How to Clean Winery Hoses

winery red hose

By: Tom Payette, Winemaking Consultant

In the last issue of The Grapevine Magazine this section addressed how to clean a wine tank.  In reality a clean wine tank is of little benefit if the means of getting the juice or wine to that tank is a contamination source in itself.  Just as much diligence needs to be applied to the wine transfer hoses to insure a wine arrives at it’s destination in as microbial free state as it left the previous storage container.

Chemistry

  The chemistry of cleaning the winery hoses is very similar to cleaning the wine tanks or most anything else in the winery for that matter.  One must have physical cleanliness first.  In this case this means all of the solid particles are removed from a surface prior to or in conjunction with a high pH cleaner.  Once dirt is removed from a surface the chemical may react on that surface to clean and kill certain microbes that will not survive in the harsh environment of a higher pH.  After physical cleanliness is achieved and the high pH cleaner has cleaned the surface, a low pH cleaner such as citric acid may be used to neutralize the high pH cleaner and to kill certain microbes that will not live in those lower pH environments.   Make sure all cleaners used are suitable for the wine industry and are safe for the winery.

Items Needed

All safety material to include but not be limited to:

•    Safety goggles

•    Rubber gloves

•    Rubber boots

•    Hat and/or chemical resistant rain gear

•    High pH cleaner (such as Soda Ash)

•    Low pH rinser (such as Citric acid)

•    Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS or equivalent) for all chemicals used.

•    Eyewash station or portable eyewash

      A light citric and water solution (2 tbsp per 2 gallons of water)

Other items needed will include:

•    Pump that will handle warm water and the chemicals desired.

•    Wine transfer hoses that will stand up to warm water and all chemicals used.

•    pH meter (optional but the winery really should have one anyway)

•    Flashlight(s)

•    Sponge balls at diameter(s) needed for hose inside diameter.  (See photo)

•    Tub for water circulation

•    Water Source

Preparation

  Apply all safety gear and prepare a light citric and water solution in a bucket to set aside.  This is a light “lemonade strength” water that may come in useful should some of the high pH cleaner come in contact with your skin.  [Roughly two tbsp. of citric in two gallons of water depending on the tap water pH]  Select a good positive displacement pump from the cellar that will help power a sponge ball through the wine hoses to be cleaned.  Collect all of the wine hoses you want to clean.  The author prefers to do this on the crush pad just after harvest, in the spring and just prior to harvest at a minimum.

Procedure

1.   Apply all safety gear necessary to be safe while doing the tasks described.  This is an internal winery decision that the winery will need to address.

2.   Move all equipment outside that needs to be used to clean the hoses.

3.   Have the “lemonade strength” bucket of water mixture mentioned above placed close by and in a spot that can be easily located.

4.   On the suction side of the pump assemble a       short section of hose.  This hose should be long enough to span from the tub of cleaning water to the pump.

5.   Assemble the other remaining sections of hose on the pressure side of the pump from the largest internal diameter size to the smaller internal diameter size.  An example may be having all the 2” sections connected, then a reducer to the 1.5 inch sections down to 1 inch and three quarters and so on.

6.   Once all the connections are made, start to fill the tub with clean fresh water.  Warm, not hot, may be the best water for this process. A good target temperature should be in the 90 degrees F. temperature range.

7.   While the tub is filling, one may start and stop the pump to fill the lines with water.  Memorize the direction of the flow since we will always run the pump in that direction for this exercise.   [This is important so we do not suck the sponge balls we will using back into the head of the pump.]

8.   Once the lines are full be sure to pump about 10 gallons of water out on the floor to eliminate any obvious solids that may have collected in the hoses during storage.  (This is especially true if wine hose is stored curled up on the floor – not a recommended way to store winery hose).

9.   Once the winery lines are completely full with water one may stop the pump.

10. Gently disconnect the discharge side of the pump from the pump head fittings and insert the proper size sponge ball to clean the smallest size internal diameter of hose assembled in this set up.

11. Reconnect the discharge side of the hose back to the pump.

12. Turn the pump on in the direction to push the sponge ball through to the lines to be cleaned.  Leave the discharge end of the hose in the tub for the time being to conserve water.

13. Follow the sponge ball visually, if possible, through the maze of hose making sure the suction line has a continuous source of water supplied.

14. Once the sponge ball reaches the specified diameter of hose it is designed/sized to clean, keep an eye on the hoses since one may see a slight pressurization and accordion type movement in the hoses at this time.  Be aware fittings could be blown off under pressure.

15. As the sponge ball makes its way through the lines and the ball has about 7 feet more to go, remove the discharge line from tub of water and allow the water to exit onto the floor or crush pad.  You will notice a “tea like” to “coffee like” colored water will start to exit the discharge line just before the sponge ball exits.  This is true for even any well kept hoses that have not been cleaned in this fashion for over one year.  It is inevitable beyond anyone’s sanitation programs.

16. Recapture the sponge ball and run the ball through again.  It will still clean a bit more on the second and third pass.

17. Once one feels this section of hose has “mechanical cleanliness” one may disconnect that size diameter line from the assembly.

18. Select the proper size sponge ball to clean the next diameter size section of hose near the end of the assembly and repeat the procedure gaining mechanical cleanliness on each diameter size hose working your way up to the largest size line.

19. Once all of the lines are cleaned be sure to swap out the suction side supply line with a cleaned section and run the proper sized sponge ball through that section.

20. Now that mechanical cleanliness is achieved, one may reassemble all of the hoses and start the pump for a circulation.

21. Once the circulation is started in the clean tub of water, one may add a high pH cleaner.  Always dissolve any solid cleaners in water first before adding to a tub of water.  (This will take some trial and error on the operators part to establish just how much may be needed) [Use a pH meter to determine this strength needed].

22. Allow this high pH solution cleaner to circulate for an adequate time.  This may be near 15 minutes depending on the length of hose line, sizes, speed of pump and the amount of water in the circulation tub.

23. Once the operator feels the hoses interiors are well exposed to this higher pH water, the operator may then flush the hoses out with copious amounts of fresh water.

24. After a fresh water rinse one should continue to circulate water and add a low pH cleaner, such as citric acid, to the mixture to insure the high pH water has been neutralized.

25. After this neutralizing step, it is best, once again, to do a fresh water rinse.

26. The hoses should now be clean, but not considered sterile, to the satisfaction of most wineries’ sanitation programs.

27. One may disconnect all the winery hoses and store them properly to drain dry.  Resist rolling hoses up on the floor and laying them flat because water, moisture and insects/rodents may have a better opportunity to become an issue for them.

  When selecting hoses for use at any given time, it is best to make the assembly of the hoses and to flush the hoses or clean them in some fashion just prior to pumping juice or wine.  This will clean out any items from the hoses or pump that should not have been in them.

  Just prior to harvest consider performing this operation on the hoses but perhaps take the step a bit further.  Once the hose lines are cleaned, remove the fittings from the ends of the hoses and either clean them vigorously or cut off the portion of the hose that was in contact with the fitting.  Clean the stainless fittings until they are sparkling and then re-install the fittings and tighten the clamps properly.  (Note: when putting hose clamps on have them pull and installed in opposing directions to get a better tightening grip.  Also, apply the clamps as close to the end of the stainless fitting that is inside the hose line.  If this is not done wine may seep between the fitting and the hose line, especially when ballooning under pressure, and forcing wine between them. Over time, spoilage will occur which will result in a cross-contamination source for every transfer or operation performed with that set of hoses in the future.

Summary

  Set up your hose cleaning operation to be as easy as possible and make sure the cellar staff is keenly aware of your expectations.  Hoses that are not cleaned properly should not be used and instructions to clean them again would be prudent.  Remember, wine is a product that you and others will drink.  Use hoses that are cleaned with the same amount of dignity that you would want your foods and other beverages prepared in.

Helpful Hints:

  Mono type pumps have been known to pass the mentioned sponge balls easily provided the pumps are not smaller than the actual ball diameter used.

  Be sure to keep a watchful eye on the diameter of the sponge ball and the diameter of the wine line you are trying to clean.

  Do not run the pump while dry or damage may occur.

  Use a pH meter to determine the pH of your cleaning solutions.

  Smell your hose before you use them for a wine transfer.

  Look inside your hoses before using.  What do you see?

  Like tanks and other items, don’t let dirt, juice or wine dry on them.  Clean immediately after use (inside and out).

  Always store the hoses so they will drain and dry completely.  Hoses should not be curled up on the floor with potential standing moisture inside them.  Being on the floor also makes them easily available to any winery critters or insects.

  If one has cleaned the winery hoses and removed the fittings, the author recommends a way to test their strength.  Assemble all the hoses together with a valve at the very end of the discharge side.  Circulate fresh water with no chemicals for cleaning.  After about 5 minutes of circulation take the discharge side of the hose from the circulation bucket and start to slowly move the valve toward the closed position for a brief moment.  Be aware at this moment pressure will be building inside the transfer lines and to be clear of any hoses that may pop off their fittings.  Be very careful with this procedure and use common sense knowledge not to shut the valve all the way creating extreme pressure.

Have two people around at all times for safety.

Short Course:

•    Always keep the winery hoses clean.

•    Use a sponge ball to create mechanical

      cleanliness.

•    Visually inspect and smell all hoses after cleaning and before using for wine transfers.

•    Obtain and use all safety gear needed.

  References:  Verbal conversations with Jacques Boissenot, Jacques Recht, Joachim Hollerith and Chris Johnson.

When is the Correct Time to File for a Claim?

lone tree on a deserted area

By: Trevor Troyer, 
Vice President 
Agricultural Risk Management, LLC

When should I file for a claim? That’s a question I get a lot. Some growers think that they should wait until they know that they have a loss. They want to harvest to see if they have a loss. That is not the correct answer to me. You should turn in a claim as soon as there is a weather event or other cause of loss situation. This helps to document what is happening during your growing season as it unfolds.

  This spring in California there was a late frost/freeze event for several nights. Primary buds in many counties were killed. Some areas like Sonoma and Napa Counties had mild to moderate damage. Other counties in California had much worse damage. Oregon also had a lot of areas that were damaged. Some areas were quite severe with all the primaries frozen.

  Obviously if the buds were all frozen you should contact your crop insurance agent and have him open a claim up. But what about damage you are not sure about? You know that you will still make a crop but are not sure if it will reduce your tonnage by any large amount. Depending on your coverage level you may think that you won’t have a loss. At this point don’t worry about the deductible percentage of your crop insurance policy. Call your crop insurance agent and open up a claim.

  It is always better to have a claim open than not in this type of situation. There’s no way at this point in the season to determine how much your yield will be down. But if the claim is open and documented its better. This gives time to have an adjuster assigned, time to do an inspection and to document the damage. Damage done may not be as visible several months later. Damage can very well be cumulative as well. During the year you may have several weather events and other things that could reduce your yield.

  Here’s what it says in the Basic Provisions of the Common Crop Insurance Policy:

14. Duties in the Event of Damage, Loss, Abandonment, Destruction, or Alternative Use of Crop or Acreage

Your Duties -


(a) In the case of damage or loss of production or revenue to any insured crop, you must protect the crop from further damage by providing sufficient care.

(b) You must provide a notice of loss in accordance with this section. Notice provisions:

      (1) For a planted crop, when there is damage or loss of production, you must give us notice, by unit, within 72 hours of your initial discovery of damage or loss of production (but not later than 15 days after the end of the insurance period, even if you have not harvested the crop).

  Per the USDA Risk Management Agency you have from 72 hours of the original cause of loss or until you discovery it and up to 15 days after the end of insurance. I do not recommend waiting till 15 days after the insurance period. It does happen though and I am sure I will have growers do it again. I have had vineyard owners call me and say that their tons are down for a certain variety. Then we have to piece together what happened. What was the cause of loss? When was it? Was this the only thing or were there other weather events? Is the loss only showing up only on one variety?

  Losses will get paid but it is much easier on everyone if you report causes of loss right after they occur. That doesn’t mean you have to know for sure that you will have a loss, just that some event happened that may cause your crop to be reduced.

Here are the Causes of Loss out of the Grape Crop Provisions from the USDA RMA:

10. Causes of Loss.

(a) In accordance with the provisions of section 12 of the Basic Provisions, insurance is provided only against the following causes of loss that occurduring the insurance period:

(1) Adverse weather conditions;


(2) Fire, unless weeds and other forms of undergrowth have not been controlled or pruning debris has not been removed from the vineyard;


(3) Insects, except as excluded in 10(b)(1), but not damage due to insufficient or improper application of pest control measures;


(4) Plant disease, but not damage due to insufficient or improper application of disease control measures;


(5) Wildlife;


(6) Earthquake;


(7) Volcanic eruption; or


(8) Failure of irrigation water supply, if caused by an insured peril that occurs during the insurance period.

(b) In addition to the causes of loss excluded in section 12 (Causes of Loss) of the Basic Provisions, we will not insure against damage or loss of production due to:

(1) Phylloxera, regardless of cause; or


(2) Inability to market the grapes for any reason other than actual physical damage from an insurable cause specified in this section. For example, we will not pay you an indemnity if you are unable to market due to quarantine, boycott, or refusal of any person to accept production.

  Number 1 on the list is Adverse weather conditions. This could be just about anything, frost, freeze, drought, excess moisture, hail etc. Fire is listed as well and because of this there can be damage many miles away from the fire due to smoke. Insect and disease damage are covered but you must show that you have application records for spraying etc. Wildlife is another one that can cause problems – deer, raccoons, birds and so on. I have even had a claim turned in for a bear. Earthquake and Volcanic Eruption I have never seen a claim turned in for. I am sure, unfortunately, that there will be one for an earthquake. Number 8, Failure of irrigation water supply, is something that can be a big problem for growers. Certain areas in California and Washington State rely heavily on irrigation. If there is a drought and your well or reservoir dries up then that is a payable cause of loss.

  Don’t wait to contact your agent about a situation or adverse weather that may reduce your crop. That is what we are here for! For more information please contact Agricultural Risk Management LLC.

Office: (239) 789-4743

Email: info@agriskmgmt.com

Website: www.agriskmgmt.com

Diving into Winery Water Usage and Treatment

winery waste water

 By: Becky Garrison

In recent years, Pacific Northwest-based wineries have faced unprecedented water issues as regional droughts continue to deepen and regulations have become stricter in an effort to limit surface and groundwater contamination and promote more sustainable practices. During the Oregon Wine Symposium, held virtually from February 15 to 17, 2022, a session titled Diving Deep Into Winery Water Usage & Treatment offered a summary of this current situation pertaining to water use and how wineries can manage their water use and treat wastewater.

  Panel moderator Emily Terrell, associate winemaker for Brittan Vineyards (McMinnville, OR), opened the session with a brief summary of the current state of water use in the Pacific Northwest. A typical winery on the West Coast uses between three to 10 gallons of water per gallon of wine produced.

  Regulations regarding water may increase due to municipal handling limits and local standards for discharge. Also, over the past few years, Washington State and California both developed new general permits. These are tiered winery permitting systems, with fees, monitoring, inspection and at least quarterly analysis of water discharged from the winery.

  These standards help protect groundwater and surface water based on discharge methods and the specifics of the location. Such standards are necessary as improperly treated wastewater can lead to a host of complications, including:

•   Damage to soil and crops

•   Kill aquatic life.

•   Contaminate surface water and groundwater.

•   Degrade infrastructure in municipal treatment plants.

•   Overwhelm municipal treatment systems.

  In a general sense, the easiest solution to improve winery water use is to use less water. By tracking water use, wineries can see where and how they are using process water, which can help identify ways to become more efficient. Sometimes this is a simple fix, such as adding water-saving spray guns, reducing wine hose diameter or fixing leaky hose manifolds. Reconsidering the way wine lees (the solids remaining after fermentation) are collected and disposed of can also dramatically decrease the volume and energy intensity of the wastewater, including taking advantage of a collection service available in some areas (not Oregon, unfortunately).

  Finally, once the wastewater is generated, how can the energy load be lightened downstream? This comes down to neutralizing pH, removing the solids and perhaps adding a digestion step to further deplete the nutrients before discharging into a controlled environment or municipal system. As droughts intensify, some wineries install reclamation systems to treat, digest, filter and reuse all or a portion of their process water. 

Treating Wastewater In the Winery

  In his presentation, John Haslett, wastewater manager for 12th & Maple Wine Company (Dundee, OR), offered an overview of their winery wastewater treatment process, including the chemicals, equipment and tests involved in this process, which discharges into a small municipal system with strict requirements. The primary wastewater chemicals that he uses are magnesium hydroxide to neutralize the pH and polymer to bind and remove the majority of the solids prior to digestion.

  At 12th and Maple Wine Company, they start by mixing and prepping their wastewater in a mixing tank. By running the wastewater through a side screen into their batch tank, they remove all of the large particles and treat it with magnesium hydroxide to neutralize the pH. Then, the water pumps through their Cavitation Air Flotation (CAF) device. The CAF is a long trough with a propellor that makes micro-bubbles, which float all the solids to the top after the polymer sticks them together. Next, the paddles scrape the solids off the top and remove them from the system into a solid waste/compost stream. Flotation removes 90 percent of the BOD, helping the bio system’s ability to digest by reducing process load and filtering solids leaving only dissolved solids for digestion. After that, the clarified water moves to their digestion system for a further reduction in Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD), or the amount of oxygen consumed by bacteria and other microorganisms during digestion under aerobic conditions in a defined period of time. By reducing this energy demand, the winery dramatically reduces the burden on the municipal treatment system downstream and increases the total volume of water it can discharge to the system.

  To keep up with the digestion demands of the wastewater stream, Haslett sometimes needs to add bacteria to the system due to changes in the microbe population due to upsets, such as adding or removing nutrients or a rapidly changing pH environment. Among the sources he uses to obtain bacteria are Clearblu and Aquafix. In his presentation, he quoted a statement from Clearblu regarding the types of recommended bacteria used in treating wastewater.

  Almost all commercially available bacteria blends only contain Bacillus strains. While Bacillus is an excellent treatment bacteria, it is best suited for treating fats, oils, grasses, and proteins. This is why they are primarily used in wastewater treatment plants. Brewery, winery and food processing waste contains sugars and carbohydrates in very high concentrations. This makes their waste vastly different from sewage treatment plants. The best bacteria for breaking down sugars and carbohydrates are Pseudomonas. Pseudomonas will digest these very effectively and reduce BOD levels far more rapidly.

  Historically, Haslett’s digestion system has consisted of a series of aerated holding tanks that the wastewater slowly passes through while undergoing microbial digestion. Recently, he trialed a new system called the BioGill, which consists of a space-efficient square tower filled with a ceramic matrix that pulls oxygen in passively and provides a stable environment for the culture to occupy while the wastewater slowly passes through. These units have been very successful in improving culture health and digestion time. Haslett cited the example of a pH upset, where the BioGills recovered in three days, whereas the old system would have taken approximately three weeks. They have plans to acquire additional BioGill units but are already taking advantage of the BioGill’s ability to seed the culture of the downstream holding tanks, providing for better overall health and an increased capacity for BOD reduction.

  Each week, Haslett tests the wastewater using several different tests. After getting the BOD numbers, he converts them into pounds of BOD and pounds of TSS (Total Suspended Solids) and then report this number when required by city and local governmental entities. Haslett’s optimization of the CAF, BioGill and digestion system continue to reduce these numbers, easing the burden on the city and making some water reclamation a not-too-distant goal of the winery.

  For smaller wineries with limited financial resources, Haslett stresses that the first priority is to adjust the pH. At the very least, get a small tank to use for holding, adjustment and mixing. A further investment would be a simple screen filter to remove the larger solids before dumping the effluent. He also emphasized that the BioGill is an accessible, low-power technology for smaller wineries looking to reclaim or further reduce their impact on downstream processing resources.

Reducing Processed Water

  Bob Coleman, technical winemaker for Treasury Wine Estates (Saint Helena, CA), delved into ways to reduce processed water in the winery. He proposed using in-place or in-line wine treatments to minimize the number of tank movements and, therefore, cleaning and water consumption. This avoids the need for more energy-intensive, solids-removal procedures, such as cold setting, decanters and centrifugation that require tank-to-tank transfers.

  To remove solids, this winery is exploring the use of a Jameson Cell. This is a high-intensity froth flotation cell invented for use by the coal industry. While a Jameson Cell can handle wine wastewater, Coleman sees how it can also benefit in reducing water use during wine production. Coleman envisions feeding wine juice in this small set of cells. Air or nitrogen gets entrained in this stream that’s in this downcomer, as they call it. Gas bubbles attach to the solid particles floating them to the top and allows removal as a solid waste stream. The clean juice then goes to the tank and gets inoculated right away.

  Also, Coleman references developing protein absorption columns designed for in-place protein removal. These columns have absorption material that will take out heat-unstable proteins. Then, wash out the proteins and reuse the column repeatedly. This process stabilizes the wine and eliminates the need for bentonite – and elimination of bentonite in our waste stream

  In addition, Coleman introduced a more efficient cold stabilization process (fluidized bed cold stabilization), a joint project with Professors Roger Boulton and Ron Runnebaum at UC Davis. This in-place cold stabilization process minimizes wine loss and refrigeration needs by using a small, dedicated chiller and counter-current heat exchanger. This avoids lowering the temperature on the main winery refrigeration loop, saving both energy and water. The potassium bitartrate crystals generated in the stabilization process can be reused to form a circular process.

  Coleman recommends electropolishing the tanks or purchasing them already electropolished. This keeps solids from attaching to the tank’s surface, thus reducing the water and chemistry to remove bitartrate, grape residue and biofilm stuck to the side of the tanks.

  In California, wineries can take advantage of a lees removal service. This involves squeegeeing the lees out of the tanks and putting them into totes, which a service takes away. They can recover bulk wine from it and then send the solids to compost.

  Coleman recommends potassium hydroxide over the cheaper sodium hydroxide for the basic wash and potassium bisulfate for the acid wash when assessing cleaning chemicals they use. After use, he suggests running both of these through a nanofilter or semipermeable filter that allows the ions, chemistry and water to pass through while leaving the dirty residue separated. It is possible to reuse the chemistry and water multiple times. After cleaning the tanks, putting these two washes together results in a pH appropriate for wastewater ponds and does not increase BOD or COD.

  Hydrogen peroxide at 0.5 percent can be used as a sanitizer, and this is lower than the three percent hydrogen peroxide available at the supermarket. What hydrogen peroxide isn’t used during sanitization will break down into water and oxygen. An onsite hydrogen peroxide generator can produce the amount of sanitizer needed, thus avoiding safety issues when transporting and handling higher concentrations of this chemical.

  The smart controls used on the six wastewater ponds allows for data collection. In particular, Coleman highlighted the need to clean the DO (dissolved oxygen) probes so that they can provide accurate feedback. After some exploration, they found cleaning heads that use compressed air to routinely in-place clean the probes. These DO probes trigger aerators when the oxygen drops below a designated threshold. This process control saves energy and increases the health of the ponds.

Cristom Vineyards: Creating ‘Wines of Place’

aerial view of a vineyard
default

 By: Nan McCreary

Ask any winemaker the secret to making great wine, and almost everyone will say, “It all starts in the vineyard.” But to Tom Gerrie, second-generation owner of Cristom Vineyards in Oregon’s Eola-Amity Hills, this is more than just an answer to a question; it’s a way of life. From knowing the soil in each of Cristom’s estate vineyards to naming the sheep that maintain and nourish the plants, the staff at Cristom is intimately involved with the origin of their sustainably farmed grapes.  “We encourage a proliferation of diverse life in the soil by adding compost to the soil and spraying compost teas and seeding diverse crops, for a few examples.”

  And this passion extends to the winery, where winemakers use centuries-old techniques to create the fullest expression of what this land has given them, namely pinot noir and chardonnay. It is this commitment to a “sense of place” that has put Cristom Vineyards on the international wine map and distinguished its wines as among the best in the Willamette Valley.

  Since the beginning, soil and site have been the hallmarks of Cristom Vineyards, which was founded in 1992 by Paul Gerrie, a petroleum engineer who had a strong passion for wine, specifically pinot noir. Gerrie’s goal was to grow and craft exceptional wines of a place that honor individual sites and old-world techniques. His search for a perfect location led him to a run-down vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills appellation.

  “The site spoke to him,” according to Gerrie’s son, Tom, who took over the vineyard when his father retired. “It is geologically complex — the soil is mostly volcanic with some sedimentary and silt from the Missoula floods — and the elevation is similar to Burgundy, with a 500-foot in elevation change from our lowest vineyards to the top of our hillside at Cristom.  Our Vineyards rise from above 250 feet to 750 feet. Slopes are eastern-facing. My father was a visionary and could look past the untended vines and imagine a very, very special site.”

  When Paul and his wife, Eileen, purchased the vineyard, they named it Cristom after their two children, Chris and Tom. To achieve his goals, Gerrie hired Steve Doerner of Calera to be his winemaker. Not only was Calera one of Gerrie’s favorite producers, but the engineer and the biochemist also shared a deep-rooted respect for the land, the natural winemaking process and pinot noir. It was to be a collaboration that would last for decades.

  Since that inaugural vintage in 1992, the Gerries, along with winemaker Doerner, have constantly produced balanced, dynamic wines of intensity, structure and length. Besides pinot noir, they also make chardonnay (their flagship white wine), viognier and syrah. Cristom was the first to plant viognier in the Willamette Valley and the first to craft estate-grown wines and produced wines from viognier.

  Cristom grows grapes on 90 acres of vines across a total of 240 acres. Like Burgundy, their vineyards are definitely vineyards of place. The five estate vineyards – Eileen, Jessie, Louise, Marjorie and Paul Gerrie — are all named for members of the Gerrie family. Each vineyard is differentiated by the slopes, ranging in elevation from Louise at 290 feet and Eileen at 735 feet. In addition, each site is distinguished by natural variances in mineral-rich volcanic soils, with topsoils varying from 18 inches to 10 feet. This variation leads to diverse single-vineyard bottlings and harmonious cuvées that pull from each of the vineyard sites.

  Each Cristom vineyard is distinguished by climate. The Eola-Amity Hills AVA is defined by the roaring winds that funnel through the Van Duzer Corridor (a gap in the Pacific Coast range) that lowers vineyard temperature after warm summer days. The difference between daytime highs and nighttime lows can be 35 degrees or more, which helps preserve natural acids in the grapes and encourages them to ripen slowly.

  “Eileen, our highest vineyard, is defined by the wind,” Tom Gerrie told The Grapevine Magazine. “The grapevines can shut down if they get too much wind, and that preserves acidity. Skins get thicker, and tannins become more defined and complex. The grapes from Louise, which is at the bottom of the slope, are more protected because a large forest surrounds the vineyard. The wines are softer and plusher.”

  With top-notch fruit in hand — lovingly grown and picked by winegrowers who have more than 200 years of combined vineyard experience — the Cristom winemaking team, which consists of lead winemaker Daniel Estrin, assistant winemaker Chris Butler and veteran Doerner, strives to create wines that reflect both the vineyard and the vintage. The central tenets of the winemaking style include the use of natural yeasts and whole-cluster fermentation.

  “Using native yeasts can be risky,” Gerrie said, “but this gives a lot of diversity to our wines. One yeast may start the fermentation, then it dies out and another takes over, so we have different organisms driving the process the entire time. Different yeasts accentuate different terpenes and esters, which results in more complexity on the aromas and the palate.”

  Whole-cluster fermentation also adds complexity to the wine, Gerrie said. “We’re very passionate about whole-cluster fermentation,” he told The Grapevine Magazine. “By keeping whole berries intact longer, we get a long, slow fermentation. This gives us nice skin contact and extraction without maceration. The stems give a tremendous amount of complexity, with flavors of cinnamon, cardamom, clove and anise, or maybe black tea, herbal flavors or forest floor. Stems also provide additional levels of structure and complexity to the tannin profile, which balances well with acids and allows for greater age ability.”

