheduling and manages production. He knows that producing these unique labels requires particular equipment. He explained the importance of having not only the proper equipment, but also the proper configuration of those machines: “Every one of our presses is custom-tailored to do wine labels.”

Bill Bartee, VP, Vintage 99 Label, considers this ZD Pinor Noir label, a 2020 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards silver winner, the most technically challenging label the plant produces. It requires laydown of five colors—three of which are custom-matched and one of which is metallic—plus two foils, two embosses and a scuff-resistant coating. As if that’s not hard enough, the die cut must match the label outline.

The print and converting machines at Vintage 99’s Livermore plant are comprised of two conventional flexographic, one digital press, one finishing press and a CEI rewinder. The machines were purchased specially configured for technically challenging wine labels. The Nilpeter is configured differently than had ever been done before, and the Omega finishing press is not a typical configuration. Bartee shares details:

  • Nilpeter flexographic press—13-in., 9-color, UV inks, with two flat stamp stations, a rotary screen and die cut
  • Mark Andy 2200 flexographic press—10-in., 8-color, with rotary hot stamp, rotary polyemboss and die cut
  • HP 6800 digital press—13-in.
  • Omega Digicon finishing press—13-in. with flat stamp foil, two flexographic stations, rotary screen, rotary poly emboss, flat stamp emboss, die cut
  • CEI rewinder

Five “mission critical” keys are all essential to success, and it is no coincidence that the term quality is in four of them.

Proper & Quality Equipment

Manufacturing such labels is not an easy task. Doing so requires a special blend of equipment uniquely configured, and an absolute commitment to quality from everyone in the company.

The organization must have the tools in place to monitor, measure, track and report quality at every step of the process. There is no excuse for a press not to have 100 percent inspection on it to monitor quality and eliminate defects as they occur. A rewinder should be held to the same standards, and should remove all defects to guarantee you only ship quality product to your customers.

Gonzales feels “it should be the standard for every machine” in the industry.

Chai is the lead quality inspector at Vintage 99 Label. His machine also has TubeScan 100 percent inspection, and is linked to all four presses in the plant and the QC Department via the Tubescan WorkFlow.

Proper Quality Standards

The more technical elements a label has, the greater the risk for print errors, increased waste, downtime, lower speeds and customer dissatisfaction. The manufacturing process must be very carefully controlled and managed from prepress to shipping, and every step in between.

A label with all six quality control elements, like the majority produced at Vintage 99, has near 24 quality parameters that must be checked during the run and finishing. Usually, the quality parameters are very tight, due to either the label design or the customer’s needs.