Wine Scholar Guild Reports on the Launch of the Spanish Wine Scholar™ Certification Program

man holding a magazine

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 Academy.

  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 Spain.”

  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 ( 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.

WINERIES and the HOLIDAYS: Inseparable Partners in Making the Season Merry

By: Cheryl Gray

santa clause drinking 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 Center

  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 grape growers.

  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.

Milbrandt Vineyards

  Other Yakima Valley December events include Prosser, Washington-based Milbrandt Vineyards’ “Holiday Flights and Bites,” featuring holiday wines and food pairings with live entertainment.

  “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 wine.”

  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 anybody.”  

  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 season.

HERBICIDE DRIFT: A Common Issue Affecting Vineyards Worldwide

helicopter sprinkling herbicide to crops

By: Judit Monis, Ph.D. and Brian D. Kaider, Esq.

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). 

The Problem

  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 vineyards.

Pesticide Drift

  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. 

Strict Liability

  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 dangerous. 

  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 monetary recovery.


  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. 

Additional Issues

  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 for information or contact 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., (240) 308-8032

Wine Industry 2019 Email Benchmark Results

email marketing

Presented by WineGlass Marketing

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 optimal performance.)

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 naturally drop.

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. 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 good, too.

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

  Susan DeMatei is the President of WineGlass Marketing, a full-service direct marketing firm working within the wine industry in Napa, California.

Don’t Get Caught Off Guard During Wildfire Season: Tips for Your Winery

By: Markel Corp.

winery in front of a vineyard

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:

Steps to Take Before a Wildland Fire Event

•    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 area.

•    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 evacuation site.

•    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 Exposures

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 zone.)

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 heat. 

The structure ignition zone is divided into three zones; immediate, intermediate and extended.

Immediate Zone

  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 of slope.

•    Tree placement should be planned to ensure the mature canopy is no closer than 10’ to the edge of the structure.

•    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 tree material.

•    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 becomes evident

•    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 drivers.

•    Equip staff with emergency communications equipment (cell phones, walkie-talkies, whistles, flares, colored smoke canisters, etc.). Ask your local jurisdiction authority for suggestions.

•    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 openings.

•    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 evacuating.

•    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 EvacuationWhat 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 practice.

Filing claims

  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 need it.

Rethinking Trellis Viability in the Age of Mechanization

By: Tracey L. Kelley

narrow path of a vineyard

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 innovation.

  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?

Labor+Mechanization=Different Trellis Choices

  “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 mechanization.

  “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 trellises.”

  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.

Consider All Options for Now…and the Future

  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 balance.

  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 mechanization.”

  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 completely.”

  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 producers.”

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 vineyard.”

  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 regionally-specific considerations.”

  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.

Exploring the Diverse: Wines Within the Columbia Gorge Wine Region

By: Becky Garrison

vineyard with an overlooking mountain

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 irrigation.

  Conversely, eastern 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 Ready, 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 Cellars 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 Hills AVA. 

  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 Fund.

  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 AVA.

Practical Brettanomyces Control in the Cellar

By: Thomas J. Payette, Winemaking Consultant

yeast under a microscope

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 wines.  

  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 cooling!  

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 science.

Racking Timely

  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.

Vacuum Storage

  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.]

Topping Barrels

  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 cellar!


  Amerine, M.A., Berg, H.W., Cruess,W.V. 1972. The Technology of Wine Making

  Verbal discussion with:  Mr. Jacques Boissenot, Mr. Jacques Recht, Mr. Joachim Hollerith, Mr. Chris Johnson and Mr. Pete Johns.

Short Course:

•   Trade cooling in the summer for limited heat in the winter in the cellar.

•   Let natural barrel vacuum work for you.

•   Filter when needed.

•   Don’t cross-contaminate.

The Best Bottling Machines: For Wineries & Choosing the Right One

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

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.

  Matt DiDonato 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.” 

  Scott Anderson, 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.

  “Either configuration 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 clean.”

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.

  “IFS offers 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 Machine

  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 effectiveness.”

Paradisos del Sol: An Organic Vineyard Paradise

By: Nan McCreary, Sr. Staff Writer, The Grapevine Magazine

man posing beside a dog at a vineyard

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 grow.

  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.

  While 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 of Agriculture.

  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: