NAPA’s Regenerative Vineyards

napa valley vineyard

By Igor Sill

Napa Valley is world renowned for its fine wines, and Napa’s wine appellation that surpasses all others is its famed Atlas Peak, Napa’s volcanic mountain wine growing region. Atlas Peak is the highest point in Napa at 2263′ above sea level. Our vineyards rest atop a plateau off of Atlas Peak Road, the main artery that leads you to stunning vistas with purity of air, serenity and diverse wildlife transporting one back in time.

The curvy, windy road remains lined with burnt oak trees and blackened rocks, a reminder of the 2017 Napa wildfires. In between the trees are modest looking estates and pristine vineyards spared from the fire’s devastation. Thankfully, vineyards act as a natural firebreak and prevented further destruction. Even though it’s just minutes from the hustle and bustle of tourist-rich Napa, Atlas Peak remains a quiet oasis, wine country’s hidden gem. Farming these soils is immensely challenging, but well worth the effort as vintners continue Atlas Peak’s reputation for consistently producing the finest wines since 1870.

We are now well into Napa’s deep winter season, a vine’s dormant period and a time when our mountain vineyards generally experiences that quiet tranquility of cold temperatures. This season’s snow and lots of it, froze Atlas Peak’s vineyard soils and halted all farming activity.

The late winter freeze swathed cover crop and vines with snow, six inches of it! With continued forecasts of more freezing rain in March, Atlas Peak is off to a prolonged series of winter storms that should continue to drench vineyards till Spring! All this much needed rain will also preclude irrigation until late summer, which is good for vineyards and good for our planet..

The goal of sustainably regenerative farming is to build healthy soils in harmony with a nature-based approach to decreasing carbon emissions and increasing carbon uptake and storage. This is accomplished primarily through the use of cover crops which can sequester up to two additional tons of carbon per acre while improving soil microbe diversity and increasing water absorption. Planting cover crops such as mustard, legumes, oats and clover significantly improve soil quality by enriching organic matter with nutrients, increasing microbial activity and attracting beneficial arthropods by providing a healthy ecosystem during the dormant season. The regenerative approach strengthens the health of vineyard soil, and yields tastier fruit while reversing the effects of climate change.

As Franklin Delano Roosevelt once noted, “The nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself.

From the UC Davis CARC and the CITRIS Climate Initiative’s co-Director, Michele Barbato:

“Extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and intensity due to climate change, which impacts soil and growth conditions of vineyard crops. Regenerative agriculture looks to not only stop damaging our ecosystem but actually improves soil health by moving carbon from our atmosphere back into our soils using a variety of agricultural management practices that work in alignment with natural systems. I’m delighted to know that Napa is on the leading edge of environmental awareness and action.” says Professor Michele Barbato, co-director of the UC Davis Climate Adaptation Research Center (CARC) and director of the CITRIS Climate Initiative. “Regenerative farming is a vital solution to both mitigating the emissions of greenhouse gases from the agriculture industry and to limit the damaging impacts of climate change to crops and ensure a resilient and sustainable food system. The UC Davis Climate Adaptation Research Center is looking forward to working with local farmers to quantify the benefits of regenerative farming.” says Professor Erwan Monier, Co-Director of the UC Davis CARC.

In a natural process called “weathering”, Atlas Peak’s volcanic basalt rock terrain naturally absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  Some Atlas Peak growers have added additional exposed volcanic basalt rock to this natural weathering process by relocating large amounts of stacked rocks where they surround vineyards and absorb carbon dioxide.

The 2017 Atlas Peak fires, and several more recent Napa and Sonoma fires, confirmed the need for reforestation to keep carbon absorbed and stored.  Post fires, many Atlas Peak growers planted new oak trees and carbon sequestering coyote shrubs in their vineyards to restore and capture carbon dioxide. Turns out that while Atlas Peak vines, trees, and shrubs capture carbon dioxide as they grow, they also provide a natural fuel source in a process called “bioenergy generation,” absorbing and holding carbon for a longer time.

It all starts with the burning of biomass, such as vine cuttings left over from pruning, to produce Biochar, a charcoal-like substance that stores carbon. Biochar is then raked into the soil to keep carbon out of the atmosphere for longer periods while it improves our soil’s health and sustainability. A recent Columbia Climate School scientific report highlighted both positive and negative impacts of climate change on plant growth. By proactively building soil health, growers are preparing their vineyards for changing climatic conditions, so that they can minimize negative impacts and capitalize on a potential CO2 fertilization effect.

Another component of responsible farming is that one honors farm workers fairly by paying a livable wage, which tends to be much higher than the national average, given Napa’s higher cost of living. Of course, nearly every aspect of this regenerative farming costs more than conventional farming and using organic compost preparations with natural nutrients versus chemical-based fertilizers, manual weed removal rather than spraying herbicide, all drive up the total costs. The economics matter, and Napa’s grape growers have had a tough time of it lately given Napa’s rigorously regulated agricultural compliance. Over these last year’s though, Napa growers have embraced their responsibility, and the fiscal requirements that come with it, to preserve their soil’s health for our generation and the many generations to come. The payoff of regenerative farming extends well beyond the benefits of establishing a climate-friendly farm to the rising awareness of our environment, protecting our water sources, storing carbon, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and maintaining soil health.

We all agree that we must dramatically cut our carbon dioxide emissions to limit global warming and avoid future climate catastrophes. The wonderful thing is that cutting carbon emissions and redirecting carbon into the soil significantly benefits the quality and health of Napa’s vines, ultimately the crafting of exquisite wines while continually adopting low-cost ways to operate more sustainably.

About the Author:

Igor Sill is living his dream pursuing his passion for regenerative farming on Atlas Peak Mountain in Napa. He’s a commonsense environmentalist, wine lover, winemaker, vintner, writer, Court of Master Sommeliers, attended UC Davis’ winemaking program, a Judge for the International Wine Challenge, London, UK; and holds his masters from Oxford University. Many thanks to Derek Irwin, Sill Family Vineyards’ Agronomist & Enologist, and UC Davis Climate Adaptation Research Center (CARC) and director of the CITRIS Climate Initiative, Michele Barbato.

Top-5 Automated Text Campaigns for Wine Merchants

chat box on screen

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

If you’re like many wine marketers, your to-do list is a mile long. You need to post on social media, update your blog, manage your next event, and launch a new vintage of wine. And that’s only on the marketing side.

  With so many hats to wear, today’s wine merchants need any help they can get.

  That’s where automated SMS workflows can save the day with personalized messaging sent to the right customers at precisely the right time to generate game-changing results.

What are Automated SMS Workflows?

  In an ideal world, your best sales rep would stay in touch with every customer and reach out instantly when your winery can offer them something they value.

  Automated SMS workflows offer this same service by monitoring consumer behavior 24/7, then sending personalized text messages whenever your business can help individual consumers enjoy your brand.

  Fundamentally different from one-off ‘blasts’ sent to everyone on your list, automated SMS workflows are triggered when customers take a specific action, like asking for more information, ordering products, or joining your club.

  By using automated workflows, any wine merchant can offer their customers an increasingly rare experience simply by paying attention and catering to their unique needs. The result is a virtuous cycle of happier customers leading to more sales — without requiring more labor.

Ranking the Top-5 Automated SMS Campaigns Available for Wineries in 2023

  With wine merchants reporting 32 times better results using text messaging instead of email to reach their customers, the race is on to identify which SMS campaigns drive the most sales.

  So, our friends at Listrak analyzed 1.1 billion marketing texts sent across all industry segments to conclude that automated SMS messages triggered by customer behavior consistently outperform marketing blasts — generating 2-to-20 times more sales per text than typical broadcast messages.

  In their landmark report “2022 Benchmarks: Text Message Marketing,” Listrak identified the top 5 automated campaigns available to today’s wine merchants:

1.  Welcome Series

2.  Transactional Updates

3.  Shopping Cart Abandonment

4.  Browse Abandonment

5.  Post-Purchase Sequence

  The revenue generated by these campaigns averaged eight times more than the sales produced by typical text marketing blasts.

  Of course, these results shouldn’t surprise most wine marketers. Automated email campaigns also maximize sales compared to email blasts. It turns out that timing and relevance still plays a vital role in the success of direct marketing.

  So that’s why we’ve been advising our friends for years: “it’s time to get past the blast…”

Automated SMS Workflow #1: Welcome Series

  A welcome text is your chance to make a great first impression with new subscribers, wine club members, and recent guests.

  Research on human behavior shows consumers are most engaged when they first sign up to receive your messages. That’s why their experience in the first few weeks of your relationship can often determine the outcome.

  If you offer consumers many ways to engage your brand, sending a series of messages might make sense instead of a single text. New subscribers to your list might enjoy…

•  A link to your winery’s social media pages

•  Info on what new subscribers can expect

•  A thank-you gift for joining your text list

  A similar welcome sequence can work for new wine club members and retail customers by using autoresponders to send your SMS messages at specific intervals.

  However you harness the power of an automated welcome sequence, you’ll be profiting from one of the most productive marketing techniques available to today’s wine merchants.

Automated SMS Workflow #2: Transactional Texts

  While many wineries work with commerce systems that can trigger personalized text messages whenever customers place orders, make reservations, or expect a wine shipment, most wine merchants have yet to profit from transactional text messaging.

  Transactional messages like order confirmations, shipping notices, and appointment reminders are among the most popular texts sent to consumers by their favorite brands.

  For wine marketers looking to deliver a world-class customer experience, enabling your commerce system to trigger text messages opens a new channel of communication that works 24/7 to engage your best customers without adding to your workload.

  And for U.S. retailers, the sales revenue generated by transactional SMS messages averaged $1.16 for each text sent.

Automated SMS Workflow #3: Cart Recovery

  Savvy wine marketers know that repeat customers like wine club members and mailing list subscribers place most online wine orders.

  Yet, for every ten successful orders placed by repeat buyers, another seven orders are lost due to cart abandonment – when customers fill their cart but don’t complete the checkout process.

  Of course, consumers have many reasons to abandon the purchase process before completing their order. Extra costs like shipping, a frustrating checkout process, or even a slow website can send thirsty shoppers away before purchasing your wine.

  But did you know that 20-40% of these customers can be lured back with a thoughtful automated cart abandonment campaign?

  To put these results in perspective, a typical winery experiencing 70% cart abandonment and a 30% cart recovery rate will generate 20% more online sales than wineries that don’t use automated cart recovery techniques.

  For U.S. retailers, Listrak’s latest report shows that abandoned cart campaigns generate an average of $1.04 of incremental revenue for every text sent, nearly six times more than a typical SMS blast.

Automated SMS Workflow #4: Browse Abandonment

  Like shopping cart abandonment campaigns, automated texts sent to shoppers who spent time browsing your products, but didn’t add them to their carts, can also boost online sales by turning “window shoppers” into happy customers.

  Both offline and online, browse abandonment is often just a natural part of the purchasing process.

  According to sales conversion experts, for every customer adding a product to their online shopping cart, three more prospects view your products without taking further action.

  So, if your website can identify opt-in SMS subscribers who viewed your products without purchasing, browse abandonment campaigns offer wine marketers another opportunity to nudge them to buy.

  Some of the most productive browse abandonment campaigns reinforce consumer interest by featuring popular offers like…

•  product reviews

•  related products/services

•  special time-limited promotions

  And for U.S. retailers, the latest research on SMS marketing shows that browse abandonment campaigns generate an average of $0.56 of incremental revenue for every text sent, three times more than a typical SMS blast.

