A winery in La Jolla is on a mission to reduce single-use packaging in its industry one reusable bottle at a time.
Lowell Jooste — who has owned LJ Crafted Wines in Bird Rock with his wife, Anne Jooste, for three years —said that after relocating to San Diego from South Africa, he became inspired by the thriving beer industry here; particularly the breweries' use of growlers.
So he replicated the process, first experimenting at home with water until he created a delivery system where he could serve wine directly from the barrel. People who visit LJ Crafted Wines at 5621 La Jolla Blvd., can either enjoy their wine by the glass or take it home in growlers. The goal is to get people to bring back the bottles when they’re finished, so they can be cleaned and used again.
“The whole idea is to sell wine and not the packaging,” said Jooste, who believes LJ Crafted Wines is the only wine company in the country doing this. “It’s like we’re going back 100 years ago when you used to take your own container and get it filled.”
Because Jooste believes that the concept of producing zero-waste is bigger than his little winery in Bird Rock, he recently got a patent for his by-the-barrel system (which he calls "wine stewards”) for the United States, Italy, Spain, France, and Germany. He hopes to soon be able to distribute the system to different wineries across the U.S.
“There’s a lot of talk about sustainability,” Jooste said. “It’s such a big word, and it includes everything from how you treat people to if you use harmful products in your wine. For me, single-use packaging is one of the biggest issues, and we’re showing that there’s a way to avoid using it on the retail side.”
Not only is LJ Crafted Wine’s zero-waste concept good for the environment, but Jooste also believes that it’s beneficial from an economic standpoint, due to the time, money and effort that is spent on creating packaging and a brand.
“Building a brand in a crowded marketplace is a lot harder than just making wine,” he said with a smile. “Our story here is an environmental story, different from anything else in the industry, so we built a following in just six months.”
While a big part of that story is their by-the-barrel service, it’s also how they’ve decorated their space. After losing 30 barrels during the 2014 earthquake in Napa Valley, Lowell and Anne Jooste were close to calling it quits on the business they hadn’t even opened yet. But they persevered and used the destroyed barrels to create a feature wall inside their winery as well as pendant lights that hang over the bar.
“We designed [LJ Crafted Wines] around the theory that everything should work,” Lowell Jooste said. “I like to think the concept of what we’re doing here is much bigger than this business, and we’d like to see it repeated a lot more.”
For more information about LJ Crafted Wines, visit ljcraftedwines.com.