The Wine Scholar Guild (WSG) officially launched its Spanish Wine
Scholar™ (SWS) study & certification program on October 14th 2019.
Designed to become the
reference in Spanish wine education, the program was nearly two years in
development at the hands of the WSG Education team with SWS Education Director,
Rick Fisher, at the helm.
“The SWS program will give
students appreciation for how tradition and modernity perfectly coexist and why
Spain is one of the most exciting and enviable countries on the world wine
stage,” states Rick Fisher.
The Spanish Wine Scholar™ study program mirrors the
unparalleled level of detail and academic rigor offered by the acclaimed French
Wine Scholar™ & Italian Wine Scholar™ programs.
“Now covering all three major wine producing and exporting
countries in the world, the Wine Scholar Guild has become the world’s leading
provider of specialized certification programs” states Julien Camus, WSG
Founder and President.
The 315-page, full-color
SWS study manual represents today’s most comprehensive and up-to-date resource
and definitive reference book on the wines of Spain! It was written by Rick
Fisher with the collaboration of numerous Spanish Consejos Reguladores
(governing bodies) and copy-edited by Jonas Tofterup, MW, of Iberian Wine
In recognition of the
exceptional depth and accuracy of the program, Wines from Spain (ICEX – Spain’s
Trade & Investment Government Agency) endorsed the program. Alfonso Janeiro
Diez, Head of Wines from Spain in Madrid states, “Wines from Spain is pleased
to have had the opportunity to witness and consult on the development of this
much needed and important Spanish Wine Scholar program since its
inception. The program offers a great
opportunity for those who want to widen their knowledge of the wines from
Designed for committed
students of wine, be they wine professionals or serious wine hobbyists, the SWS
program is offered in both distance-learning and classroom-learning format.
A pioneer in online wine
education with its first online study program launched in 2008, WSG has created
a wealth of e-learning resources to empower SWS students: online modules,
quizzes, learning games, flashcards, pronunciation exercises, etc.
Wine educators from WSG’s Approved Program Provider network –
currently 60+ wine schools in 26 countries – were trained as part of the SWS
pre-launch beginning in January 2019. Many of these educators are now preparing
to teach the SWS program this fall utilizing the teaching materials developed and
provided by WSG.
Among the 120 wine
educators in training, 40 have already passed the SWS exam and earned the
Spanish Wine Scholar title. 20 sessions are currently scheduled at partner
schools in the US, Canada, UK and Sweden.
About the Wine Scholar Guild: The Wine Scholar Guild (www.winescholarguild.org) provides specialized study & certification programs on the wines of France, Italy and Spain for the professional development of wine industry members and committed students of wine.
With the holiday season comes infinite ways to celebrate the fruit
of vineyards from coast-to-coast. Wineries and tasting rooms across the U.S.
count the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s to be amongst their busiest
and, in some cases, amongst their most profitable. Moreover, ancillary
businesses, including hotels, inns, restaurants and special events venues,
benefit from creative partnerships with local wineries during the holidays.
Walter Clore Wine & Culinary
The Walter Clore Wine
& Culinary Center stays open year-round and features Washington wines in
its tasting room and during special events. The space was named for the man
whose years of scientific research established Washington state as the
second-largest premium wine producer in the country. According to the Center,
Washington’s wine industry contributes approximately $14.9 billion to the U.S.
economy and supports an estimated 27,000 jobs. Those numbers underscore why the
holidays are an important component of marketing the state’s wine producers and
The Clore Center showcases
Washington’s wine industry, as well as the science of enology, through a
combination of educational, experiential and entertainment activities. Its
holiday events kick off just before Thanksgiving, featuring established and
up-and-coming Yakima Valley wineries. On Saturdays throughout November and
December, several Yakima Valley winemakers will be pouring at the Center’s
“Meet the Makers” event with the pertinent theme, “Thanksgiving in Wine
Country.” In December, the Center will feature sparkling wines from
Washington’s Columbia Gorge.
The Center’s holiday
events will also include classes every Saturday in November and the first two
Saturdays in December, according to Deb Carter, the Clore Center’s Wine and
Culinary Program Director. That might, for example, include a cooking class
from a local master chef on how to pair local wines with farm-to-table meals
using local produce.
In addition to educational
classes, the venue rents out space during the holidays for corporate
gatherings, parties and other holiday-centered outings, many of which choose to
feature local wines.
Wineries, tasting rooms,
restaurants and others vested in promoting Yakima Valley wine during the
holidays are, at the same time, raising money for a charitable cause—fighting
hunger. “Thanksgiving in Wine Country,” will benefit Northwest Harvest and
kicks off during Thanksgiving weekend. The event also allows visitors to take
advantage of deals on wines and related products.
Other Yakima Valley
December events include Prosser, Washington-based Milbrandt Vineyards’ “Holiday
Flights and Bites,” featuring holiday wines and food pairings with live
“The holidays are key for
us because customers tend to purchase more of our higher tier wines like our
Reserves, especially if they are buying wine as gifts,” says Milbrandt
Vineyard’s Tasting Room Manager, Karen Ballew. “This holiday season is
particularly special because we will be releasing our ‘Bottle Your Charity’
Sparkling Rosé with the winning charity’s mission featured on the back of the
bottle. Direct donations from wine sales go to the charity.”
One of Millbrandt’s
holiday marketing strategies, says Ballew, is a play on words derived from a
holiday favorite, Twelve Days of Christmas. “We will be bringing back our 12
Days of Deals, an online campaign we ran during the holidays that was
incredibly successful the last couple of years. We will also be launching our
Cyber Monday campaign where customers can get up to 40% off certain cases of
As for partnering with
local businesses, Ballew says Millbrandt favors specialty food shops, whose
treats pair well with Milbrandt wines. “We partner with a few local business,
most notably Jade’s British Girl Treats,” she says. “Jade’s is a local bakery/chocolate/sandwich
shop in Prosser. They just opened a few months ago in downtown. They handle
catering for our events and also cater our small plate menu that we offer in
the tasting room daily.
We also feature for sale a
small selection of Chukar Cherries that are specifically paired with some of
our wines. Another partnership is with Wine Country RV Park. We pour at their
evening tastings about once a month during their peak season. They promote our
events on their emails and on the TV in their retail shop.”
Tourism on the 45th Parallel
Hotels and inns tied to
wineries have a unique focus on the holidays. In Northern Michigan, wineries
and tasting rooms dot the landscape along the same 45th parallel as
Washington’s wine region. Among them is the internationally renowned Black Star
Farms, a family-owned enterprise known for, among other products, its signature
‘Pear in a Bottle’ wine.
Black Star Farms provides
a backdrop for holiday-inspired events, such as snowshoeing on its vast grounds
and cooking classes that teach guests how to pair wines with various cuisines.
Its most notable event, however, is the annual New Year’s Eve Wine Dinner, a
formal occasion featuring a multi-course meal paired with wines produced by
Black Star Farms. The event is popular enough that tickets go on sale beginning
in early fall. Sherri Campbell Fenton, whose parents, Kerm and Sallie Campbell,
established Black Star Farms in 1998, is managing proprietor. She told The
Grapevine Magazine that the holidays are, indeed, big business.
“The holidays are a key
time for Black Star Farms, for both holiday wine sales and the hospitality side
of our business,” says Campbell Fenton. “Obviously, wine sales are strong for
gifting and parties. We have a luxurious 10 room inn on our 160-acre property,
which is a favorite for guests as a quiet, romantic escape, especially during
the winter when blanketed in snow. We also host holiday corporate wine paired
dinners as well as private or family gatherings. Holidays are a strong time for
these. Many times, gift certificates are purchased for wine sales or inn stays
during the holidays, as a gift of Black Star Farms is a very special one for
At Washington’s end of the
45th parallel, there’s the Hotel Maison, a landmark in downtown Yakima, listed
on the National Register of Historic Places. The hotel’s holiday offerings
include a package featuring Yakima’s annual “Sip, Stroll & Stay.” This
promotional event features a downtown stroll with food, entertainment, and, at
the end of the evening, an opportunity to overnight at the historic Maison,
built in 1911 by Yakima Freemasons. Guests receive their choice of a bottle of
wine, cider or beer delivered to their room. In addition to hosting wine
tastings with local sommeliers, Hotel Maison does its part to promote wineries
during Yakima Valley’s ‘Thanksgiving in Wine Country.’ They feature an
overnight package that includes a bottle of Yakima Valley wine and a gourmet
cheese board delivered to guests.
A quieter holiday respite
can be found at Washington’s Cozy Rose Inn, an acclaimed bed and breakfast
owned by husband and wife Mark and Jennie Jackson in Yakima Valley’s Grandview
area. The Jacksons have relied upon friendships with local wineries over the
past 27 years, which keeps guest referrals coming in both directions. Having a
great location, Mark Jackson says, goes a long way. “Guests come to the Valley
for the sunshine and wine. We’re just in a prime location, being in the middle
of Yakima Valley. They taste on their way down the Valley, stay here, eat dinner,
and the next morning, they’re off to Red Mountain and Prosser Wineries.”
In addition to its
chef-inspired gourmet breakfast, during the holidays the Cozy Rose Inn offers
guests staying at least two nights a candlelit dinner for two, which includes a
bottle from one of the region’s wineries.
Holiday Food Pairing
Foodies looking for a
Southwestern flavor to pair with Washington wines during the holidays turn to
Los Hernandez Tamales, another family-owned business in Yakima Valley. They
tout an authentic family recipe, combining it with local, Washington state
ingredients, including the state’s bountiful asparagus crop. Rachel Wilburn,
whose father, Felipe Hernandez, started the business in 1990, says the holidays
are tremendously hectic for the Hernandez clan.
“Tamales are traditionally
a holiday season food. Christmas, in particular, is the busiest time for them.
We open early, and everyone gets tamales with or without an order. We usually
have 400 to 600 dozen in pre-orders, but we sell 1,000 dozens (12,000 single
tamales) by the end of the day, all made by hand.” Wilburn says that Los
Hernandez Tamales is also called upon all over Washington to participate in
events that pair their famous tamales with regional wines.
Gingerbread co-stars with
wines at Desert Wind Winery, which supports a local charity through its annual
“Gingerbread Build Off.” This holiday-themed event, held in November, draws
professional bakers from throughout the Yakima Valley region. Wine barrels serve as the background for
gingerbread creations large and small in a winery whose Southwestern style
architecture belies its Washington state location.
It’s not difficult to see
how the holidays bring out the best in wineries and related industries across
the United States. From charitable giving to savvy marketing, synergy builds
between businesses that understand the value of partnerships during the holiday
Last July, Judit was invited to speak to a group of growers in
Pennsylvania. The presentation focused primarily on grapevine diseases caused
by bacteria, fungi, and viruses but at the group’s request pesticide drift was
also covered. Extension specialist
colleagues: Mike White (recently retired from Iowa State University), Tim
Martinson (Cornell University), and Bruce Bordelon (Purdue University) helped
by providing photos of herbicide injury in vineyards. However, according to the audience and what
was seen the next day at the vineyards, other more drastic symptoms are
observed in their vineyards, such as complete wilting of leaves in the vine and
rapid defoliation (see photos taken by Judit).
So many times, throughout
our careers, plant pathologists are called to check out vineyards that have
“interesting” symptoms that do not necessarily fit with the symptoms caused by
the “usual suspects”. It seems like more
often than not, vineyards are affected by chemical products that were not
intended to be applied to the vines. The
effects of these unwanted chemicals can cause long term and often times
irreversible damage to grapevine (and other crop) plants. This article will have a different focus and
will cover pesticide drift, specifically the injury caused by herbicides in
Pesticide drift is defined
as the movement of a pesticide to unintended areas from the site of
application. Pesticide drift can be
harmful to humans, animals, and plants.
Obviously, when a product is applied during a time of heavy winds, it is
expected that the product will be transported to another field in the direction
of prevailing winds. However, many
herbicides (especially the ester formulations of 2-4-D) are able to volatilize,
forming clouds that may be transported and ultimately land miles away from the
application site causing tremendous damage to the vineyard plants.
Herbicides are chemical
products that are used to control weeds in agriculture lands, lawns (e.g., golf
courses or homes), highways, etc. The
herbicides most commonly used are plant growth regulators (PGRs). While PGRs are used to kill weeds with broad
leaves, these chemicals have detrimental effects on important commercial
crops. The most common situation is when
herbicides applied in neighboring farms that grow row crops such as corn,
sorghum, or soybeans, are transported to a vineyard. The effect in the vineyard can go from
distorted leaves, shortened internodes, complete defoliation, to vine
death. Depending on the time in which
the injury occurs it can have severe effects on the quality of the grape fruit
to complete loss of production. The the
effect of herbicides in the grape clusters can be seen in Fig 1. Initially the herbicide damage may be observed
in one or two of the berries in a cluster.
But later, the damaged fruit becomes susceptible to infection by
secondary saprophytic organisms that ultimately deteriorate the whole cluster.
The damage caused by PGRs
can be long lasting and in some cases the only solution is to replace the
affected vines with new plants.
Unfortunately, vineyards may suffer more than one drift incident during
its lifespan resulting in an uneven vineyard consisting of vines of different
ages and sizes. The diverse size of
vines creates a challenge to the grower as each plant must be managed
differently due to their nutrition and water requirements, not to mention that
younger vines are more susceptible to herbicide injury.
When damage caused by an
herbicide is noticed in the vineyard, growers must act quickly to determine the
injury’s cause. In all instances, damage
must be documented with photos. In
addition, physical samples must be submitted to a lab to determine which pesticide
is the culprit of the injury. Since
there are many different possible chemicals that can cause similar symptoms,
the grower needs to have some knowledge as to what chemical is suspected as the
laboratory needs to perform specific tests to confirm the presence. A common problem is that chemicals can move
a long distance, hence not always easy to determine where the drift
originated. However, if the grower,
knows the origin of the herbicide (saw spraying activity in a nearby farm),
s/he could attempt to ask the farmer to follow label directions to avoid drift
or to use a less volatile product. If
the activity continues in spite of the request, the only viable solution may be
to take legal action against the perpetrators.
Although the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) requires all pesticides to be registered, through the
Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FINRA), regulation of
pesticide application is generally the responsibility of each individual
state’s department of agriculture or environmental agency. Naturally, each state’s approach has been
tailored to the unique requirements and circumstances of its jurisdiction,
resulting in a broad spectrum of regulatory frameworks. Accordingly, the strategy for taking legal
action in the event of pesticide drift will depend greatly upon the state in
which the damage occurred. However, the
following are some of the most common legal theories under which these cases
may be brought.
A legal claim for
negligence occurs when four conditions are satisfied. Someone owes a duty of care, that person
breaches their duty of care, another person or their property is damaged, and
the breach of duty is the cause of that damage.
It is generally accepted that someone applying pesticides owes a duty of
care in their application methods.
Further, demonstrating that a neighboring crop or property was damaged
is fairly easy. The difficulty in these
claims is proving that the applicator breached the duty of care and that the breach
was the “proximate” cause of the damage.
Whether there is a breach
of duty depends, in part, on the extent of the drift. Nearly all pesticide applications involve
some amount of drift. The applicator is
only negligent if the pesticide is used under conditions or in a way that
exceeds normal drift.
There are many ways in
which a pesticide applicator may breach their duty of care. Commercial pesticides, such as 2,4-D, come
with instructions specifically designed to minimize the risk of drift. For example, 2,4-D instructions say not to
apply the chemical when the wind is stronger than 15 miles per hour. There are also instructions relating to
concentration, droplet size, temperature, and suitable equipment. Further, state and local jurisdictions often
have regulatory requirements involving crop buffer zones or setbacks. Failure to abide by these instructions and
regulations would likely be considered a breach of the duty of care.
Other actions may not be
as clear. For example, in an aerial
application of pesticide, the higher the altitude at the time of chemical
release, the greater the risk of drift.
How high is too high in a given case will depend on many factors,
including; the type of chemical, the form of the chemical, the equipment used,
the wind speed, the topography of the land, etc.
To prevail on a negligence
claim, you must prove not only the breach of duty, but that the breach caused
the injuries to your land. This may be
especially difficult if there are multiple land-owners surrounding your
property and each of them uses the same or similar pesticides. How do you know which one caused your
damage? Some successful claims have
included testimonial evidence that aerial application was made across property
lines and that visual pesticide residue or odors were detected on the damaged
property after observing application on the neighboring property.
Res Ipsa Loquitor
There are some
circumstances in which the damage itself is sufficient evidence of
negligence. In these cases, there is a
legal doctrine known as res ipsa loquitor (Latin for “the thing speaks for
itself”) that applies. Essentially, the
argument is that some events do not ordinarily happen in the absence of
negligence. So, for example, if a crop
duster suddenly drops its entire load of pesticide on a property 10 miles away
from the intended target, that is sufficient proof that the pilot was negligent
in operating and/or maintaining the equipment.
Some products or
activities are so inherently dangerous that even when exercising great care,
injury is likely to occur. The classic
example is owning a tiger. It doesn’t
matter how strong a cage you use to hold the tiger, how much training you have
in working with tigers, or what precautions you use to ensure your is
restrained. If your tiger escapes and
bites someone, you will be liable, because tigers are inherently
Many states have
specifically found that pesticide application is NOT inherently dangerous,
meaning that strict liability does not apply.
There is one 1961 case, however, where a court disagreed. In Young v. Darter, the Oklahoma Supreme
Court held that application of 2,4-D was inherently dangerous and found the
applicator strictly liable for damage to his neighbor’s cotton crop. It is worth noting that both cotton and grape
vines are highly susceptible to damage from 2,4-D.
Most people understand
that if a person enters their land without permission, they are guilty of
trespassing. Some jurisdictions,
however, have also held that releases of chemical substances that settle on the
property of another can constitute a trespass.
For example, in 1959, the Oregon Supreme Court held in Martin v.
Reynolds Metals, Co. that the defendant’s release of fluoride gas that settled
on adjacent land, rendering it unfit for cattle grazing, was an actionable
trespass. Unlike a negligence claim,
actual damage to the subject property is not a required element in a trespass
claim, though lack of injury may dramatically restrict the amount of any
Whereas trespass law
addresses physical intrusion of pesticide particles onto the property of
another, nuisance law addresses the interference with the use and enjoyment of
the land that results from such an intrusion.