SMS Workflow #5: Post Purchase Sequence

  Since market research shows consumer interest peaks at the time of purchase, direct marketers can leverage this honeymoon period to build long-lasting relationships by launching an automated post-purchase campaign.

  After customers receive their wine, successful marketers often use personalized messages seeking customer feedback on the purchase process, suggesting food & wine pairings, asking for product reviews, or offering a chance to order more wine.

  While many post-purchase messages don’t focus directly on incremental sales, the latest research still shows that post-purchase campaigns generate an average of $0.51 of sales revenue for every text sent, 3-times more than an average SMS blast.

The Bottom Line on Automated SMS Wine Marketing Campaigns

  Most wine marketers face the same problem: balancing a long to-do list against limited time.

  Devoting resources to SMS messaging — the wine industry’s most productive DTC marketing channel — is an intelligent business decision. But setting up automated SMS campaigns is even better.

  For wine merchants looking to delight their customers with personalized service, engage more consumers without doing more work, and grow their business using the best practices of SMS wine marketing, automated text messaging is a proven path to success.

  By generating 2-to-20 times more sales revenue than typical text blasts, the five automated campaigns outlined in this article can help any wine merchant maximize their profits with SMS wine marketing.

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 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, The Grapevine Magazine, and the Wine Industry Network. VinterActive is located in Windsor, California at 707-836-7295 or vinteractive.com

The Art of Blending

wine glasses formed in pattern

By: Tom Payette – Winemaking Consultant  

Blending is an excellent resource to make improvements in wines.  To do it properly takes time, work and organization. Standing in the cellar and walking from wine vessel to wine vessel roughly pouring the quantities from glass to glass in estimation of what a blend will be like is not acceptable.  Beyond the practical applications it is a great time to review overall winemaking quality and to plan the upcoming winemaking schedule for the year.  Following these steps will result in better quality wines, more cellar organization and fluid production parameters for any winery whether making 2000 cases or 40,000 cases and beyond.  These sessions give the winemaker long-term direction and will keep others in the winery better informed and involved with what is happening in the cellar.

  In this article, I will go into detail with a step-by- step analysis how a blending session can be performed.  This process gives a platform to taste and review all of the winery’s products and make blends in a systematic session outside of the cellar. One should be dedicated to this process.  The first blending session may have some disjointed moments but don’t let that discourage the process.  By the third session one should be on top of all aspects of this process and ready to build on it to make it an even better operation for their winery.  Take the time to follow this process from sampling on through to the follow-up report.  It works!

1)  First, establish a set of goals for the blending session.  Most of the time the goal will be to meet a certain style of wines that have the consistency of previous vintages or better.  One can establish other goals as needed to fit the particular set of circumstances in the cellar.  Goals such as blending a reserve style blend for a particular wine variety and then making subsequent blends is a perfect start.  Always taste past vintages of these same wines from the wine library. This will give great information as to how wines are holding up in the bottle and help remember the earlier wines and how they were crafted.  Collect winemaking data of these past vintages for review should that be necessary.  If one marvels over a competitor’s wine, then purchase some of that wine and put it into the initial blind tasting.  It may help move your wine style in the direction desired.  Try to answer this question before, during and after the blending session: “Do we know where we are with our wines and where we are trying to go”? Asking yourself and the others this question will help the winery move the wines forward.

2)  The Next step in a successful blending session is collecting the samples early.  Go into the cellar, at least one week prior to the scheduled blending day, and pull all the samples needed in sufficient quantities.  Usually at least one 750 ml sample of each large lot will be sufficient for a two person blending session.  Perhaps a 375 ml sample of the smaller lots will suffice.  When in doubt – collect multiple 750 milliliter samples of one lot.  (If using this article, as a client of mine, lets please touch base to discuss sample sizes and participants in the blending session)  Make sure these samples represent the lot of wine.  If twenty barrels are in the lot – try and pull the sample from at least 10 representative barrels to make sure it is uniform.  If a certain wine is in two distinct sets of wine storage conditions, take samples of each and indicate the differences.  If the sample does not represent the wine it is supposed to, a successful blending session can not be performed.  If older lots of a certain wine remain in the cellar, sample them as well. It may help to round out the newer vintage blend.  Take samples of anything that does not already have a direction in your winemaking plan and that may even remotely have a chance of adding to the blend.  All the way down to carboys if you have them. If looking to purchase wines in bulk, have those samples sent to you well ahead of time with their respective chemistries.