  Typically, Gerrie added, Cristom destems roughly half of the fruit, depending on specific site, growing season, and the age of the vines. “Almost everything we do is based on the question, ‘Does this vineyard need this in this vintage?’” he said.

  Currently, Cristom vineyards produces around 20,000 cases of wine per vintage. They have distribution in 48 states and over 40 international markets. “We have some of the most widely distributed wines in the world,” Gerrie said. While Gerrie said Cristom would like to grow internationally, he is content to stay at current production levels. “It’s taken us 10 years to hit 20,000 cases, and we have finally found the right size for our business, our team and the land. We have hit a comfortable spot.”

  While growth is not on the horizon at Cristom, what is in the future — both short and long-term — is a commitment to organic and biodynamic farming. Tom Gerrie, who joined the Cristom Vineyards production team full-time in 2007 and became majority owner in 2012, began transitioning the estate to biodynamic farming in 2017. Today, using scientist Rudolf Steiner’s view of the integrated farm as a guide, Cristom has employed different farming methods — including agro-ecology, permaculture and integrative pest management — to enrich the soil and enhance the quality of fruit.

  “We believe and understand this place to be a whole eco-system that we are trying to elevate through the diversity of animals, soil health and cover crops,” Gerrie explained. “We want to showcase this piece of ground, make distinctive wines of place and empower people to know and understand that caring for something properly will help it last generations after we are gone.” At Cristom, sheep and chickens roam the grounds (and soon cows will join them), nourishing the vines with excrement and aerating the soil with their hooves and feet. Composting — made from vine cuttings, wood chips from fruit and oak trees, pomace from post-fermentation solids and mown cover crops — creates rich soils filled with microorganisms that enrich vineyards and gardens and even form the basis of a tea that can be sprayed on the canopy and underneath the vines. Employees give treats to the sheep — and even give them names — knowing that they are all part of something much bigger than any person, animal or plant on the property.

  Cristom’s current efforts in sustainability are all part of a 100-year plan of what the land will look like for generations to come. “What we’re doing on the property right now, for the company and for the brand, will put us in a stronger position 10 and 20 and 70 years from now,” Gerrie told The Grapevine Magazine. It’s a mindset that this team has taken on with tremendous responsibility, gusto and energy. The team knows they are stewards of a place and that we’re doing this together to create something distinctive, something that will carry on for years and years, when we expect them to be still naming the sheep.”

For more information on Cristom Vineyards, visit www.cristomvineyards.com

PLEASE LIKE ME: How to Successfully Navigate Customer Reviews

By: Susan DeMatei, Founder of WineGlass Marketing

In the September/October issue of The Grapevine Magazine, I wrote an article entitled “The four reasons you should care about online reviews.” As a quick recap, the four reasons were:

1.   We are at the precipice of a cultural shift from Baby Boomer values (externally showing luxury as validation, including professional and published reviews and scores) to Millennial values (internal and self-validation, including being part of a community that shares your beliefs).

2.   The internet and modern eCommerce train us to look for the most popular brands and rank the highest among people (we assume) are peers.

3.   Google evaluates reviews when delivering search engine responses and ranking.

4.   Your customers care about review sites.

•   92% to 97% of customers look for or read a review before doing business with a company.

•   80% of us trust reviews by strangers just as highly as a reference from our friends.

•   72% of us look for only positive reviews, and 86% will not do business with those with negative reviews. (Clutch.co)

  For many, this advice proves sound and agree that internet reviews are essential. Maybe you’ve even begun identifying where your target audience congregates and shares thoughts online. But knowing something in principle and achieving that goal are two different things. Your next step is to encourage and collect reviews, which is the topic of this follow-up article.

Asking In Person

  The most obvious way to accumulate reviews of your wine and service is to ask a customer when you’re with them at the time of the sale. This is also the most effective way, as the experience is still fresh in the customers’ minds, and you have a captive audience for a couple of minutes. But this is also the most uncomfortable for some. So, before you start squirming in your chair, here are some suggestions for making this awkward interaction more natural.

Build It Into The Banter  

  The most skilled wine educators weave the request naturally into the conversation. The trick is to have several routine lead-in questions where the response will naturally lead to a review suggestion.

  For instance:

•   “Did you enjoy your visit?”

•   “Do you want to take any wines home with you”?

•   “When are you guys heading back home from vacation?”

  The expected responses will comfortably lead to:

•   “Since you enjoyed yourselves, we welcome you to share your feedback so others can enjoy us.”

•“  Thank you for the purchase! We’re glad you liked the wine. We’d be excited if you’d share your feelings about it to encourage others to try it.”

•   “We love having visitors from out of town. Since you’re heading back tomorrow, please consider leaving notes on your experience, so others find us on their vacations.”

  It’s best to have this dialog after the entire experience is done, with the bill and tip paid. You want to clarify that any review is not affecting their service, charges, or product quality. And, when you have this interaction, choose words that don’t seem pushy. “Invite you to leave feedback” sounds better than “Can you give us a review.” Finally, don’t hesitate to say why you want a review. “Hey, thanks a lot, we’re trying to get going again after COVID, and good news travels fast.”

  Remember that even if you feel uncomfortable, most of the people you ask will be flattered that you’re asking them for feedback, not annoyed that you’re fishing for compliments.

Remove All Obstacles For An Immediate Response

  Continuing our roll playing from above, if the customer above says “yes,” you want to be able to actualize that direct call to action. Have the tools ready immediately and seamlessly to review your location right then and there. Luckily, almost all customers walk into our tasting rooms with tiny computers in their pockets, so offering WiFi for their phones is all that is needed. With a QR code on a napkin, coaster, receipt, or table tent, they could be on your profile on Yelp or Google in less than 15 seconds. If you are remote and WiFi is a challenge, see if you can offer an iPad on your network.

  Then thank them. The good news is that when asked, research says ¾ of us will leave a review. So, you’ll be surprised at your success.

Remote Options

  If your natural state is being socially distant, so in-person requests just are not your thing, there are still ways you can request reviews. Online you will find many websites selling window clings or table tents to make the subtle request not-so-subtly. If you want these in your tasting room, get some tear-off pads so that you can provide the information in the bag with their purchase. And don’t forget that when you’re working on your email, phone, and text campaigns, you can also include a request for review. No, you won’t annoy your customers. Asking for feedback is standard practice in many industries.

  If you ask for after-the-fact reviews, offer a small token of appreciation, such as a tasting voucher, coupon, or discount. Communicate that you will reward satisfied buyers for the time they invest in providing feedback about their experience. 

  A word of caution: this is a slippery slope. Ideally, you want to earn reviews without offering rewards. Websites like Yelp filter out reviews provided because of incentives, and Google also uses analytics to monitor review traffic.

  Also, educate your employees and team leaders on how to ask for reviews effectively as well as excellent customer experience. Be willing to reward your employees for every posted review that they initiate.

How To Maximize Their Impact

  Now that you have these great reviews use them. The objective is 1) to position positive reviews so that your audience learns from satisfied customers and 2) to encourage additional reviews. First, incorporate them into your website’s design. Consider one of the many review widgets or direct feedback options on your website’s home page. Emails, brochures, or newsletters can include individual reviews. On social media, sprinkle them in posts. Please don’t overdo it, and vary the channel and locations as you never know when a satisfied customer’s comment might be why someone else visits or tries your wine.

Haters Gonna Hate

  So, what about the not-so-great reviews? Finding a negative review about your company, product, or team out there for the world to see can challenge your faith and motivation. You and your team have spent years creating experiences and products to entertain and please customers, so a negative response can feel like a personal attack.

  At these times, try and separate your business practicality from the sting to your ego and remember that there are many reasons why you may get a negative review. You will receive bad reviews from customers visiting with unrealistic expectations who either haven’t researched what is possible at your tasting room or have inaccurate information from a 3rd party. They may be ignorant of the legalities around wine service and sales, new to your wine flavor profile, or just having a bad day.

  It is crucial to set internal expectations that a certain percentage of bad reviews will just transpire as an expression of the core values of our culture. The US is about freedom, and the internet has empowered everyone to have a voice. Some people just like pointing out other people’s flaws because it makes them feel better. The unfortunate reality of running a business is that you simply can’t please everyone. Some of your customers are just negative people, and there’s not much you can do about that.

  The real downside comes with how their negative reviews can harm your business. Only 13% of customers will do business with a company with only 1 or 2 stars, and small businesses with a 1-1.5 rating out of five generate 33% of the revenue than businesses averaging 2+ stars. (Trustpulse)

Embrace The Noise

  But, in most cases, there is value in listening. We can be so close to our own winery experience that we fail to see or acknowledge areas for improvement. A negative review can be an excellent way to prioritize issues and enhancements that bother your customers and hinder your success when looked at without emotion. Pre-internet companies spent months and thousands of dollars on focus groups to secretly watch customers behind glass, hoping to learn what worked or did not resonate for a target audience. How amazing is it that now we have an immediate and actionable free feedback loop?

  Surprisingly, getting negative reviews isn’t always a bad thing. Research tells us that a couple of negative reviews can make a brand seem authentic. Bad reviews give customers a sense of the worst-case scenario, and they want to know what can go wrong to understand how much it will matter to them. The occasional lousy review eliminates any “too good to be true” doubts. When every online review about your brand is a gushingly over-the-top 5-star rating, it can appear fake.

  So, when we see the good, we tend to celebrate it by sharing it with our team. Meanwhile, we ignore, forget, or attack poor feedback. Smart companies make the most out of their online reviews by addressing issues with a response to the customer. And consumer expectations are high:

•    53% of customers expect that reviews will be responded to within 1 hour.

•    57% of customers believe brands should respond to reviews on the weekend.

•    63% of customers say that businesses have never responded to their reviews. (Trustpulse)

How to Respond to a Negative Review

  Here are some guidelines on how to respond to negative reviews.

•    First – take a breath and remember that people are human and flawed, and things happen on both sides. Don’t take it personally and acknowledge that everyone gets negative reviews.

•    Make them feel like they’re getting management’s attention. Respond as the business owner, even if you’re not.

•    Be consistent and timely. Always respond, even if you’re super busy.

•    The goal is to open the lines of communication and let the user know you are listening to them. They aren’t just another metric in your dashboard. Treat them like real human beings. Make your response authentic and personal, as if you were talking with a grumpy friend.

•    If it’s a complicated issue, offer to take the case offline by offering to move the conversation to a private chat.

•    If you are at fault, do what you say you’ll do to fix it. Take immediate action once you’ve told the visitor how you’ll improve their problem.

•    And don’t be shy in asking them to change their rating, or at the very least update their comment that you responded to and tried to make right. And who knows? Maybe that negative review will lead to a killer testimonial that drives even more traffic.

  Online reviews are here to stay and can positively or negatively impact your business. The result depends on how well you hand the reviews themselves.

  Remember, even a negative review can positively affect your revenue! The goal of addressing and improving your online reviews is to harness the power of social proof. By showing that many other customers loved your winery enough to be vocal about it, you’ll be more likely to get even more business in the future.

  Susan DeMatei is the founder of WineGlass Marketing, a full-service direct marketing firm working within the wine industry in Napa, California. Now in its 10th year, the agency offers domestic and international clients assistance with strategy and execution.   

WineGlass Marketing is located in Napa, California at 707-927-3334 or wineglassmarketing.com

The 7 Best Ways Wineries Can Grow Their Text Marketing Lists

By: Bryan St. Amant, Founder & CEO of VinterActive

Silicon Valley Bank’s latest research on wine marketing shows that fewer than 9% of U.S. wineries took advantage of text messaging in 2021. But those who did report phenomenal success with open rates of 98% and click-thru rates of 12% – generating 32-times more customer engagement than email marketing.

So savvy wine marketers are now asking the same question: How can we grow our text marketing lists as quickly as possible?

  The good news is today’s wine consumers – even Baby Boomers – want you to text them. According to PC Magazine, “85% of smartphone users prefer mobile messages to emails or calls.”

  The great news is the seven customer touchpoints outlined in this article offer ample opportunity to grow your SMS wine marketing list quickly, so you can delight your customers and sell more wine.

Email Marketing

  Since 80% of U.S. wineries already use email marketing, the fastest way for most wine merchants to grow a text marketing list is to reach out to existing email subscribers and offer them a new way to stay in touch.

  To convert existing contacts, we recommend introducing text messaging to current customers the same way you’d release a new wine or announce an upcoming wine country event.

  Most wine marketers will enjoy the best success with a series of three email messages:

•   A straightforward announcement of what you’re offering and why.

•   A follow-up email that focuses on what customers miss by not signing up.

•   A final email about how your SMS program addresses their main concerns.

  If you have a thriving wine club, start with them first and consider offering club members an incentive for joining your SMS list. And as you write your email, it’s worth reflecting on what it means to ask anyone to sign-up for text messages.

  Here’s a hint: they’ll be giving you access to the most direct and personal way to reach them. So, successful sign-up campaigns offer unique value to new subscribers in return.

  The latest research shows that SMS subscribers want first dibs on flash sales or promotions. With that in mind, you might offer early access to new releases, special discounts, and tickets to upcoming events.

  Once you hone your pitch, the wineries we work with enjoy the most success by pointing their email subscribers to a web-based opt-in form. Many text marketing platforms now make it easy to create an opt-in form you can add to any website.

Tasting Rooms & Events

  After mining your existing email list, now’s the time to invite your in-person guests to stay in touch with text messaging.

  In tasting rooms or at winery events, QR codes make it easy for consumers to join text marketing lists using their mobile phones. In just a few minutes, you can make it happen by printing tasteful signs that feature a QR code, legal disclaimers, and simple instructions on how and why winery visitors can join your list.

  Instead of pushing your tasting room staff to ask customers for their email address – then deciphering hand-written forms – using QR codes to market your SMS list makes it easier for everyone.  As a bonus, once your customers sign-up for text messaging, many SMS marketing systems can also automate the process of asking for an email address.

Social Media Channels

  DTC wineries report social media is now their most widely used marketing channel.

So enticing online followers to join your text messaging list — using the same offers you promote in your tasting room — is one of the most concrete ways to leverage your investment in social media.

  Digital wine marketers can use unique text marketing keywords like “Text INSTA to 888-592-2832 to join our text club,” QR codes, or web-based sign-up forms to invite your followers to join your SMS list.

  Since it’s so easy to test marketing ideas using social media, the best practice is to experiment with multiple conversion techniques to see what resonates best with your followers.  For the most impact, you might consider creating unique offers explicitly customized for your most vibrant social media communities.

Transactional Messages

  If you sell wine online, accept reservations, or manage a wine club, your commerce system already sends order confirmations, appointment reminders, and shipping notices via email.

  These transactional messages offer another proven way to grow your text marketing lists.  Imagine offering your wine club members the option of receiving a text confirmation when their next shipment is on its way. A keyword like ORDERSTATUS is tailor-made for this application.

  The footer of your online order confirmation page is also a perfect place to promote the option of receiving transactional messages via text. Here’s an example: “PS: Text ORDERSTATUS to 888-592-2832 to receive updates about your wine order via text. No spam, just news you can use.”

  Not only do today’s consumers prefer text messaging 2-to-1 over email, transactional messages about orders, shipments, and appointments are among the most popular text messages consumers receive.

Mobile Website

  Website visitors using their phones to browse your site are the perfect fit for text marketing offers. Not only are they on their phones already, but they don’t even need to enter any data to subscribe to your text messaging lists.

  Without any special software, you can generate a QR code that website visitors can scan to join your list in just one click. Some text messaging platforms popular with wine marketers also offer the ability to generate online pop-ups visible only to visitors using their mobile phones.

  Today’s wine marketers can add “click-to-text” buttons or custom mobile pop-ups to any web page. Perfect for building a list of text marketing subscribers, these same tools can engage your customers by enabling two-way text conversations with your hospitality staff.

Desktop Website

  If your winery website offers online visitors the opportunity to join an email list, doesn’t it make even more sense to give them a chance to subscribe to text messaging?

For visitors browsing your website from their desktop computers, web-based sign-up forms are the way to go. Simple text marketing sign-up forms only require a mobile phone number plus consent with the terms of your offer.

  But if you offer consumers a choice of text messaging content — from concierge services to weekly tasting room updates — a Text Messaging Preference Center can give your customers the ability to curate their own unique customer journey.

Product Packaging

  Your wine labels and the shipments you send to wine consumers can also work to grow your list of SMS wine marketing subscribers.

  QR codes printed on your labels can invite consumers to engage your brand at the point of purchase and consumption. For maximum flexibility, use a dedicated landing page that can be re-directed as needed over time.

  Wine shipments to consumers offer the perfect opportunity to market lifestyle content like recipes delivered by text messaging or encourage customers to post their photos and wine reviews via text.

Make Hay While the Sun Shines

  With today’s wine consumers thirsty for brands that engage them with text messaging, summer is the perfect time to get started with SMS wine marketing.

  If you can print a QR code or send an email message inviting your best customers to join your text marketing list, you’ll soon be on your way to success. With the proven power of SMS wine marketing on your side, even a modest list of 300 contacts can generate the same results as another 10,000 email subscribers.

  Summer sales are just the beginning. Once the holiday season arrives, your new text marketing list can drive record sales while delighting your customers with an easy way to order your wines using their favorite way to stay in touch.

  We hope the simple methods outlined in this article can help you achieve your goals. Happy Selling!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  Founder & CEO of VinterActive, Bryan St. Amant, is a pioneer in developing preference-based direct marketing and its successful application in the wine industry. His advice has helped hundreds of wineries across the U.S. grow sales and customer satisfaction by leveraging the best practices of DTC wine marketing.

  St. Amant holds an MS from M.I.T. and a BS from U.C. Berkeley. His award-winning work has been featured in books, magazines, and seminars, including CFO Magazine, Inc., CNN Money, eMarketing Magazine, Integrated Direct Marketing, Direct Marketing Association, Wine Marketing Report, and the Wine Industry Network.

VinterActive is located in Windsor, California at 707-836-7295 or vinteractive.com

The Canadian Certification Program Application of Tissue Culture at the Nursery

man inspecting plant

By: Judit Monis, Ph.D.  

Last March I was invited to present for the Canadian Grapevine Certification Network (CGCN RCCV). Ethan Churchill, the CGCN-RCCV program manager did an introduction to their certification program standards.  Rob Haynes described the application of tissue culture and other practices at his Upper Canada Growers Nursery.  Robin Ross presented his research on tissue culture techniques. Tanja Voegel and myself did presentations on crown gall disease caused by Agrobacterium vitis.  While I have written before and plan to do an update on crown gall in the future, this article will focus on the Canadian Grapevine Certification Network program with emphasis on the application of tissue culture of the Upper Canada Growers Nursery in their production practices.