So, for example, if a pesticide drifts onto vineyard property in
detectable amounts, it may constitute a trespass, whether there was damage or
not. But, if the grapevines on the
property were damaged, it would interfere with the owner’s use and enjoyment of
the land, giving rise to a nuisance claim.
It is worth noting that at least one jurisdiction, Minnesota, has held
that pesticide drift can ONLY constitute a nuisance and not a trespass, because
the particles are not a “tangible” object that affects the owner’s exclusive
possession of the land.
Two other points are worth
mentioning. First, before bringing suit
in a pesticide drift case, it is important to know who applied the pesticide. If the owner of the neighboring property or
one of his employees did it, then he is liable.
But, if it was applied by an independent contractor hired by the
neighbor, it may only be the contractor who is liable. In some cases, where the neighbor specifically
directed the contractor to use certain chemicals, or to spray them in a
particular manner, both the neighbor and the contractor may be liable. Second, there have been cases in which
pesticide drift has caused the damaged property to lose certification as an
“organic” farm. Some states, such as
Maryland, have databases of sensitive crops.
Owners should be sure to list their organic fields in these databases to
alert neighboring farms to exercise caution in pesticide application.
Judit Monis, Ph.D. is a California-based plant health consultant, provides specialized services to help growers, vineyard managers, and nursery personnel avoid the propagation and transmission of disease caused by bacteria, fungi, and viruses in their vineyard blocks. Judit is fluent in Spanish and is available to consult in other important wine grape growing regions of the word. Please visit juditmonis.com for information or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to request a consulting session at your vineyard.
Brian Kaider is a principal of KaiderLaw, an intellectual property law firm with extensive experience in the craft beverage industry. He has represented clients from the smallest of start-up breweries to Fortune 500 corporations in the navigation of regulatory requirements, drafting and negotiating contracts, prosecuting trademark and patent applications, and complex commercial litigation. email@example.com, (240) 308-8032
A clean, transactional website that conveys a story, a consistent
and authentic social media presence, and thoughtful targeted emails are the
digital super group in your marketing arsenal. Although it seems every year
someone comes out and predicts the death of email, it is still the best direct
marketing tactic available to you. In the U.S., email usage has grown every
single year since 2012 and 91% of American internet users use email
But, that thoughtful and
targeted part ain’t easy. After you find your audience and convince them to
subscribe, which is a challenge in itself, you then have to keep their
attention. (It takes an average of six to eight touch points to generate a
qualified sales lead. (Salesforce))
The WGM Client Email Project is Born
When we are working with
our client on their email-marketing efforts, many of our clients want to know
what others are doing. The internet is full of benchmarks and studies about
email marketing, but very little exists about wine-related content. Can we
assume that we are most analogous to a “Retail” category? Agricultural? Food
and beverage? We’re never sure.
So we started a project in January 2018 that entailed recording every email we sent for our clients: 3,089,124 emails across 1,697 campaigns for 43 clients over 21 months, to be exact. We removed administrative and club emails and checked for statistical significance and can confirm this is a large enough sample to be confident about the findings. Our goal was to compare our clients’ results to the posted industry benchmarks to see if they were a good judge of success. What we uncovered was interesting.
We are not the same!
Immediately, we saw that
our emails performed differently than the posted benchmarks. We had always used
Mailchimp’s “Retail” benchmarks for our marketing – but never knew if this was
a good comparison. It turns out that its’s not.
I’d like to say that the emails we create for our clients are so
creative and impactful that they perform 20% better than industry average, and
there might be some small truth there. But, it’s more likely that the wine
category, as a whole, gets better response than the average category. “Retail” is a broad category for any email
that is selling something from Amazon to Zappos. But our clients are selling
wine, which, in most people’s world, is a good thing and a welcome distraction
from their daily drivel. Our theory is that winery customers look forward to
news about their wineries, their favorite wines or upcoming events because it
is an enjoyable hobby they have chosen to learn about and follow, versus the
Sunday white sale at Macy’s which, may or may not be, relevant this week.
Getting Their Attention: Thoughts on Open Rates
The two best predictors of
whether an email will be opened is the subject line, and when the email is
sent. We wanted to isolate both of these variables. According to data from
Marketo, 41 characters–or 7 words–is reported to be the sweet spot for email
subject line length in 2019. We counted all the characters (including spaces)
in our campaigns and came out with an average of 42…so, we were pretty
confident about our test results.
But when we got into the data we were surprised. We couldn’t find any general statistical significance between open rate and the length of the subject line. (For you nerds out there, in our analysis, R2 =.04894 indicating that there is no linear relationship.) Put another way, if you have more, or less, characters in your subject line, we couldn’t say if your email is more, or less, likely to be opened. Length didn’t matter when looking at the emails in aggregate.
However, when we look at the type of email, we saw trending. We bucketed emails into groups of club emails, eCommerce or sales emails, event announcements and emails with just information or news. We then looked at the open rate of emails whose subject line were low (1-25), medium (26-50), high (51-75) and very high (over 75) character counts. What we found was club emails perform better with brief subject lines, whereas event and newsletters are more likely to be opened with a longer, more explanative subject line. The fact that eCommerce shows little difference between lengths of subject lines indicates that it is the message that matters – or, simply, what is the offer?
The frequently debated topic of which day to send emails was also
on our radar. Old-school folklore says Tuesdays are the best, but we should
know by now that mobile phones have changed the way we consume email. It is now
a 24-7 activity done on the bus, in line at the lunch counter, during weekends
and before bedtime. Also, most people use mail applications that merge personal
and work email together on their phone or they switch back and forth. So, it’s
no longer a world where we read our work emails at the office desk between 9-5
on weekdays, and our home emails at the weekend home computer. In fact, there
is substantial research indicating that a hobby topic like reading about wine
is most often enjoyed and acted upon during weekends. So, we had our doubts.
Looking at our clients’
data, the majority of the emails were sent on Thursday, and this coincided with
a peak in open rate and click through rate. We surmised that for each client we
naturally started optimizing to the best send day, and it is definitively
Thursday. (Since they are all averages, the increased number of email campaigns
on Thursday shouldn’t necessarily mean that open and click through rates are
better, so we feel confident that mid-week is still the best time to send for
Keeping Their Attention: What About Frequency?
Then there is the question of frequency. Frequency is a complex mix of your unique databases’ relationship with your winery, and the quality of content you deliver to them. Some wineries may have developed a relationship that their customers tolerate several emails a week. Some only email twice a year. The only true way to tell your particular ideal frequency is to test and look at unsubscribe, open and click through rates.
The client pool for our data collection was wide and diverse. It included large, distributed mass-market brands, as well as small, allocation-only wines. It should be noted, generally, that the larger the winery, the more frequently they emailed their database. But, when we looked across all 43 clients, more than half of them are sending emails once or twice a month. Only 10% are sending weekly, and 9% are sending every 6 weeks or every 3 months. The 13% of wineries sending every 6 months are all on allocations.
But, the question becomes,
what is the optimal frequency for performance? Well the answer there is more is
not better, but there’s a catch. At first glance, the data suggests that every
six months gets you the best open and click through rate, but take into
consideration these communications are highly anticipated semi-annual release
allocations. For those of us that don’t have a line waiting around the block
for our wine, it appears somewhere around 4-5 weeks is the sweet spot. This is
also supported by the data and knowledge that segmentation and smaller lists
get better response. Remember – it’s not how often you send an email, but how
often any one person on your list receives one. So, your best bet is to spread
out your communication and don’t hit everyone all the time. Segment your lists
by their preference, location, or buying habits, and your frequency will
Getting To The Sale
Not all of our email
campaigns were sales based (yours’ shouldn’t be either.) Some were event
invitations or newsletters, but we did pull out the eCommerce emails for sales
statistics. Klaviyo.com quoted the average conversion rate on 18,000 customers
across 13 industries during the full 2018 calendar year at .09%. We felt pretty
awesome at our. 48% average. But once again, take into account this is wine
versus kitty litter or whatever other offer ends up in your inbox. Our
consumers generally want to hear about our winery and order our wine because
they choose to enjoy it.
If you were to project out response, you can assume about $334 AOV and 7-8 orders on an average campaign.
So, what does this all
mean? Here are our take-aways:
1. Wine is a cheerful addition to the inbox, so set your goals higher than posted averages. Below is what we’re using for our winery benchmark performance moving forward.
2. Go ahead and use those long
subject lines and test emojis and other attention grabbers. But on sales
emails, keep the offer short and to the point.
3. Don’t feel stressed about
making a specific send day of the week. It is true that Thursdays are the best
day for email drops. But if you miss that, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays are
4. While most of us send
emails every 2-4 weeks, it appears that spacing this out to every 4-6 weeks
would be beneficial. Rather than cutting back on good content, try segmenting
communications to who might best respond to the message.
5. Smaller lists perform
better. Always. Get out of the habit of sending every message to everyone on
your list. Its more work to segment, but it’s worth it.
We were pleased with the
results of this inaugural benchmark, and will continue and broaden our study,
and continue reporting annual results.
We are curious – does this match with what you see in your own database? If you have comments, we’d love to hear them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan DeMatei is the President of WineGlass Marketing, a full-service direct marketing firm working within the wine industry in Napa, California. www.wineglassmarketing.com
Weather conditions and natural disasters occasionally take a toll
on vineyards and other agricultural production systems. Due to climate change
and prolonged drought, the frequency and severity of wildfires is expected to
increase. These risks highlight the need for winegrowers and winery owners to
be as prepared as possible to reduce risk.