3)  Pull the wine samples in the same style glass bottle to eliminate the influence of preference, or lack thereof.  The wines will be tasted blind and one would not want to influence the tasters by having the glass bottle, color or style tip the taster’s hand. (It happens!)  Using a t-top closure is the best for these samples to save time.  This will make it easier to remove the cork at the blending table and prevent fumbling clumsily through the opening of each bottle while pulling a cork.

4)  Mark each bottle with the lot code, vintage year, variety, quantity and any other data deemed important – for example “new French oak” or “malo-lactic”. Place the bottles into brown bags or wine bottle bags all of the same style.  This action, will again, prevent any bias resulting from remembering what wine went into which bag.  Randomly move the bottles around to facilitate the blind tasting process for yourself (optional).  After shuffling the wines around sufficiently, label them in a number or letter sequence and place, in flights, into boxes.  This process should be completed one week prior to the actual blending session and the wines should be stored upright to allow any sediment to form on the bottom of the bottle.

5)  Collect background data on each of the wines to be presented at the blending table.  This information should include harvest data, fermentation data (yeast, temp, enzymes etc), a full chemistry panel (ph, TA, so2, VA, malic, alcohol etc.)  Record this data on a spreadsheet for copies to be distributed to every member of the tasting panel at the appropriate time.  Speak with the owner or sales department to get information on sales data for each product.  This will help determine how much of a given blend that should be made.  Collect current inventories, on hand, in both case storage and bulk wine – if more of a current blend is to be bottled.

6)  With the above information in hand make a “wish list”, independent of what known volumes you have on hand, for all wines to be blended.  Make this wish list up with volumes needed for the business goals.  So :: each varietal, each vintage and how much of each to make.  This is very important to make the blending day run smooth.

7)  When all of the wines and information are collected for the blending session, take time to remind the other members on the blending team of the date, time and location of the blending session.  Remind them not to wear smelly colognes or perfumes that day and to dress comfortably.  (There is no need to wear a tie as it may only drag through a glass of wine as one reaches across the table).

8)  The day prior to the blending session collect the other items necessary in the room to be used.  Check the wine glasses for potential cardboard dust odors or other off smells and wash them if necessary.  Check the actual room for off odors, paint smells, or other odors that may interfere with aroma evaluation.  Place a white table cloth on the table to be used.  For all the items to be used try to eliminate any colors to have mostly white and clear objects present.  For each sitting area have the wine glasses fanned out, in a semi-circle, in the quantity necessary to accommodate the largest flight of wines.  Have room to add about four more glasses to evaluate blends as they are made.  At these place settings have a water glass, pencils, paper, cracker dish and a spit cup.  At one end of the table have several graduated cylinders, beakers, and pipettes all of varying quantities.  Place several calculators on the table for use as mathematical questions may arise.  If your tap water has an off flavor, or a slight odor, use distilled water or bottled water for the sessions rinse water and drinking water.  Gather several clean 5 gallon buckets and place them in the room to assist dumping the glasses of wine after each session.

Okay! Now we are set up and ready for our blending day.