  In June of 2019 over two million dollars in funding through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership’s AgriAssurance program became available to start a network of virus-free grapevines in Canada.   The program would provide clean planting material to Canadian growers to assure the viability of their wine industry.  The funding is being allocated to both the interim verification standard and the long-term Canadian certification programs.  An interim verification standard consists of visual inspection and testing existent nursery blocks for the presence of Grapevine leafroll associated viruses (GLRaV) -1 and -3; Grapevine red blotch virus (GRBV), and Grapevine Pinot Gris virus (GPGV).  The sample collection and testing are performed in the laboratory of the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture at Brock University at a 50/50 cost share between nurseries and the CGCN-RCCV (until March 2023).  The network works with partner nurseries for general propagation and with vineyard growers and wineries for custom propagation of their own vineyard planting material.  The testing protocol is as follows: an initial random sampling of 10% of the vineyard that includes visual inspection and RT- PCR testing for the presence of the viruses of concern (GLRaV-1 and -3, GRBV, GPGV).  If 15% or more of the vineyard block is found to be infected it is dropped from the program.  If the vineyard block is found to be less than 15% infected, it is moved to the second phase of testing which consists on testing the entire vineyard. Samples are composites of leaves from five vines or canes from two vines.  The threshold for acceptance to the program is 0.1% (i.e., less than one infected vine in 1000 vines).  If the block is found to be infected more than 0.1%, the nursery has the option of testing each vine in the positive composite sample individually and remove the infected vines from the block.  Once the vineyard is tested and confirmed to be under the 0.1% threshold, plants propagated from those vines are deemed verified through CGCN-RCCV, Of course, similar to other certification programs there is no guarantee that the vines produced by the nurseries are virus free.  The program includes yearly audits with visual inspection and virus testing (10% random sampling) of the nursery blocks to ensure the lack of infection or spread to planting material.  Participating nurseries as well as available certified varieties are listed in the CGCN-RCCV website (see: https://www.cgcn-rccv.ca/site/about-cgcn).  Custom propagation of vineyard or winery planting material is subjected to a protocol similar to the one described for nursery blocks.

  Rob Haynes presented information on the practices of his family nursery operation (see: https://www.uppercanadagrowers.ca). The family purchased Mori Nursery in 2016 and started the Upper Canada Growers Nursery.  The use and application of tissue culture technology is what sets this nursery apart from others. It all stated ten years ago when the nursery had problems with the propagation of apples due to the presence of viruses and the fire blight bacterial pathogen.  At the time researchers at Cornell University had developed apple rootstocks that were resistant to these pathogens (Geneva rootstocks).  However, these rootstocks were difficult to propagate.  The company turned into using tissue culture (a collaboration with the University of Guelph) to develop their tissue culture program.  After a long and slow learning process the nursery is now ready to release two million tissue cultured propagated apple, hazelnuts, and plum plants (apples being the larger part of the production).  The company also has grapevines in the pipeline.  Although there is no timeline for the release of grapevines, so far, the process appears to be easier than the other crops produced at the nursery.  To summarize, the propagation material starts in the laboratory (as tissue culture plants), once the plants are rooted and grown to a certain size, the plants are transferred to the greenhouse in misting tents (the humidity must be kept very high.  The plants continue to grow in the greenhouse up to a certain point and are transferred to the field.  However, the plants are not planted directly in the field but inside “smart pots”. The plants (in pots) are constantly being screened from insects and the environment to avoid infection.  Therefore, from start to end, plants are being grown in a clean environment to ensure that pathogens are not present. In the fall the plants senesce and go dormant, being finally moved into a cold storage unit   The final planting product described is different from the dormant bare root plants that the orchard farmers are used to planting.  Instead, the plants produced are kept inside containers in peat /perlite mix media.  The roots appear to be further developed compared to plants grown in a standard production.  The technology is not new to the fruit (or grape) growing industry, but the nursery has developed specialized media that has made the process very successful. 

  The same process developed for fruit and nut crops at the nursery is being transferred to grapevines. The nursery approached CGCN-RCCV to work on the commercial release of certified grapevine planting stock.  The material being propagated was initially sent to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for virus indexing.  This allowed the nursery to determine that they were starting with clean propagation material.  Indexed grapevine cuttings were sent to the University of Guelph who set up all the protocols to initiate the material in tissue culture (media, growth conditions, etc.).  Once the plants were initiated in tissue culture, the material was transferred to the nursery’s laboratory for further propagation and to develop a commercial product.  There are many advantages to the propagation system:  the nursery is starting with a clean product (virus tested), grown in a sterile/aseptic media (tissue culture) and subsequently grown in hermetic greenhouses (air showers and other mitigation practices to avoid the entrance of insect vectors/pathogens), to finally being moved to a screened area in the field.

  Rob Haynes mentioned that initially there were concerns from the industry that the apple tissue culture plants would be juvenile (which they were during the first two years).  However, the apple plants appear to start production much faster in the first five years, than apple trees propagated normally.  By the 10th year the production is expected to even out, but the quality of tissue culture propagated trees seem to be superior to the standard propagated trees.  Presently, Canadian grape growers are not familiar with tissue culture produced plants but at some points when these plants become available, the nursery expects these plants will be superior to standard propagated grapevine plants. 

  The Nursery has an active research and development program.  One current program is applied to understand the microbial population (microbiome) around the roots and within the plants.  It is known that tissue cultured plants are grown aseptically, consequently many of the microbes that were present in the original plants have been removed.   Some of the microbes (bacteria, fungi, and/or viruses) may be harmful to the plant growth.  However, some can be beneficial and help the plants absorb nutrients or may have other important functions. Learning about the plant’s microbiome will allow the isolation of the beneficial microbes while eliminating the harmful ones.  The ultimate goal, is to replenish (at a later stage of production) the beneficial microbes that were removed during the tissue culture process to develop of stronger and healthier plants.    Judit Monis, Ph.D. 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 (based in California) is fluent in Spanish and is available to consult in all wine grape growing regions of the word.  Please visit juditmonis.com for information or contact juditmonis@yahoo.juditmonis@yahoo.comcom to request a consulting session at your vineyard.

Are Japanese Beetles Worth the Trouble?

leaf infested with Japanese beetles
Photo credit: Dominique Ebbenga, University of Minnesota

By: Annie Klodd, University of Minnesota Extension Educator

Food for thought: In viticulture, we reduce our vine canopies through hours of shoot thinning, leaf removal, and hedging. So why do many of us act so swiftly to stop Japanese beetles from eating our leaves? While Japanese beetle control is important, you can increase your bottom line by waiting to spray until it really needed.  

Japanese beetles are invasive insects that feed on leaves of over 300 plant species including grapevines. They aggregate (congregate) on leaves in mid-summer by emitting pheromones that attract other beetles to the area. They “skeletonize” leaves by eating around the leaf veins.

The trick is to decide how many Japanese beetles to tolerate in the vineyard before starting to spray.

Many agricultural insect pests have an “economic threshold” – a certain number of insects that must be present in the vineyard before an insecticide application will be economically beneficial. Economic thresholds help growers make sure that the benefit of an application outweighs the cost.

But Japanese beetles are different. There is no widely accepted economic threshold for Japanese beetles yet. More research is currently underway in this arena.

Without an economic threshold, growers’ tolerance levels seem to vary widely. Many growers spray at the first sign of beetles or leaf defoliation, while others wait until beetles have congregated on the vines and skeletonizing some of the leaves.

To decide when to spray, consider the following:

Vines can tolerate some beetle feeding

Research new and old suggests that healthy grapevines can tolerate some leaf feeding before fruit or plant health are impacted.

New research from University of Minnesota measured the impact of Japanese beetle feeding on yield and fruit quality of Frontenac. The researchers found that heavy leaf defoliation (About 20-50% of leaf surface eaten) decreased fruit quality by decreasing brix and increasing titratable acidity. However, it did not impact yield, and lighter defoliation had little impact on fruit quality. From that research, they recommended an economic threshold of 25-30% defoliation or 25 beetles per meter.

A 2003 study at Michigan State University enclosed 40 Japanese beetles per grapevine and let them feed. After two weeks, they caused about 6.8% defoliation, but this did not affect vine growth that year or the next. They determined that 30% defoliation at bloom was needed to decrease vine growth.

These studies suggest that Japanese beetles do not reduce vine health or fruit quality until 25-30% of the leaf surface is eaten. 30% defoliation of every leaf is higher than we typically see in Minnesota. In 2018, UMN researchers surveyed several grape varieties and found the highest defoliation levels between 12-15%, which is below their 30% suggested threshold for spraying.

Photo: Grapevine leaves with 2%, 6%, and 10% defoliation, measured using a standard laboratory leaf area meter. Dominique Ebbenga, University of Minnesota

Vine age and health:

As Japanese beetles aggregate on plants, they can defoliate a small, newly planted vine faster than a mature vine. Similarly, they are likely to do more damage to a stressed or stunted vine than one with a full, rapidly growing canopy.

Therefore, growers should prioritize protecting newly planted vines from Japanese beetles before populations do significant damage to the leaves.

When aesthetics matter:

Even if the beetles fail to impact grapevine health, many people find them to be disturbing and unsightly. This is enough to encourage some vineyard managers, especially those at public venues like wineries, to control Japanese beetles as soon as they see them even if the damage is minimal.