Putting Your Plan Together
Many wineries may have already revisited their evacuation plans and filed them with their respective state agencies. Staying current of wildfire season developments can help enhance your ongoing planning and preparedness. Technology can also support your wildland fire planning and response. Additional planning resources by the American Red Cross is available at: www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/wildfire.html
Steps to Take Before a Wildland
• Take a close look at
your program’s communication protocol for evacuations. Everyone should have a
clear understanding of alarms that signal when you need to evacuate. Assign
specific accountabilities to staff so everyone works collectively to achieve a
positive outcome of protecting lives and property.
• Work with your regional
Forest Service to better understand emergency evacuation procedures in your
• Coordinate with the
American Red Cross, FEMA, and other emergency agencies to give them the
locations of your evacuation sites. Invite your local fire department out as
part of a fire pre-incident plan. They should be provided a map of your
property, highlighting planned evacuation routes. They can also offer technical
assistance to support your plan.
• Prepare and post route
maps for each site, including alternate routes. With a large fire, you may need
to use “Plan B.”
• Consider forming a
cooperative agreement with another site to share resources and serve as an
• Identify key equipment
to be evacuated, including computers and other vital records. As part of your
business continuity planning, programs should already have information backed
up and stored remotely. But, in case you don’t, practice removing this
equipment as part of your practice response.
• Stock an ample supply of
water and easily-prepared foods until rescue arrives.
Controlling Wildland Fire
Wildland fires are one of the most catastrophic threats to
wineries. Protecting your structures
from ignition and fire damage is an important program objective second only to
an evacuation plan. Taking precautions ahead of time can help reduce the
exposure of a wildfire intrusion. There are a number of proactive measures a
winery can take to mitigate the property damage a wildland fire can cause.
To support a fire adaptive
community philosophy, the local fire department or authority having
jurisdiction for your program should require you to develop a landscape plan
for the property. It is wise to seek their advice and incorporate their
recommendations as you develop a plan specific to your location. You can learn
more about fire adaptive community planning at the Fire Adaptive Communities,
According to the NFPA 1144
– Reducing Structure Ignition Hazards from Wildland Fires, fire protection
plans should address four zones around a property.
What are the primary threats to property during a wildfire?
Research around property
destruction vs. property survival in wildfires point to embers and small flames
as the main way that the majority of properties ignite in wildfires. Embers are
burning pieces of airborne wood and/or vegetation that can be carried more than
a mile through the wind, they can cause spot fires and ignite structures,
debris and other objects.
There are methods for
property owners to prepare their structures to withstand ember attacks and
minimize the likelihood of flames or surface fire touching the structure or any
attachments. Experiments, models and post-fire studies have shown structures
ignite due to the condition of the structure and everything around it, up to
200’ from the foundation.
This is called the Home
Ignition Zone. (Or referred to in this document as the structure ignition
What is the Structure Ignition Zone?
The concept of the
structure ignition zone was developed by retired USDA Forest Service fire
scientist Jack Cohen in the late 1990’s, following some breakthrough
experimental research into how structures ignite due to the effects of radiant
The structure ignition zone is divided into three zones;
immediate, intermediate and extended.
The structure and the area
0-5’ from the furthest attached exterior point of the structure; defined as a
non-combustible area. Science tells us this is the most important zone to take
immediate action on as it is the most vulnerable to embers.
START WITH THE STRUCTURES then move into the
landscaping section of the Immediate Zone.
• Clean roofs and gutters
of dead leaves, debris and pine needles that could catch embers.
• Replace or repair any
loose or missing shingles or roof tiles to prevent ember penetration.
• Reduce embers that could pass through vents in the eaves by installing
1/8” metal mesh screening.
• Clean debris from
exterior attic vents and install 1/8” metal mesh screening to reduce embers.
• Repair or replace
damaged or loose window screens and any broken windows. Screen or box-in areas
below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible
materials from accumulating.
• Move any flammable
material away from wall exteriors – mulch, flammable plants, leaves and
needles, firewood piles – anything that can burn. Remove anything stored
underneath decks or porches. Intermediate Zone 5-30’ from the furthest exterior
point of the structure.
Landscaping/hardscaping – employing careful landscaping or creating
breaks that can help influence and decrease fire behavior
• Clear vegetation from
under large stationary propane tanks.
• Create fuel breaks with
driveways, walkways/paths, patios, and decks.
• Keep lawns and native
grasses mowed to a height of 4”.
• Remove ladder fuels (vegetation under trees) so a surface fire cannot
reach the crowns. Prune trees up to 6-10’ from the ground; for shorter trees do
not exceed 1/3 of the overall tree height.
• Space trees to have a
minimum of 18’ between crowns with the distance increasing with the percentage
• Tree placement should be
planned to ensure the mature canopy is no closer than 10’ to the edge of the
• Tree and shrubs in this
zone should be limited to small clusters of a few each to break up the
continuity of the vegetation across the landscape. Extended Zone 30-100’, out
to 200’. Landscaping – the goal here is not to eliminate fire but to interrupt
fire’s path and keep flames smaller and on the ground.
• Dispose of heavy
accumulations of ground litter/debris.
• Remove dead plant and
• Remove small conifers
growing between mature trees.
• Remove vegetation
adjacent to storage sheds or other outbuildings within this area.
• Trees 30 to 60’ from the
structure should have at least 12’ between canopy tops.
• Trees 60 to 100’ from
the structure should have at least 6’ between the canopy tops. If an evacuation
• If possible, identify
the location and direction of the fire event. Remain cognizant that this can
quickly change direction and speed.
• Clearly explain your
evacuation procedures to all that may be involved.
• Identify special medical
needs and gather emergency equipment and necessities, including trauma supplies
for ready access.
• Designate enough
vehicles to evacuate everyone safely. Reinforce safe driving practices with all
• Equip staff with
emergency communications equipment (cell phones, walkie-talkies, whistles,
flares, colored smoke canisters, etc.). Ask your local jurisdiction authority
• Load key equipment,
vital records, food, and water.
• Ask qualified associates
to disconnect and move LP gas tanks to a safer location, such as a gravel lot,
or follow the manufacturer’s instructions to empty the tanks.
• Warn firefighters of
underground fuel storage or LP gas tanks before you leave. Making your facility
fire resistant can help reduce property loss. However, keep in mind that these
steps should be done only by assigned staff in conjunction with an evacuation
and never require or allow staff to remain behind. Close and secure all doors
and windows once combustible materials have been moved away from these
• Wet down buildings and
roofs. There are commercial grade fire retardant products available that can
help support your efforts to protect your property. But do your research ahead
of time; and don’t let the application of these products reduce the priority of
• Have qualified personnel
cut down trees in the fire path, bulldoze a firebreak, and cut field grass as
short as possible.
• Remove brush and dry
vegetation near buildings.
Fire Evacuation – What you need to know
During wildfire season, you may be forced to evacuate in a hurry.
People are your first priority; to include guests, staff and firefighters. Most
fire evacuations provide at least a three-hour notice; but due to the scope of
your operation, you may need to do it sooner. Take proactive steps before and
during an evacuation to reduce anxiety and avoid injuries. Plan, prepare and
In the event your area
experiences a wildfire event, it is highly likely it will not only be monitored
by your insurance agent, in addition to your insurance company. Pre-loss
documentation, such as video recordings and pictures of buildings, business
personal property inventories, should be up to date and included as part of
your evacuation materials. Working with your agent is a great resource to
understand what might be necessary to help with documentation, if you should
Initially, when conceptualizing this article, we wanted to present
the feasibility, maintenance and costs of the Lyre trellising system.
However, research and
interviews revealed that while it was once a viable choice, evolving production
practices, reduced labor availability and other factors require growers to
think more strategically. For cost-saving efficiency in the fruit zone, vine
vigor and development of the finest product, growers need more modern trellis
You know something interesting is about to
happen when you contact a subject matter expert about a story angle and he or
she says, “Um, that simply won’t work. Here’s why.” Uh oh…
What first piqued The Grapevine Magazine’s interest in the Lyre system was visiting
American-based vineyards and hearing growers share their enthusiasm for it.
Developed in the 1980s by Alain Corbonneau in the Bordeaux region of France,
the Lyre trellis trains vines to grow up, allowing more wind and sun into the
canopy for greater fruit yields and reduced mildew. It first entered into some
mainstream vineyards because of a disaster.
“The 1990s was a period of questioning canopy management and trellising. This was particularly evident in California, where (growers) were replanting after the AxR debacle,” said Richard Smart, author of Sunlight into Wine and world-renowned viticulturist specializing in canopy management, improving vineyard yield and nutrition management. The referenced debacle was AxR#1, or Aramon Rupestris Ganzin No. 1, a French-American cross rootstock devastated by the louse phylloxera.
“There was a lot of the Lyre trellis
installed in the Napa Valley and thereabouts at that time, probably more than
anywhere else in the world that I am aware of,” Smart said. At the time, high-yielding
growers in California, Oregon and Washington considered it a viable
alternative—as did some in Texas and, to a limited extent, Missouri, New York
and North Carolina. It’s a less-popular divided canopy choice where cold injury
is common because of the extensive cordon development required. However, that’s
not the only issue with it.