9)  The morning of the blending session have everyone gather in the room and take their place setting.  Give them an overview of what they will be doing but be careful not to reveal any information on the wines that are bagged and to be tasted blind.  Start with the first blind flight of wine.  This most often will be a primary focus wine flight of past vintages that have been made by the winery.  Older vintages help one understand what the consumer has been purchasing, how the lots are aging and what characteristic one may want to enhance or refine for future vintages.  Try to evaluate at least three vintages.  It is best to have six, seven or more if the winery has that many years under its belt.  This is a good time to slip in a competitors bottle that the winery has discussed trying to emulate.  Perhaps slip in a well known brand to see how your wine compares.  Pour the wines from left to right and make sure that everyone has them in the same order.  This will eliminate confusion when speaking and critiquing the wines.  Taste through each wine and take notes.  Indicate the positive and negative attributes of each wine on paper.  Allow as much time as necessary to thoroughly go through each wine and do it with complete silence and no discussion.

10)  After ample tasting time, have each member that feels comfortable doing so, talk briefly about each wine.  Perhaps have them rank the wines or select their favorites and mention why.  Keep a rough tally of the table’s favorites.  Is there a consensus?  Do most people have a favorite or dislike?  Zero in on the positive attributes of those favorite wines and mentally lock in those flavors and aromas.

11)  Unveil the wines and reveal their labels or contents.  Keep them in the order that the glasses are on the table so each one can record what wine goes with his or her notes.  Speak a little about each wine as it is unveiled and then allow some time after all the wines are exposed for light discussion and possible surprises that people have commented on.  Collectively agree with the rest of the table what three or four wines may be needed to evaluate the next blend, refresh the pours into the glasses and ask them to put them aside.  Mark their glasses with a pen or simply have some white paper in front of them and label the place setting for that particular wine.  Clear the table of the left over glasses of wine by dumping the contents into the dump buckets.  Cork the remaining bottles for potential future evaluation and remove them from the table.  Rinse all the glasses lightly and take a small break.

12)  During or shortly after the break, start to pour the next blind flight.  This flight will be all the bulk wines and blends from the cellar that will be possible candidates to help make the next vintage of the previous wines just evaluated.  Be sure to include any older lots of wine that have been left behind in the cellar for one reason or another.  If an older wine is being blended perhaps taste and reach out for a newer vintage that may increase the fruitiness and freshness of the wine.  Taste and evaluate silently all of the potential components for the next blend.  Take notes and express the positive and negative attributes of each wine.  Rank them and discuss them after everyone has had time to evaluate them.  Reveal the bottles’ contents to the panel of tasters and perhaps have some light discussion about the wines, what vineyard blocks they came from and other possible factors that may add to the table. 

13)  After discussion, take a look at the quantities and chemistries you have of each wine in the cellar that is represented at the table.  Express those quantities to the rest of the table so they can help with the formulation of potential blends.  Have a pre-made spreadsheet with all the information needed and simply pass that out to the members to save time.  Now we have all of the information on the table to make our first blend!  (Whew – yes this is a task that takes time, energy and focus!) 

14)  First, formulate a blend on paper that may guide your new wine in the direction that you would like to see it go.  Take a look at the wines that will add the most to the new blend.  Start with several “paper blends” and make them at the table. [This may be done blind with the other tasting members excused.] Use the graduated cylinders, beaker, pipettes and other measuring devices to make the blends in the quantities that will fit the volume needed.  If the quality will allow more and the sales of the winery will allow it – make more.  If the quality will not allow a reserve blend, review the potential of not making one.  After the table blends are made, make sure to mix them well and then pour a portion of those blends for each person at the table. Pull the previously tagged glasses from the prior flight forward and taste the new blend up against the older vintages.

15)  Take time, with silence, for each member to evaluate the wines and select one or two that reflects an improvement on the previous vintages.  Discuss the wines and potentially make more sample blends, for the same wine, while refining and focusing the desired qualities.  Keep doing this process until an agreement can be reached as to which blend is the best.  Once that is done, subtract the volumes used for that blend from the spreadsheet and indicate the quantities that are remaining to work with.

  Dump and rinse the glasses that will no longer be used for the next blending flight.  Any glasses one decides to keep, be sure and mark accordingly and keep off to ones side.