Japanese Beetle Management

Once a grower decides to spray insecticide for Japanese beetles, the next question is what to spray. Several insecticides are labeled for Japanese beetles. The Midwest Fruit Pest Management Guide is one of the resources that lists and compares these options.

Many insecticides provide knockdown control, killing beetles at or shortly after contact. Several neonicotinoids have residual activity, killing beetles in the 2-3 weeks following the application.

Spraying for Japanese beetles can be time-consuming and expensive. To minimize applications, consider incorporating a product with residual control rather than relying solely on knockdown products. Consider cost as well – based on the research discussed above, this application may not make a strong difference for yield or vine health.

Examples of effective active ingredients include phosmet, carbaryl, acetamiprid, fenpropathrin, cyfluthrin, and cypermethrin. Organic options include neem oil, kaolin clay, and Bt galleriae (e.g. BeetleGone!). Please consult the Midwest Fruit Pest Management Guide, a similar publication, and the product labels for more information.

Non-insecticide control measures

Very small vineyards may be able to manually remove Japanese beetles. Manual removal, commonly used by home gardeners, involves brushing the beetles off the vines into soapy water or vacuuming them off with a handheld car vacuum. This is generally not practical for commercial vineyards.

Another potential non-chemical option is to surround the vines in insect exclusion netting, which is similar to bird netting with smaller holes to keep out insects. I am not personally aware of research testing this method in vineyards, but a current study of exclusion netting on apple trees at University of Minnesota shows promise for a variety of insect pests.

In summary – Controlling Japanese beetles will be beneficial if infestations are high, but the good news is that growers need not panic upon spotting the first beetles. Take time to assess the situation and determine an economical plan of action before filling the spray tank.

To see recent research on how Japanese beetles affect grape yield and quality, see: Impact of Adult Popullia japonica Foliar Feeding Injury on Fruit Yield and Quality of a Temperate, Cold-Hardy Wine Grape, ‘Frontenac.’ https://doi.org/10.3389/finsc.2022.887659

Vineyard Irrigation: Wet Your Plants with Efficiency & Precision

By: Gerald Dlubala

The importance of water and its management for grapevine quality and yield cannot be overstated,” said Randy Heinzen, president of Vineyard Professional Services in Paso Robles, California.

  “When it comes to irrigation,” said Heinzen, “vineyards depend on drip irrigation for the most part. Sprinklers are great at spreading water across the entire acreage, but applications by sprinklers in-season can increase the potential for disease in the canopy. I haven’t worked on a furrow irrigation system (which diverts naturally accumulating water into channels that run into or along each side of the vineyard rows) here on the Central Coast since 2011. Choices will always differ by region, and some vineyards successfully utilize dual systems that combine drip and overhead systems or drip and under vine micro-sprinklers. Grapevines are fairly drought tolerant, so they readily adapt to receiving drip irrigation at several points near the trunk.”

  Heinzen said that most vineyard managers prefer drip irrigation systems because of the ability to provide a directed and constant volume to each plant. Another advantage of utilizing a drip system is the ability to fertigate and apply chemicals directly and precisely to each vine when needed.

  “The type and amount of scheduling for those needs varies based on system ability, soil dynamics, the winegrower’s goals, and seasonal weather events and conditions,” said Heinzen. “At the most basic level, irrigation is applied at some fraction of the grapevine’s water use. Other variables include the time in the growing season and the grapevine’s age, root system, soil interaction level and general overall health. And the more active the leaf area is that is photosynthesizing, the greater the water use is going to be by the plant, which in turn requires a greater need for water replenishment.”

  Heinzen told The Grapevine Magazine that the cost of installing a drip system depends on the volume of water available for irrigation and the vineyard spacing, layout and design. The cost of mate

rial and installation of a drip system’s sub mains through to the above-ground infrastructure can be between $3,000 and $6,000 per acre, comparable to installing a quality sprinkler system.

  “Most vineyards track irrigation through flow meters and in-field pressure systems in drip hoses,” said Heinzen. “But, while digital tracking removes most human errors caused by erroneous note-taking and transcription of numbers, technology is not always reliable, and data gaps can occur. A novel approach to monitoring irrigation uses satellite imagery to estimate actual evapotranspiration and deduce the correlating irrigation needs. In terms of field operations, there are several automated systems available for remote pump and valve control, but the same caveat about reliability applies to agricultural field technology as well.”

  “With that in mind, a vineyard owner’s most important question for the irrigation system installer concerns the warranty. For most vineyard owners, the irrigation systems are installed by third-party contractors, with the majority of their work buried underground. The most professional and experienced contractors give the best warranties because they are good at their craft. In my experience, paying more for that professional design and installation upfront eventually saves money in the long run due to the potential of more costly and untimely field repairs and maintenance after installation. Further, vineyard owners should educate themselves on how the system runs, how to use it, and how to handle and make minor repairs themselves. Disruptions in the availability of needed water impact current and future crops, so as the vineyard manager, you should know the location of the underground pipes, how the controllers and filters operate and what pressures your system is designed to maintain for optimal performance. A good relationship with your contractor is critical to your farming success.”

Water Efficiency Is Key: Noble Vineyard Management Services

  “Water efficiency is key when choosing irrigation systems,” said Tyler Rodrigue, CEO of Noble Vineyard Services, a full-service, vineyard-to-winery service operating on California’s North Coast. “The grape-growing industry has been forward-thinking for decades regarding efficient water applications and measuring cost benefits and needs to ensure that our water resources are put to their highest, most beneficial use. We use drip irrigation systems in spring, summer and fall to irrigate the vines. Then, if we’re not getting normal rains, sprinklers are used during late fall, winter and early spring to simulate normal rain conditions and provide a good soil profile.”

  Like Heinzen, Rodrigue said that drip irrigation is the preferred choice because of its efficiency. “It’s important to ensure that vineyards are adequately irrigated through the seasons, including pre-budbreak, during the growing season and then through the harvest into post-harvest. Rainfall received during our rainy season naturally influences our irrigation schedules. As a rule of thumb, we like to have an approximately one-acre foot of water available for irrigation during the growing season. We use remotely controlled, automated irrigation systems that provide leak detection and track the amount of water allocated during the irrigation session, the vine water capacity and critical soil moisture levels.”

  Rodrigue recommends that vineyard owners perform quality research before choosing a system. Always check with other growers who use similar irrigation systems to validate capabilities, user-friendliness and return-on-investment (ROI). Finally, choose a distributor that offers serviceability and critical support when you need it. Drip, sprinkler and micro-sprinkler systems can all seem expensive because of the infrastructure necessary for proper performance, including PVC pipe, fittings, sprinkler heads, drip tubes, motors and pumps. Still, when appropriately scaled, the ROI ranges in the three-to-five-year range.

Precision Irrigation in Stages: William Chris Wine Company

  Tate Gregory is the Vineyard Manager for William Chris Wine Company, located in Hye, Texas. He told The Grapevine Magazine that it’s close to, if not impossible, to establish a vineyard in Texas without some form of irrigation system in place. Like the others, he prefers drip irrigation systems, the choice method in Texas, for all the wineries he oversees.

  “Drip irrigation allows for more precision in your watering and chemical injection needs,” said Gregory. “A drip system is probably one of the more expensive options when starting, but the ability to granularly control your water and nutrient applications is well worth the upfront cost. The emitters on the drip system ensure that the proper amount of water needed is dispensed and directed towards the root zone of the vines underneath the row. Additionally, those emitters allow the desired amount of water you want at each emitter, reducing water waste by not irrigating unnecessary areas. Sprinkler systems will direct a lot of water to your vineyard all at once, but sprinklers can’t precisely deliver water to a target. On top of that, you can end up with mildew or other fungal issues that arise from having a moist canopy during your growing season. I have seen sprinklers used in vineyards as a form of frost protection, but here in Texas, we use fans.”

  “The watering comes in stages for our vineyards, unless you’re in a drought like we are currently experiencing, when we irrigate more frequently just to maintain vine health,” said Gregory. “Here in Texas, we usually get in-season rains that supplement our irrigation plan, which depends on many factors, including temperatures, site water holding capacity, rootstock, grape variety and more. We want to ensure proper shoot and cluster development and a canopy that is sufficient to ripen our fruit later in the season, so as a regular part of our routine, we develop and alter irrigation schedules weekly.”

  “At the post-fruit set, water is applied on a more prudent basis to control excessive canopy growth and focus on cluster size and berry development versus lateral shoot growth. It really is a fine line between discouraging excessive growth versus maintaining the health of the canopy to ripen fruit. In-season watering can vary from six to 12 gallons a week per plant early on, versus two to four gallons closer to harvest. Post-harvest, we’re looking to keep the canopy viable for as long as possible to ensure proper carbohydrate storage for next growing season.”

  Gregory said that all irrigation systems require infrastructure both in the field and at the control center. Field infrastructure includes the PVC needed to move the water into the fields, the risers to get the water into the drip tape and the pressure gauges to ensure consistency. The control center infrastructure is usually centrally located and includes things like electric solenoid or manual valves, backflow prevention, chemical injectors and water filters. Controlling your irrigation system depends on the vineyard’s situation. It can be as simple as a valve to manually turn the blocks on and off to a remote-control box that allows for scheduling different timing and length of irrigation sets. There are many options, but it all comes down to available resources and time. A smaller vineyard with an on-site manager can get by manually. Still, larger-scale vineyard operations over multiple sites would benefit from and be more efficient with a control box to schedule system operations. Prices vary based on how intricate your system is.