“There may be 6–to–12 foliage wires and two
fruiting wires. It’s, therefore, one of the more expensive trellis systems to
install,” Smart said. “And its popularity soon waned because of problems with
mechanization and subsequently, the effects of trunk disease—although this
system is less prone than single curtain vertical shoot positioning (VSP). I
hear mixed reports on the ease of mechanical harvesting, although it’s
relatively easy to mechanically pre-prune.”
So here’s one point where our story angle
turned: how does a single choice of trellis impact all other aspects of
production, labor and cost savings?
“The top three trellis issues we’re asked to help with are labor savings, trellis systems that allow for more mechanization and stronger systems to hold the larger crop loads,” Jeff Miller told The Grapevine Magazine. Jeff Miller is COO of JSC Agricultural Supply, a division of Jim’s Supply based in Bakersfield, California. It manufactures trellising supplies, provides a full line of agricultural equipment and consults with growers about trellis systems and installation.
A term frequently mentioned in the industry
now is “no touch”: vineyards managed by mechanization and technology that
reduce reliance on human labor. In France, where agricultural labor receives
higher wages than in the United States, there’s an intense demand for advanced no-touch
technology. Growers in Australia, Italy and Spain are adapting, too. At the
2017 Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, numerous panel experts—including Mark
Krstic of the Australian Wine Research Institute, Aaron Lange of Lange Twins
Family Winery and Vineyards in California, and Nick Pehle of Stone Hill Winery
in Missouri—detailed the hows and whys of no-touch operations for everything
from pruning and shoot thinning to leaf removal and harvest.
“This is the direction the industry is
heading,” Miller said. “It has to. With a shrinking workforce, more competition
for labor, changing overtime laws and increasing minimum wage, growers are
seeking solutions to limit the amount of labor needed in the vineyards.”
These essential points circled our story angle
back to trellis choices. Craig Macmillian is an ag specialist with Gold Ridge
Research Conservation District in Sebastopol, California, who works with
landowners to conserve, preserve and improve their properties. A former grower
and winemaker, he said it’s not easy or inexpensive to convert
horizontally-divided systems to vertical systems to allow for greater
“When I have seen people make a change, they
were redeveloping the vineyard,” he said. “While horizontal systems like the
Lyre are still excellent choices for high-vigor sites, you can’t pre-prune,
prune or harvest mechanically. Most machines are designed for vertical
He went on to say that because both sides of
the vine established on a horizontal structure require more touches, it takes
additional time to work a block. “So with whatever labor you have, it’s very
slow to get through a block. Doubling the amount of labor just isn’t practical.
Costs are going up, and growers are paying more per hour, but more importantly,
there simply aren’t enough people.”
Here’s where the angle of this particular
story could have easily jumped from the Lyre system and trellising in general
to necessary mechanization due to immigration and adverse effect wage issues.
In the United States, most farm labor comes from Mexico, but fewer people, in
general, want to be involved with such hands-on, backbreaking work. So, while
that topic is definitely an important feature to present another time, what’s
interesting and more on target in this story is how growers, educators and
manufacturers are innovating to accommodate where the industry is now and how
planning should evolve to address key challenges before they happen.
All Options for Now…and the
To ensure the most healthy and productive
canopy, Smart encourages growers to consider their options down the line,
taking into consideration the overall operations of the vineyard.
“My general preference in today’s market of
constrained labor availability and cost is to use the vertically-divided Scott
Henry system for cane pruned vines, and the Smart-Dyson for spur pruned vines,”
Smart said. “The latter can be mechanically pre-pruned, and both
machine-harvest well.” Smart partnered with John Dyson, a California and New
York grower, to develop a split canopy system to improve yield and wine
quality. Industry experts rely on the system to provide better grape-foliage
Miller added that “as the grower works to
reduce their costs in the field, they’re moving towards a single bi-lateral
cordon system 60–66 inches high. The system allows for uniformity to help with
To new vineyard owners, Macmillian recommends
installing the most basic trellis system possible at first. “Then put in a line
post that has the ability to have retrofits put on it, so you can put on catch
wires, additional catch wires, a crossbar, if that’s how you decide to go.
Build up to what your needs eventually will be.”
For ease of mechanized harvest, he referenced
a California grower who established a cross arm that was up to about 18” wide.
“While not horizontally divided, it was a way to capture the canopy without
having to move the wires, which is what a cross arm will enable someone to do.
It allows the canopy to be more open than with catch wires, but not flopping
Macmillian also suggests people think about
mechanization right from the beginning. “I don’t see that there’s going to be
more labor in the future. In order to survive, vineyards are going to have to
become increasingly mechanized. This applies to small, medium and large
What about the sense of
community pride when people are involved in pruning, harvest and crush? Many
vineyard owners rely on this assistance not only to provide a connection to
tradition and as great promotion but also to manage costs more effectively.
“If someone has a small enough vineyard—we’re
talking a couple of acres—and they have that kind of community of friends,
neighbors and relatives, hand labor is viable,” Macmillian told The Grapevine Magazine. “However, what I’ve found is most folks are excited to work for
a couple of hours, then it’s not fun anymore. So there’s not much acreage you
can cover that way. Now, in Europe, for example, domains—such as those in
Burgundy, which tend to be very small—have folks from the community who come
every year who pick at the end of the day, and that’s it. But we don’t have the
same kind of tradition as they do there. And even in Europe, [use of] immigrant
vineyard labor is increasing.”
He added that “if you have a high-vigor site,
a divided canopy trellis might initially be the right choice, but economically
and logistically, it may not be the right choice. Which means you’ll have to
deal with that vigor issue another way, and that’s the problem.”
Miller said JSC tries to develop products to
allow for a slight hybridization in operations, recognizing that while complete
trellis retrofitting might not be an option for existing growers—especially
those of a certain size—adapting technologies might bridge the gap.
“In early 2018, JSC partnered with ECO
Trellis out of New Zealand to add the ECO/ KLIMA suite of products to our
product line,” Miller said. “The KLIMA pruning machine is a cane pruning system
that reduces costs during the pruning process. We developed a cross arm that
can adapt any existing trellis system over to be compatible with the KLIMA
pruning machine. In addition, working with a grower on the Central Coast, we
developed an extension that can be added in the early years of a high-wire
system to help with the spur positions in the initial development of the
University of Missouri Extension Services
offers a comprehensive article that provides great detail in preparing for
mechanized viticulture or preparing an existing vineyard for mechanization. It
advises producers to first “develop a working knowledge of the abilities,
limitations and requirements of currently available equipment.” Also included
in this analysis is the importance of site selection, vineyard design, cultivar
selection and trellising.
“At present, single curtain, cordon-trained
systems are the most conducive to full vineyard mechanization. Examples include
the high bilateral cordon, mid-wire cordon with VSP and the Smart-Dyson and
Ballerina systems. Of these, the former two are often preferred for their
simplicity in management, and selection of either should be based upon cultivar
growth and bearing habit, anticipated vine size and revenues and other site or
Basic touchstones for existing vineyards
include close examination of trunks and cordons, as well as the density of
canes and spurs; investigating the cost of repairing or retrofitting the
trellis; and reasons for sagging between posts, whether it’s due to falling end
assemblies, excessive line post spacing or inadequate tension prior to cordon
establishment. U of M Extension offers an extensive checklist for established
growers considering more mechanized operations.
The Columbia Gorge Wine Region is defined by the Columbia River
that cuts through the Cascade Mountain Range, as well as the Missoula Floods
that scoured the region 15,000 years ago. Within this compact 40-mile region
that includes Washington State and Oregon, lies the Columbia Gorge American
Viticulture Area (AVA), as well as a portion of the Columbia Valley AVA.
Lewis and Clark first made
the Gorge famous during their 1805 passage to the Pacific Ocean, when they
found this was the only sea-level passage through the Cascades. However, the
first signs of this region’s winemaking potential did not occur until the 1880s
when the Jewitt family, founders of the town of White Salmon in Washington
State, first planted American vines.
Soon other pioneer
families followed suit with some of their original vines still standing. Case
in point, during this time period, Italian stonemason Louis Comini planted
Zinfandel wines in a vineyard located in The Dalles, Oregon. In 1982, Lonnie
Wright, owner of the Pines 1852 Vineyard and Winery, rediscovered this now
abandoned vineyard and nursed the vineyard back to health. He continues to grow
grapes used for their Old Vine Zinfandel.
In the 1970s, other
contemporary pioneers began experimenting growing grapes on the south-facing
slopes of the Underwood Mountain in Washington State. Over the ensuing two
decades, well known wine makers began exploring the grapes of this region, and
the Columbia Gorge AVA was established formally in 2004.
A founding member of the Columbia Gorge AVA and co-founder of Syncline
Wine Cellars (Lyle, Washington), James Mantone made his first batch of
wine in 1999 at Syncline using Pinot Noir grown at Celilo Vineyard, one of the
oldest vineyards in Washington State. Early on, Mantone saw the potential of
this area for winemaking. He describes his pull to this area. “We were
attracted by the tortured topography, the jumbled soils, the varied aspects and
elevations of the hills, the influence of the Cascades cooling the nights, the
winds shaping vine photosynthesis, the marginal climate. Here was a place that
could reward the winemaker with intimate sites that have the potential to
produce grapes unique from neighboring sites.”
