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Ukiah’s Maverick makes 10 billion capsules

Jul 09, 2023

Charley Sawyer, left, son of Maverick Enterprises co-founder Charlie Sawyer, Clarence McCoy and Jon Henderson celebrate the making of the company's 10 billionth wine bottle capsule. (Justine Frederiksen - Ukiah Daily Journal)

All the colors of the rainbow and much more are displayed in a closet at Maverick Enterprises as some of each capsule production line is saved for quality control. (Justine Frederiksen - Ukiah Daily Journal).

A milestone was marked by Maverick Enterprises Friday, as its 10 billionth wine bottle capsule rolled off the production lines at its facility on East Gobbi Street, made for the Kendall-Jackson winery from a machine operated by longtime employee Clarence McCoy.

Capsules are the material wrapped around the top of a wine bottle that most people don’t give little thought to before cutting them off so they can pop the cork. But at Maverick, every detail of each capsule is meticulously planned to make sure it is exactly what a wine producer wants at the top of his or her bottle.

In fact, Jon Henderson, Maverick’s executive vice-president of sales and business development, said you can tell how much a bottle costs by the material the capsule is made out of.

For “value bottles,” those less than $8, the capsule is made out of PVC and formed to the shape of the bottle using heat. For more expensive bottles, a polylaminate material made up of three layers (a thin layer of plastic sandwiched between two layers of aluminum) is used to mimic tin, and those malleable capsules are formed to the bottles with rollers. For bottles $20 and up, actual tin is used.

The material the capsules are made of is crucial because it needs to allow Maverick to print each winery’s intricate designs and lettering on them, using its own printing machines and creating “virtually any color” from the 16 different tanks of ink in its color room.

The company was founded in 1992 by Charlie Sawyer, who went to work for the Fetzer family after growing up with them in Ukiah. Before Maverick was started, most of the California wineries bought their capsules, which contained lead, from Europe, Henderson explained. But when lead was banned from capsules by the early 1990s, wineries like Fetzer had to find a new source of capsules.

So Sawyer was sent to Europe to bring back one of the capsule-making machines, and soon he was making capsules for Fetzer in Hopland. It wasn’t long, however, before he decided to branch out on his own, incorporating Maverick with his wife, Nancy. In their first production year in 1993, they produced 22,125,300 capsules with five employees using one machine.

Now, the company has 115 employees that make an average of 3,300,000 capsules a day, the vast majority of which are made for wine bottles, though a small percentage are made for liquor bottles.

A portion of each capsule order is kept aside and stored for six months, allowing Maverick staff to check their products in case any problems arise, and creating a beautiful closet display of colors.

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