New Mexico’s desert climate and terrain set the stage for a unique bouquet of agricultural commodities. Produce, forestry products, free-range beef, nuts, hay and more all thrive in the seemingly endless sunshine. The state is even gaining recognition as a wine region. This is due in part to the vision of one French family looking to expand their winemaking legacy to the United States.
The Gruet family has been making champagne in Bethon, France since the early 1950s. In 1984, the family established the Gruet Winery in Albuquerque, where the ideal climate, soil and elevation provide grapes for 26 sparkling and still wines. Today, Gruet’s expanding winery produces 250,000 cases of the beverage every year.
As winemaking equipment was added and demand increased, however, Gruet took steps to raise production while maintaining the quality linked to the brand’s trademark.
“Our production capacity was limited by our ability to clean the stainless steel tanks in a timely manner,” says Larry Rodriguez, Gruet production supervisor and maintenance manager. “The faster we can sanitize the tanks between batches, the more wine we can produce.”
The winery’s supply of hot water was the biggest factor holding the process back. Rodriguez says Gruet needs about 1,200 gallons of hot water each day.
With 43 wine tanks, cleaning consumed a lot of time and even more hot water. The tanks range in size from 10,000 to 60,000 gallons. Until this summer, the sanitation process included the use of an electric “hot cart” or mobile hot water production system. But the unit was capable of providing only 10 gpm of 160-degree water, meaning that it took Gruet employees the better part of two days to sanitize a single tank.
Hot water help
In desperate need of more hot water capacity, but unable to sacrifice any floor space in the winery, Gruet contacted Bosque Heating and Cooling, an Albuquerque contractor the winery had used on various occasions in the past.
Bosque’s 29 employees share the founders’ vision of becoming the best mechanical company in Albuquerque, not the biggest, and to make the city a better place to live each day.
“We assembled a group of people that have a heart for this city,” says Carlos Griego, CEO at Bosque. “To see a flourishing local winery here is fantastic, and we’ve been honored to serve them on multiple occasions.”
Meetings between Bosque and Gruet included discussions about volume water heaters and tankless systems. The winery chose the tankless option for two main reasons; redundancy and physical space within the building. Navien NPE-240S condensing tankless water heaters were selected due to Bosque’s familiarity with the product line.
Over a two-week period, Bosque designed the new hot water system with Jordan Mahboub, from RepNet, a manufacturers rep based in Phoenix, and Dave Modica, with Winsupply of Albuquerque. The goal was to supply water at least 40 gpm at 170 degrees.
“You have a lot of choices in tankless water heaters,” Griego adds. “We’ve used Navien since the day we founded the company. They’ve always offered tons of support, and so has Winsupply. I know I can call Dave any time, day or night.”
The hot water demand and the request for full redundancy required 12 Navien water heaters to be installed. The NPE-240S is a 199,900 BTUH tankless condensing water heater that features dual stainless steel heat exchangers, a 10-to-1 turndown ratio, and efficiency rating of 0.97 UEF or Universal Energy Factor.
Out of harm’s way
Beginning in 2019, the 12-unit system was installed on an elevated catwalk in the filtering room. This kept the water heaters off the floor and out of harm’s way, but also allows Gruet to use the space under the system for wine filtration equipment.
The water heaters are installed in two rows, back to back, and common vented. Navien’s Ready-Link rack and manifold system was used to simplify the installation and save space, which helped reduce the size of the custom fabricated catwalk.
The Ready-Link Manifold System provides everything required for a multiple-unit installation, including manifolds for water and gas, racks for floor mounting, valves, connections and flexible gas lines. It also allows maintenance personnel to isolate gas and water from one unit while the others remain in service.
The Bosque crews also installed more than 5,000 feet of hot water distribution piping as part of the project. The large hot water line is recirculated constantly with long hoses descending from five different points of use from the hot water line for convenient use.
“We sell about half a dozen Navien NPE water heaters each week,” Griego explains. “Multiple-unit installations are very common on commercial jobs like this one, so being able to cascade the units is a big advantage. You simply run Navien’s cascade cable from one unit to the next. The cascading feature, the rack and the manifold system make an installation like this one a breeze.”
The system came online in September, two months after the project started. Gruet now has full redundancy. Bosque’s system can sustain 80 gpm of 170-degree water with all the NPE units running, or full redundancy of the design load.
“Getting and keeping the water up to the correct temperature is critical for us,” Rodriguez adds. “We’ve seen a tremendous improvement since the first day these came online. We’re able sanitize the tanks much faster and more thoroughly.”
The new Navien system also allows the winery to use new, larger wine filters. That means a tank can now be filtered in six hours, vs. the 14 hours it used to take.
“Our electric bill has fallen off notably,” Rodriguez says, “and we’re not dragging a big power cord behind a hot cart to clean tanks.”
According to Griego, the ability to deliver these kinds of outstanding systems starts with product selection and customer support.
“The NPE line from Navien is amazing,” Griego says. “Good products sell themselves, but it helps that the pricing on these systems is good. In our industry, product support matters as much as the product. I need that support in order to care for my customers, and Navien, RepNet and Winsupply have always been there when we needed them.”
Griego adds: “We want to improve the community around us, and we do so by supporting local charities and investing in the businesses around us. All of that happens on the back end. On the front end, long-term relationships are the key to all our success. We’re looking 10, 15, or 20 years down the road. We’re building long term customers. In order to do that we have to provide quality service and quality products.”