Rachael Horn, head wine maker and
owner of AniChe Cellars in Underwood, Washington, describes the
Columbia Gorge AVA as edgy, literally, and fringe in all kinds of ways. “We can
grow a variety of fruit in the Gorge, due to a banana belt micro marine-climate
while being surrounded by Continental climes.” She adds how these growing
conditions produce a high degree of acid in fruit. “This keeps our wines fresh
and less concentrated than nearby regions. Our diurnal difference is often 30
degrees or more, which facilitates the retention of native acids.”
While the Pacific
Northwest has become renowned for their juicy red wines, the diverse terroir of
this region can produce grapes of almost every varietal. In fact, the Columbia
Gorge AVA has the distinction of being one of the few wine growing areas in
Washington State where white grape planting exceeds red grape planting with
white grapes constituting about 64 percent of the total grape harvest.
The more western vineyards
possess a cool, marine influenced climate ideal for cool-weather loving white
varietals such as Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Chardonnay which
are known for their crisp acidity. This area also produces bold reds such as
Pinot Noir that grow well in this lush environment. Some of these western
vineyards such as AniChe Cellars can be dry-farmed, as the soil receives
upwards of 40 inches of precipitation annually, and does not require additional
vineyards with their continental high desert climate replete with abundant
sunshine and just 10 inches of annual rainfall are perfect for growing
hot-weather Rhône and Bordeaux along with Italian varietals such as Zinfandel,
Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Barbera.
Steve Bickford, one of the owners of the
family-owned Mt. Hood Winery situated just outside the town of Hood
River, observes how the local weather informs the grapes they chose to grow at
their vineyard versus those grapes they decide to purchase from other AVAs.
”The west end is cooler,
wetter and with less overall heat units needed for ripening. So, we grow many
white wine grapes on the west end in Hood River, and a few reds; mostly Pinot
Noir. The east end of the AVA is drier and hotter, and conducive to the bigger
reds, like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah, So we buy some grapes from
our eastern friends.”
Even within a single
vineyard, one can find a vast array of wines. For example, Nate
Farmer/Winemaker, for Hiyu Wine Farm near Hood River, Oregon,
opines how the different kind of microorganisms, plants, animals, and humans
living in a symbiotic system allow him to grow 107 grape varietals. He creates
12 complex field blends through practices such as grafting multiple varieties
on to one plant. Here Ready is inspired by natural mutations that happen over
time with an eye toward history. He notes, “Each planting is a field blend
based on a different moment in the European history of the grapevine.”
Ready chose to situate his
30-acre family farm about 22 miles from the summit of Mt. Hood because he
wanted to raise animals and garden in a way that resembles nature more than
agriculture. “It works for all kinds of grapes because its a diverse and happy
place to be a living, growing, being free of pesticides, herbicides, chemicals,
and unnecessary human intervention.”
Graham Markel launched
Buona Notte Wines, an Italian leaning winery, after working as an assistant
winemaker for Hiyu. While the Gorge is not as diverse as the Italian peninsula,
he finds places that grow different Italian varietals. Currently, Markel works
with seven different vineyards for the seven different varietals that he makes.
“Every vineyard is completely unique and seems to fit that varietal so well. I
get Sauvignon Blanc form the cliffs of Underwood and Sangiovese from the
rolling wheat fields just east of The Dalles. The two vineyards couldn’t be
more different, and are only about 40 miles apart.”
Luke Bradford, proprietor of Cor
wanted to grow the kinds of grapes that would produce the wines he encountered
during his trips to Europe such as the wines of Boudreaux and the Mosel, as
well as the wines of central and southern Italy. “We wanted to be located in a
cooler climate region while still having access to the warmer climate grapes.”
Currently, their white wines are made using grapes grown in the Columbia Gorge
while they get the grapes for their red wines from the neighboring Horse Heaven
According to the Columbia
Gorge Winegrowers Association, fifty wineries reside in this region with 95% of
these boutique wineries producing 5,000 or fewer cases of wine each year. These
wineries gatherer their grapes from over ninety vineyards (1,300+ vineyard
acres planted) within this wine region, as well as surrounding AVAs with a
focus on sustainable and organic farming practices.
Given this boutique nature
of the Columbia Gorge AVA, an event such as the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire had a
very detrimental impact on that year’s harvest. In summer of 2019, neighboring
Phelps Creek Vineyards, Mt. Hood Winery
and Stave & Stone Wine Estates, launched National Forest Week to help
rebuild the hiking trails damaged in this fire. They released 8,376 bottles of
three Pinot Noirs made with grapes from this fiery vintage. Each bottle sold
generated $3 for the National Forest Foundation’s Eagle Creek Fire Restoration
Moving forward, ventures
such as the Columbia Gorge Express enable tourists without a car to travel from
Portland, Oregon to Hood River to explore the town’s numerous tasting rooms,
along with three breweries (Ferment Brewing, Double Mountain Brewery and Pfriem
family breweries) and Hood River Distilling, home to brands such as Clear Creek
Distilling and McCarthy’s Oregon Single Malt.
Also, the East Gorge Food
Trail worked with the Columbia Gorge Tourism Alliance to develop agrotourism
within the region by focusing on local businesses that source ingredients
within 150 miles. They chose to focus on the Eastern part of the Gorge this
area was not as well developed for tourism as areas such as the towns of Hood
River and Cascade Locks and areas like Mt. Hood. They designed a self-guided
tour covering Mosier (pop. 433) to The Dalles (pop. 13,631) or The Dalles to
Durfur (pop. 638). These tours encompass ten historic orchards and farms,
restaurants, and seven wineries (15 Mile Winery, Analemma Wines, Garnier Vineyards,
Idiot’s Grace Wines, Moody Tollbridge Winery, Sunshine Mill Winery, and Tierra
de Lobos Winery).
As they are at the
beginning stages of this project, they hope to continue knitting together the
stories that can connect people to the terroir and tastes of the Columbia Gorge
Many winemakers overlook some of the practical control aspects of
minimizing Brettanomyces [Brett] growth in their wines. This article will address some of the items
and their circumstances that we should keep in mind while working with our
juices and wines. This article is more a
reflection of experience than one jammed with technical data. It is assumed the reader knows and is aware of
Brettanomyces. To better understand what
a Brett microbe might look like please see the author’s portrayal photograph. This is obviously humor ladies and gentleman
to set the stage.
No doubt – the first
aspect of controlling Brett is cleanliness.
A dirty cellar with poor equipment hygiene will make keeping most
bacteria/yeast in the wines in check almost impossible to achieve. A sound, clean winery will be the assumed
premise of this article. Where you take your pomace after pressing should enter
your mind in respect to Brett. Insects
from the pomace pile may not just stay at the pomace pile and they may assist
in moving brett from the pomace pile to your open bin fermentation vessels or
other winemaking contact surfaces, etc
Most seasoned winemakers
realize certain pH levels and free sulfur dioxide levels have limiting affects
on many bacteria and spoilage yeasts.
This article will assume the winemaker has his/her finger on the pulse
of their wines’ chemistries and understands these chemistry relationships and
their influence on the wine. This
article is looking beyond the normal sound winemaking techniques one should
already have in place.
Most wine bacteria grow
more rapidly at higher temperatures. If
a winemaker keeps their wines stored, after alcoholic and malolactic
fermentation, at or near 50 degrees F one will keep most damaging bacteria
greatly in check. It is the author’s
understanding Brettanomyces can grow in a free SO2 of 27 ppm when the ambient
temperature of the wine is 65 degrees F. The author has greatly used this
understanding as a winemaking tool.
Often the author will
speak with winery owners to negotiate this agreement: “If I can keep the cellar
very cold (near 50 degrees F) in the summer months I will trade off little to
no heat in the cellar during the winter.”
[This does exclude the lab area that should remain near 68 degrees F for
most proper lab functions] This is in
essence a wash financially, in most regions, but a great help to the
In practice, on the
average, what may happen is the winery may bottom out in the cold months at
40-45 F and near a short-term peak of 65 degrees F during the summer
months. This small upward spike in temp,
time wise, is minimal, given the colder months average, which most bacteria,
Brett included, have no to little chance to bloom. It is recommended one use this tool to his /
her advantage and the author will often use the colder months after harvest to
store his red wines at reasonably low free SO2 values to help soften and evolve
the wines during the early months of aging the wine. By the warmer months, one should bring the
free sulfur dioxide level up to that appropriate to combat undesirable
microbes. Try using temperature as your
primary tool and if you haven’t built your winery – don’t skimp on
When using cold wine storage as your winemaking tool, keep in mind
more gases dissolve in cold liquids than warm liquids. This can be used to an advantage to soften or
“micro-ox” some wines but make sure not to exceed what a wine can handle. Also, understand a wine may evolve slower at
lower temperatures since most reactions also slow at lower temperatures. Wines are no exception to these rules of
Aging red wines on yeast
lees for an extended period of time can be a stylistic tool in a winemaker’s
tool box. Further note these lees may
contain unwanted spoilage yeast and microbes from the harvested fruit and/or
equipment used to harvest/process the fruit.
If a red wine is stored on its lees it may be more likely to have a
Brett bloom since most literature cites certain yeast/Brett populations are
greatly reduced by racking the wine off the yeast lees.
