Nordby Wine Caves


November 30, 2018

PC138USLC a perfect fit

Gateway Pipeline

Operator Nick Newman shapes cave walls with a Komatsu PC138USLC excavator equipped with a cutter head. “It’s smooth and easy to operate,” said Newman. “You can set the hydraulics to match the conditions, and if you need to adjust, you can simply do so with the touch of a button.”

Gateway Pipeline

Road Machinery Account Manager Jason Ketchum (left) meets with Nordby Wine Caves President Rick Shone on a jobsite in the Napa Valley. “Jason and Road Machinery have taken good care of us and because of that we have developed a strong relationship,” said Shone.

It’s no secret that the Napa Valley is prime real estate for wineries. People driving through the region can easily see the vineyards and production facilities, but they may not realize there are a significant number of wineries with an underground component.

“That’s our forte,” said Rick Shone of Nordby Wine Caves. “Our main focus is constructing underground spaces, primarily for the wine industry. We have also completed garages, art tunnels and are looking at water-storage tunnels. However, those types of jobs are a relatively small percentage of our business.”

Rick, along with Craig Nordby, are current owners of Nordby Wine Caves. Craig and his brother, Del, started the company about 20 years ago, and Rick purchased Del’s share of the business nearly a decade ago. Today, Craig is CEO and Rick is President of the Santa Rosa-based business.

“Many of our clients have dreamt about being winery owners for a long time,” said Rick. “Often, they buy property for their vineyard, then build the winery and a wine cave. The caves generally offer constant temperature and humidity, which are ideal conditions for storing products.”

Some clients seek more than just a space for barrels or bottles of wine.

“We have completed projects from 1,000 to 30,000 square feet for customers who want everything from a small area to store barrels to a complete underground winery,” shared Rick. “They may need a space to host events. As long as they have a hillside with proper topography – sufficient slope that allows us to tunnel into the hillside – and acceptable geology, we can help them design and create whatever they are looking for.”

Close consultation

Nordby Wine Caves serves as either a general or subcontractor, working closely with customers and geotechnical, design and mechanical engineers to determine if a site is suitable, and, if so, what parameters must be met. These conditions include the size of the cave and ventilation system, thickness of the concrete liner, what reinforcement is needed as well as electrical requirements.

“Once everyone agrees on the concept, price and drawings, we’re ready to proceed,” noted Rick. “We start by striking a vertical face, and either we or another firm constructs a retaining wall at the front of the structure. Most caves are arch-shaped, so they have radius points. Surveyors give us the points, we paint a profile from those and begin excavating. As we tunnel, we continue to paint, excavate and put up the reinforcing liner.”

PC138USLC a perfect fit

In its early days, Nordby Wine Caves predominantly used tunneling machines. Approximately 10 years ago, the firm switched to excavators and in 2016 purchased its first Komatsu, a PC138USLC that is equipped with a cutter head, for shaping caves. The business worked with Road Machinery and Account Manager Jason Ketchum to acquire the machine plus a rental unit.

“For the most part, caves are still relatively small, with 10 to 11 feet of headroom, so we need a compact machine,” Rick explained. “At the same time, the equipment has to be productive and versatile. When looking for a new excavator, I checked around and several companies recommended Komatsu. I contacted Jason, and we worked together to find the right machine for our needs. The PC138 has proven to be a perfect fit.”

Road Machinery modified the tight-tail-swing model by shortening the stick and repositioning cylinders. “We wanted to get some articulation at the end of the stick, so that the operator has the ability to move the cutter head in multiple ways. It also created better visibility,” reported Rick. “What’s really impressive is that the PC138 has several hydraulic settings, so with the touch of a button the operator can adjust the flow to the cutter head and slow it down or speed it up to match the material conditions.

“I also really appreciate KOMTRAX,” Rick added. “I receive an email showing me how many hours the machine worked and other important information. Road Machinery has the same data, so they contact me when a service is due, schedule it and get it done under the Komatsu CARE program. That’s a great value. Jason and Road Machinery have taken good care of us and because of that we have developed a strong relationship.”

At the forefront

The genesis of wine cave construction dates back to the late 1800s and has continued to evolve. Nordby Wine Caves embraces new methods and the latest technology.

“We believe in being at the forefront of the industry,” said Rick. “For instance, we have certified nozzlemen to spray shotcrete for the reinforcing liner. We offer new cave styles, such as ‘grotto,’ which looks more like it was naturally carved out of the earth. Other clients want a more traditional, finished look that’s straight with sharp edges. Whatever the style, we can do it efficiently, productively and so that it meets or exceeds our customers’ expectations.”

The relationship led to the formation of a cutting-edge fleet for Professional Excavating. In 2012, Gardner purchased a Komatsu Hybrid HB215LC-1 excavator. It was the input and backing from Roland that convinced Gardner to select the unique machine.

“I’ll admit that I was skeptical of the hybrid technology, but I’m happy I trusted what Roland told me,” recalled Gardner. “We get the same performance from the HB215 that we would have from a similar standard model, and the fuel savings are significant. This is a fast machine, and it’s so quiet that we thought it wasn’t working right in the beginning. It’s been great.”

Gardner liked his original HB215 so much that he purchased a second one two years later. He increased his advantage even further in 2015 when he bought a Komatsu intelligent Machine Control D61PXi dozer with integrated GPS technology.

“Getting the D61PXi was a no-brainer for us,” stated Gardner. “We had aftermarket systems before, so we knew the value of GPS, but the integration of the technology and how it all works together on the D61PXi is a whole other level.

“Most importantly, it allows us to be a lot more efficient,” he added. “The D61PXi totally eliminated our need for someone checking grade. Now that person can be in a machine doing work. I think a lot of people assume this technology is for large businesses, but it is a huge benefit to us, and we are a company of just three people. It was well worth the investment.”

With the advanced technology in his fleet, Gardner trusts Roland to service his equipment. “Every time we needed something, Roland has been on top of it. From Jay Germann, our original salesperson, to Sales Manager Chris Ingram and our Territory Manager Matt Lounsberry, the people at Roland have always been first-class. We appreciate their commitment to us.”

Future growth

With a solid reputation and an efficient operation, Gardner is pleased with Professional Excavating’s first 12 years in business. He hopes the years to come follow a similar path.

“I really like where we are at right now; it’s the right fit for us,” explained Gardner. “I don’t see us growing too much. I like having a small crew and the family-like atmosphere it brings; however, I do see us continuing to add services that make sense. We want to deliver high-quality projects for our customers. That will always be our main goal.”