  “There are things to think about when choosing and installing an irrigation system,” said Gregory. “Try to forecast ahead to ensure your water supply will meet your irrigation needs, especially in a drier year. If not, you may need multiple wells or water storage tanks to meet demand. Additionally, you want to determine if you or someone else will be available to be out in the field when necessary to open and close the valves to change blocks. If not, can you acquire the resources needed to put towards a control box that can do these tasks on a preset schedule? Lastly, segmenting your vineyard blocks based on soil types and water needs can help ensure your plants get the water they need to thrive. For example, we farm a specific vineyard and section off the top of a hillside into its own block so we can provide for the needs of that block, compensating for soil type and exposure.”

Baseline Water Requirements

Water requirements, as expected, are influenced by several factors, including vine age and density, cover crops used (if any), rootstock and actual climate conditions (rate of rainfall with evaporation rates) under which they are grown. Additionally, the grape variety can play a role in baseline water needs. For example, red grape varietals typically require less water than white varietals, and grapes traditionally grown for aromatic and lighter styles of wine demand more water to minimize water stress or loss than those produced for medium to full-bodied wines.

Vineyard Equipment Choice Designs Boost Production, Save Money

By: Cheryl Gray

From preparation to harvest, equipment makes the difference in how well a vineyard is maintained year-round. Tractors, tools and expertise in how to use both go a long way towards reaching that goal. To help clear the path are companies with the products that get the job done.

One of them is Tillage Management, Inc, which designs and manufactures one-pass and reduced-pass tillage equipment. A family-owned company out of Tulare, California, Tillage Management first began manufacturing one-pass tillage equipment for row crops back in 2006. In 2017, the company expanded its product line to include equipment that can handle the needs of vineyards. To be certain that innovation meets practical application, Tillage Management works side-by-side with its farming division to test its equipment and new product designs. Kat Coombes, project manager for Tillage Management, describes why minimizing passes optimizes cost savings.

“Our aim has been to sell high-quality products that are easy to use, simple and inexpensive to maintain, and ready to run when the farmer needs them. We can customize our units for different crops and soil types so our customers have the optimal setup or setups for their needs. By reducing passes, our customers typically save 50 percent or more on time and tillage costs. Our equipment also helps to reduce dust, incorporate organic material, and potentially improve soil health for crop roots.”

Coombes described some of the company’s most widely used products.

“For our newer models, we have applied large-scale, one-pass tillage principles to orchard- and vineyard-sized equipment to reduce passes and fix some of the typical tillage issues that exist in the market.”

Among the best features for Tillage Management products, Coombes says, is that there is little-to-no wear on original parts or replacement parts. The company prides itself on building for the lifetime of the product.

“We build heavy-duty frames with long-lasting working parts to allow our customers to keep running and stay out of the repair shop. All disk blades are independently-mounted to custom maintenance-free bearings with 10,000 to 25,000-plus acre lifetimes. Units leave a clean finish, maintain levels and do not throw dirt outside the working width.”

Tillage Management equipment, says Coombes, is customizable to fit almost any need. Some of those custom features include either towed or three-point hitch options, three-row or five-row disk and implement combinations, multiple implement types to combine with disks and every working width from four to 15 feet.

Coombes told The Grapevine Magazine about Tillage Management products that vineyard owners should consider.

“The OPTIMIZER Model 1007 is a three- or five-row towed disking implement. For a vineyard with 12-foot spacing and cover crops to work into the soil, this eight-foot-wide unit with a seven-foot working width would be set up with two rows of disk blades for complete uprooting coverage, two rows of chrome-edged baskets for soil mixing and residue incorporation and a final smooth roller for a clean, flat finish. This would typically replace two to three passes with a traditional disk and work two to three times as quickly as a rototiller.

The OPTIMIZER Model 304 is a three-row, three-point hitch disking implement. For a vineyard with eight-foot spacing and some residue, prunings or cover crop to work in, this is a five-foot-wide unit with a four-foot working width. All weeds and cover crops would be uprooted and soil inverted by the two rows of disk blades; then, the rear cultipacker would break up clods and leave a level, crumbly finish. The seven-foot-long 300 Series is great for tight spaces and precision control but with the tillage potential of a much larger implement.

The OPTIMIZER CR Series Model CR-7 is a three-row, three-point hitch chisel implement. For a vineyard with compaction issues, water penetration problems or soil stratification that extends past the top four inches, the Chisel Roller is an excellent solution. Chisel shanks with wings allow full soil-shattering coverage across the working width, while the subsequent roller breaks down large clods and leaves a level, crumbly finish. It works great on its own or in combination with an OPTIMIZER disk.”
Coombes adds that Tillage Management has also designed products with smaller vineyards in mind.

“The OPTIMIZER 300 and 1000 Series require a minimum of 11 to12 horsepower per foot working width, so tractor requirements start at 48 HP. Our goal has been to make our one-pass tools more widely available for smaller tractors and smaller farms.”

Another California-based company, Solectrac, offers vineyards electric tractors. This year, World Ag Expo recognized the company for innovation in its field, earning an award for “Top 10 New Product.” Being quiet with zero emissions and no dependency on fossil fuel are among the features that make Solectrac’s products not only popular in the United States but as far away as Canada, Norway and India. Global demand, the company says, continues to grow because of concerns over protecting the environment, coupled with increasing prices for fossil fuels.

Vineyards switching from diesel to one of Solectrac’s electric tractors can charge their machinery with solar energy. Prices for these electric tractors range anywhere from $35,000 for a 24- to 30-horsepower model to $75,000 for the 70-horsepower version. While the initial cost is as much as 40 percent higher than traditional tractors, Solectrac points out that by not having to use fuel and oil, coupled with lower maintenance costs, the electric tractors pay for themselves within two to three years.

On the East Coast, BDI Machinery Sales, Inc. specializes in the tool and machinery needs of fruit, vegetable and nursery growers. Founded in 1996 and based just outside of Philadelphia, the company sources and distributes agricultural equipment from around the world.

Paul Licata has more than 25 years of experience in senior sales, marketing and operations management.

“BDI Machinery Sales is your complete source for innovative specialty agricultural machinery. We offer numerous types and sizes of sprayers, hedgers, leaf removers, shredders, cultivators, pruners, mowers, row mulchers and other specialized machinery from around the world.”

Licata explains why BDI Machinery is the first choice for many vineyards when it comes to finding just the right equipment, giving details on some of its most popular options.

“The CIMA low-volume atomizer sprayers are the industry standard and technology leader, with single, multi-row, row cannon and pneumatic air boom spray heads. The OLMI Air (Pneumatic) Impulse deleafers are the industry standard and technology leader, with single and multi-row configurations. The Rinieri CRV Vision Hedger/Trimmer is the industry standard and technology leader, with single, multi-row and over-the-row configurations.”
When it comes to product innovation and technology, Licata promises that BDI can deliver.

“CIMA EPA 2.0 System (Delivery Proportional to Advance) works with the full range of new CIMA’s low-volume pneumatic sprayers. For spraying quantity accuracy, by decreasing the forward speed, the system automatically reduces the quantity delivered while increasing the forward speed and the quantity delivered. This system avoids product waste and assures treatment effectiveness, a great cost-saving and a reduction in the environmental impact. Easy programming is guaranteed, as it is possible to save and manage up to 15 programs by entering the following operation parameters.

OLMI Air impulse deleafers are implemented multiple times during the growing season and are the pinnacle of leaf-removal technology. The machine is air-powered through a compressor to multi-diffusers that are rotating. The pneumatic machine shatters leaves to remove them from the canopy, as opposed to previous technologies that pull the leaves. Trials have shown traditional leaf pullers remove about 50 percent to 60 percent with control, while the air impulse deleafer removes targeted leaves with 100 percent control.

The Rinieri Finger weeder cultivator allows farmers to no longer reduce spraying and use this machine for organic weed control. The new range of Rinieri finger weeders is for fast mechanical weeding (up to 6 MPH) composed of the Bio-disc, which breaks the ground near the plants and then the Bio-Star with its rubber spokes for inter-row processing.”

Brazil is home to Jacto, an agricultural machinery company touting workable solutions for vineyards looking for equipment alternatives. Jacto has clients in more than 100 countries, with production plants in Brazil, Argentina and Thailand. Paulo Bueno works as a product manager in the engineering, marketing and commercial areas.

“Jacto has a wide range of high-tech products, from equipment for pruning and portable sprayers to large machines for spraying, fertilizer spreading, planting, coffee and sugarcane harvesting. Jacto also provides solutions and services for precision agriculture and agriculture 4.0 for increasingly more sustainable productions.

The main innovations in the field of fruit sprayers are present in the Arbus 4000 JAV (Jacto Autonomous Vehicle) used in citrus cultivation. In this equipment, LIDAR sensors, radar and optical units capture information from the environment and support decision-making. The spray tower is composed of eight independent electric fans, four on each side and arranged in a row, in each of which it is possible to change the wind speed and spray flow, allowing the application to be interrupted in each of the eight sections as needed. Adjusting the position of the fans is also possible, bringing it closer or further away from the crop, modifying the angle of each deflector in the vertical direction, in order to make the application converge to the plant.”

The experts agree that cost, low maintenance and longevity are key to making a good investment when it comes to vineyard equipment and tools. The choices are vast, and discernment goes a long way to making the right one.