Research tests on these
lees may show active Brett populations that may not have bloomed, just after
the yeast alcoholic fermentation. If
there is any doubt as to the condition of the lees, rack early after
fermentation to reduce yeast/bacteria-starting loads.
Many winemakers store and
age their cleanly racked red wines in barrel with solid silicone bungs tightly
inserted. Many new cellars have humidity
control to help prevent the “angel’s breath” loss of wine from the barrel. The same cellars may not be very cool
especially in caves since the author has noted some caves, on the west coast,
to be at between 62 and 65 degrees F without additional cooling. With additional cooling, one should allow the
humidity to drop to a level that evaporation does happen. Barrels, with a vacuum in them, are less
likely to develop spoilage issues due to a sound food science principal that
few to no bacteria/yeast can grow in a vacuum.
With normal topping of the
barrels, say every 4-6 weeks, one will keep most unwanted microbes in check, including
brettanomyces. [The author has no data whatsoever that Brett cannot grow in a
vacuum – only practical hands on data for this statement.]
As mentioned earlier
barrels may be a great aging vessel; yet, many are unclear as to when and how
to top. Topping barrels can be a
stylistic tool even down to the frequency of topping. In relationship to this article, make sure
the topping wine for your barrels is Brett free. One doesn’t want to make the wrong choice of
a Brett infected wine source and unknowingly spread that culture throughout the
winery spanning a number of barrels. The
author chooses to use similar wine known to be free from Brett of filtered
wine, to the proper micron level, that Brett should not be an issue. Topping, as mentioned in previous articles,
can be a major potential source of cross-contamination.
It is the authors
understanding that Brettanomyces yeast has a size range of near 0.80 to 1.1
microns. With this in mind, we can
understand better what size filtrations may be needed to reduce or eliminate
the potential of Brett.
Filtration can be done at
anytime during the wines life; but, if successful, with the storage and aging
of the wines in the cellar one may just consider the filtration at or near
bottling to be the safety net needed as a “just in case” measure.
Assuming all malic acid
and fermentable sugar have been depleted, one may consider a 0.8 or 0.65 micron
absolute pore size filtration. Care must
be taken to keep the pressure down during the filtration step to make sure
excess pressure doesn’t allow the yeast to formidably shoulder through the
filter media. In some cases, winemakers
and bottling lines have had to use a 0.65 micron rated filter since the 0.8
micron absolute filter can be difficult to obtain at writing of this article.
It should be clear to the
reader that beyond sound winemaking basics the best and less invasive control
of Brettanomyces in fine wine making is temperature. If winemakers don’t mind roughing it through
the winter months, for the sake of the wine, they will be greatly rewarded in
the summer months with a lavishly cool cellar.
It is highly recommended
we all do this in the honor of fine wine making! For the sake of your wine keep the cellar
cool and Brettanomyces should be of little to no concern in your clean wine
Amerine, M.A., Berg, H.W.,
Cruess,W.V. 1972. The Technology of Wine Making
with: Mr. Jacques Boissenot, Mr. Jacques
Recht, Mr. Joachim Hollerith, Mr. Chris Johnson and Mr. Pete Johns.
• Trade cooling in the
summer for limited heat in the winter in the cellar.
As wineries first launch their operations or begin to grow larger,
they have the option to either buy their own bottling machines or hire a mobile
bottling company. Both of these options have their advantages and
disadvantages; however, having your own bottling line can give you greater
flexibility and control over the bottling process.
With the input of bottling
companies who work with wineries on a regular basis, here is some information
about the bottling machine options available to wineries today and how to
choose the right machine for your operations.
Types of Wine Bottling Machines
When you’re looking at new
bottling machines, important considerations are the machines’ sizes, speeds and
efficiency. There are options for automatic filling and semi-automatic filling
machines, as well as machines that work well with both wine corks and caps.
Many small wineries start
out with limited equipment for bottling, such as a basic bench-top manual
filler and semi-automatic labeler. Then as these wineries grow, they must
decide whether to purchase a bottling line, lease a bottling line, or hire a
mobile bottler. To assess the size of bottling line needed, wineries must
consider the total annual production, projected goals for the next five years
and what a normal production day looks like for the staff.
from the sales team at Prospero Equipment Corp. in Pleasantville, New York
told The Grapevine Magazine how there are lots of
options for wineries today, including semi-auto counter pressure fillers for
carbonated products and standard gravity fillers for still wine products.
“There are automatic
machines that can fill both still and carbonated products from the same filler
valve,” DiDonato said. “The speeds can range from 1,200 BPH up to 16,000 BPH.”
Prospero has over 40 years
of experience in the beverage industry and offers machines for bottling,
capping and labeling, as well as packaging solutions for wineries. Prospero’s
most popular machine among wineries is the GAI 1301 unit, which can run up to
1,600 bottles per hour.
“It leaves plenty of room
for growth for wineries to bottle up to 10,000 to 15,000 cases and beyond,”
DiDonato said. “It also has an option to be equipped with a built-in rotating
turret to do both cork and screw cap closures.”
the national sales manager for Inline Filling Systems (IFS), told The Grapevine Magazine about IFS’s offerings for semi-automatic and fully automatic
solutions for wine filling. Based in Venice, Florida, Inline Filling Systems
offers turnkey liquid packaging installations with over 700 packaging machinery
products and engineering experience spanning 20 years.
“Our semi-automatic units
require operator involvement and do not have moving conveyors,” Anderson said.
“These units are very efficient and still yield high production outputs in a
small footprint. IFS automatic wine filling equipment can produce more than 100
750-milliliter bottles per minute if necessary. Powered conveyors and bottle
management components move bottles to and away from the filling machine and the
PLC controls on the filling machines initiate the filling cycles as long as
bottles are provided to the filler.”
For wine filling, IFS
provides time gravity and overflow filling machines. Both of these systems are
effective, but a client’s product, application and needs will guide a decision
about which one to purchase.
“All of IFS’s machinery is
application-specific and involves client feedback with regard to the unique
product properties and production goals, Anderson said. “IFS has clients that
use both types of filling machines for wine packaging.”
Based in San Luis Obispo, California, XpressFill Systems LLC has offered a premium bottle-filling system since 2007 that is designed with the highest quality components, ensuring ease of use and long life. Randy Kingsbury of XpressFill said that his company specializes in compact table-top fillers that are affordable and easy to operate. These machines are available in a two-spout and a four-spout configurations with fill rates of 240 to 450 bottles per hours, respectively.
weighs less than 25 pounds, with a physical size similar to a case of wine,”
Kingsbury said. “By using an efficient flow path there is very little waste due
to priming for the initial fills or leftover wine in the system at completion.”
Kingsbury said that the
two- and four-bottle capacity Level Fill machines are most popular in the wine
industry. This is because the Level Fill machine provides a quick and accurate
way to fill bottles to the same levels in the neck for excellent visual appeal.
“The optional gas sparge
ensures optimum quality of the wine being delivered to the customer,” Kingsbury
said. “The enclosed system minimizes exposure to the environment. Our equipment
is extremely simple to set up and adjusts for various bottle sizes and to
New Bottling Machine Technology
Technology is constantly
changing when it comes to machinery in the beverage industry, which is good
news for wineries looking to integrate new bottling machines into their
operations within the next few years. For example, DiDonato of Prospero
Equipment said that electro-pneumatic filler valves are a piece of new
technology that wineries are particuarly interested in.
“You can fill just about
any non-viscous beverage product on this line, including wine, beer, soda,
spirits, water and cider,” DiDonato said. “These valves allow for real-time
adjustment from the control panel on the fly, which is a great savings of time
and product loss.”
Anderson of IFS said that
one of his company’s core beliefs is constant improvement, which means that
their equipment is constantly being enhanced based upon client feedback and
equipment performance in the field per application.
industrial-grade filling machines that run a wide variety of container ranges
with few low-cost change parts and an easy-to-understand human-machine interface,”
Anderson said. “IFS filling technology offers our clients the lowest total cost
of ownership of equipment in the liquid filling industry. IFS filling equipment
provides wineries tools to make them more profitable and efficient and offers
their consumers a higher quality product than other solutions.”
Kingsbury of XpressFill
said that the newest developments in the wine industry relate to the types of
packaging used for going to market.
“There has been a real
push to provide a type of packaging that yields better shelf life and is more
versatile for settings where bottles are not allowed because of possible
breakage,” Kingsbury said. “An increasingly popular option is providing wine in
cans, with wine-in-a-bag being another option.”
Having enough space for a
bottling line is a common concern among wineries, especially smaller ones that
are just starting to grow. Fortunately, new bottling equipment designs have
been getting smaller in recent years to squeeze into tight spaces much better
than in the past. Space-reduction technology often features machines that
handle multiple purposes so that only one or two total machines are required
for full functionality.
How to Choose the Right Bottling
There are many factors to
consider when choosing a new bottling machine, such as the ideal size of
machine for your production and the cost of buying a machine rather than using
an outside bottling company. Ease of use, the level of customer service
provided, ongoing maintenance and repair needs and the ability to upgrade in
the future are also considerations. Talk to other winemakers to see what has
been working well for your peers and get machine recommendations from experts
in your area who know the ins and outs of bottling. Bottling machine dealers
who have good reputations often provide helpful training, tech support, and
reasonable service contracts.
DiDonato from Prospero’s
main piece of advice to wineries looking to buy a new bottling machine is to
get references and call them.
“Make sure the machine has
a good track record in the market,” he said. “Try to get data or references on
the oxygen levels.”
Anderson of IFS said that
IFS filling machines allow wineries and other liquid packaging professionals an
opportunity to control their own destinies. This company’s robust machines are
American-made and serviced and last at least 20 years.
“IFS equipment is easy to
understand and operate and requires very little maintenance,” Anderson said.
“Additionally, IFS offers a full-service parts center with inventories for
every machine IFS has ever manufactured over the past 23 years. In short, IFS
equipment allows our clients to focus on business growth rather than a
financial drain trying to get other providers’ equipment to run.”
Kingsbury of XpressFill
advises new wineries not to over-purchase a system that could take two or more
years to reach the full capacity of the equipment.
“It can be a major
financial expenditure, which takes too long to ever recover the investment, if
ever,” he said.
For wineries looking for a
system upgrade, Kingsbury’s advice is to perform a cost-benefit analysis based
upon the downtime, maintenance and hourly operating cost of the current system
versus the potential replacement.
“Although a new system may have much greater
production, the time for setup, configuring for filling and cleaning after
filling may be much more labor-intensive and result in a net reduction in cost
By: Nan McCreary, Sr. Staff Writer, The Grapevine Magazine
When Paul Vandenberg was
10-years-old, he would wait eagerly for his mother’s copy of “Organic Gardening
and Farming” to arrive so he could read it cover to cover. When he was 13, he made
his first wine out of blackberries. It’s no surprise then that Vandenberg,
after studying ecology in college, found his life’s work in an organic vineyard
in Washington State.
“I started working in the wine industry in
1983, just as the vineyard explosion was happening in the state,” Vandenberg
told The Grapevine Magazine. “I had always been an
organic gardener, but everyone thought I was ‘hippy dippy’ at the time.” Yet
several years later, Vandenberg was at Badger Mountain Vineyard when the owner,
Bill Powers, was having problems with herbicide drift from wheat fields that
were 10 to 20 miles away. Out of frustration, Powers implemented organic
farming techniques to help mitigate the problem. And that was Vandenberg’s
entrée for his true passion: he was with Badger Mountain when it became
Washington’s first certified organic vineyard, and later, was winemaker at
Worden’s Winery when he produced the first organic wine in the state, which
took Worden’s into the worldwide marketplace.
Fast forward to 2004 and Vandenberg
established his own playground, Paradisos del Sol Winery in Zillah, WA, in the
Rattlesnake Hills sub-AVA of the Yakima Valley AVA. For the past 20 years, he
has taken organic viticulture to new heights by growing grapes in a pesticide-free
environment and producing wines that are pure expressions of the earth. In
choosing land for his farm, Vandenberg went to great lengths to locate a
property that would meet specific farming requirements. “I did not start
growing grapes because I owned the land; I found land where I thought I could
grow grapes with the least use of pesticides. It’s one of the sweetest spots on
the planet. It has a fine, deep loam soil deposited by the great Missoula
floods and is on a ridgetop where the leaves are bathed in high intensity
sunlight.” It is this sunlight, Vandenberg said, that acts as a natural
deterrent to powdery mildew, a potentially devastating grapevine disease.
To assure ample sunlight in his vineyards,
Vandenberg uses a Divided Canopy Quadrilateral Cordon System (Lyre) developed
by UC-Davis research viticulturist Mark Kliewer. In this system, instead of
using a single wire to support the cordon and maybe one or two wires to support
some of the canopy, the grape grower uses a cross arm to create two cordons,
separated horizontally by a meter. “The idea is to have two curtains rising
from a cordon wire with an open space in between,” Vandenberg explained. “With
more openness in the fruit zone, the fruit is well-exposed to light, which adds
to color and flavor in the grapes, and deters powdery mildew.”
Vandenberg describes his trellising system as
a “low-vigor canopy,” defined by international viticulturist Richard Smart as a
canopy with no more than 15 shoots per meter of cordon and a shoot length no
greater than a meter. A low-vigor canopy on a single-wire system will yield a
maximum of four tons per acre; by having a double trellis, the yield is double.
“The key is balancing the sun and the shade,” Vandenberg said. “Pruning depends
on the variety, and the size of its leaves and berries. But essentially all
varieties have the same sort of canopy density, the same openness, and the same
ability for light to come in for every leaf and every grape.”
Vandenberg’s pest control strategies in his
vineyard are not just in the canopy; they’re also on the vineyard floor. Here
on the surface, cover crops grow year ‘round to support a lively complex of
predatory insects in the dirt below. For example, dozens of blooming plants
provide pollen and nectar for wasps, which prey on leafhoppers. Also, over 16
identified species of mushroom caps on the surface indicates mycelium (the
vegetative part of a fungus) web below, which receives sugar from the grapevine
roots and in exchange gives nutrients. The objective, said Vandenberg, is to
create an environment of well-fed plants so they are able to use their own
natural defenses to avoid predators like powdery mildew and leafhoppers.
“Biodiversity creates stability and avoids the eruption of populations of
pests,” Vandenberg told the Grapevine Magazine. “My soil is not just dirt; it’s
a live complex of organisms. That’s what organic gardening is all about.
The biggest pest problem at Paradisos del
Sol, said Vandenberg, is pocket gophers. He is trying to manage this naturally,
of course, by building boxes for barn owls, who are the number one predator for
gophers. Vandenberg has installed an “owl cam,” so he can watch the owlets
Like his practices in the vineyard,
Vandenberg employs as many natural processes as possible when making wines.
“Great wine is grown, not made,” he said. “As a terroirist, I let the wine be
what it is. I don’t adjust pH and acidity to some textbook standard.” Paradisos
del Sol produces wines from 15 varieties of grapes. Reds include Tempranillo,
Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Malbec, Pinot Meunier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet
Franc, and two oddballs: Lemberger, a grape widely grown in Austria and
Hungary, and Teroldego, a grape from northwest Italy. White wines include
Chenin Blanc, Semillon, Riesling, Orange Muscat, White Muscat, and yet another
oddball, Xarel·lo, one of the three grapes used in Cava. Vandenberg is the only
person in the U.S. to commercially plant Xarel·lo. “Somebody’s got to plant
these things and try them out,” he said.
Vandenberg grows multiple varieties of grapes, he releases only two varietal
wines: a Sangiovese and a barrel-fermented and barrel-aged Chenin Blanc. He
uses his red grapes to produce three wines, including a barrel-fermented and
barrel-aged Rosé. He also creates blends with his white wines. Vandenberg
eschews the use of new barrels, as he wants no heavy oak influences in his
wines. “I grow grapes, not oak trees,” he said. “I believe you can get oak
flavors in a 12-year-old barrel; my barrels are over 20 years old.
Vandenberg does use fining and filtering
techniques but puts minimal additives in his wine. Typically, ingredients
listed on the label of a white wine are: 100% hand-picked sustainably grown
organic grapes, yeast, bentonite clay, minimum effective so2 (potassium
metabisulfite). Ingredients listed on the label of a red wine are: 100%
hand-picked sustainably grown organic grapes, yeast, malolactic culture,
minimum effective so2 (potassium metabisulfite). Vandenberg describes his
winemaking practices as “old methods.” The wine goes in the barrel as grape
juice, with no racking until it is pulled out of the barrel. “I try to provide
the vine a perfect environment so that it is healthy and happy and produces
fabulous tasting fruit,” he explained. “I don’t mess with it: I just let it do
its thing. A barrel in a cool, dark room is a wonderful place to make wine.
That’s why it’s been done that way for 2000 years.”
Vandenberg describes Paradisos del Sol as a
“small family estate winery.” He produces less than 2000 cases per year, and
all is sold direct-to-consumer. Wine prices range from $7 to $48. Vandenberg
runs the operation with his wife, Barbara Sherman (who manages the office), and
only hires part-time employees during harvest and shoot thinning and leaf
pulling. The vineyard is Certified Organic by the Washington State Department
Compared to other wineries, Paradisos del Sol
is also an integrated farm, with chickens, turkeys, cattle, pigs, and sheep,
who help mow the vineyard during the winter when grapevines are dormant. The
tasting room, with views of Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier, is open daily, and
offers visitors an opportunity to taste not just wine, but food paired with the
specific wines. The destination is very popular with families, as children can
feed chickens and play with the cats and dogs that live on premises. Paradisos
del Sol provides picnic facilities and free overnight camping for tents and
self-contained RVs. Horses are welcome, with water available for them.
Indeed, Vandenberg has created an organic paradise in the heart of the Yakima Valley. There, in this garden in the desert, he offers tours and talks to visitors who want to understand more about how he grows his grapes and produces his wines. “People don’t understand what organic means,” he told The Grapevine Magazine. “Organic means a systemic, all-embracing approach to gardening and farming. It’s about manipulating the environment in a way that is favorable to something we want to do.” As an enologist with over 36 years of experience, Vandenberg’s knowledge is vast, but his mantra is simple: “We are a traditional small wine estate dedicated to growing grapes without the use of pesticides and trying to make the best pure and wholesome wines we can.” For more information on Paradisos del Sol visit their website:https://paradisosdelsol.com/Home.htm