16)  Now prepare for the next flight to be tasted blind.  Pull the next flight of library wines to the table to make the next level of quality for that style.  For example if the first flight was to make a “Meritage style blend” perhaps the next level will be a Reserve style or Premium blend.  Be careful not to use a descriptor such as “Regular Cabernet” because there should be nothing regular about it!  It also gets many in the winery referring to a blend in a non premium fashion. Taste just as we did before {blind and in silence} the next flight of library wines that correlates to the next wine that will be focused on and blended.  Once the tasting is completed discuss the wines with the table and start to focus on the next blend to be made.  This process can be repeated as often as necessary until all the wines have been made.  Once you are finished with the primary focus wines you can move into another quality tier.  Depending on the size of the winery one can work on reds one day and whites the second.  If some red wine will be needed to enhance a blush or rose, remember to hold that back during the previous sessions. 

17)  Once the process is complete be sure to compile all the information and double check the quantities assigned during the blending session.  Do this the next day if possible.  Make copies of the spreadsheet and pass them out to the participants and others at the winery.  If a mistake has been made it is much easier to regroup and find alternatives while the information is still fresh on the minds of the team.  Sit back and look at the complete picture the blending session has drawn for the cellar. Make sure new product lines were not left out or that the session will fulfill the year’s sales goals as best as possible.

18)  This process can be very daunting at first but once a system is in place it becomes second nature like anything else.  I like this process because it enhances the wine quality and it gives the cellar long-term direction.  One blend isn’t jeopardized because another one was made.  The winemaking team can move the wines forward, cohesively, in the cellar at a pace that should not be rushed.  Dry goods needs such as labels, corks, capsules and bottles can all be investigated and set up to arrive at the winery as needed.  The winery has a summary of the wine compositions and the exact blend percentages can be calculated.  This helps one put together a bottling schedule well into the next 6 months or longer.

19)  If many wines are remaining, at the end of the sessions, with “no home” discuss what some of the potential options are for those wines.  Will they get better?  Should they be offered for bulk sale? What is the future of the left overs?  Will there be enough cellar space to carry them over the next harvest?  Will it hamper the quality of the next harvest through “forced blending” due to cellar space issues?

Summary:

  Once this process has been performed several times it will become very systematic.  One can perform this process twice a year.  Perform the first blending session in the winter and another just prior to harvest.  This will help “shore up” loose ends in the cellar and prepare the cellar for the upcoming harvest.  The preharvest blending session is a great time to review fining trials on wines that may need refinement.  One can prepare these wines well in advance and taste them with others, blind, to get a true perspective to the best fining agents for a particular refinement.

  The success of a blending session is based on tasting the representative wine samples blind.  Getting the wines out of the cellar and evaluating them blind will help assemble blends without bias.  Try this process and give it at least three sessions over the next two years.  You will find the quality of the wines will improve, the cellar team will be better informed and focused and the complete winery team will all be aware as to the status of the wines.  It is the final touch to the winemaking art form.

Wine Blending Checklist

Objective:  To make the best possible blend(s) from the components of wine available in the cellar or off premise bulk wine.

Material Checklist:

4Wine bottles 4Wine bottle bags 4T-tops

4Magic markers – permanent (can be removed with ethyl alcohol) 4Adhesive labels for bottles

4Wine glasses – the small Viticole 7.25 oz glass is a nice “average” glass for this. 4Water glasses 4Pencils 4Paper 4Crackers 4Cracker dish

4Graduated Cylinders (multiple sizes) – 25 mil, 50 mil, 100 mil, 250 mil, 500 mil •Beakers – 500 milliliters 4Pipettes – [ 2 ] serological 10 milliliter

4White tablecloth – optional but nice. Large white paper is best. 4Spit cups 4Dump buckets (3) 4Distilled water

•  Be sure to collect samples from all lots in the cellar.

•  Recent data on wines to be tasted – organized and ready to answer questions.

•  Data on quantities to make – firm volumes known ahead of the day.

•  Sales data and current bulk wine data – more for your internal needs – not mine.

•  Current bottled wine data – again – to help you understand sales rates and needs.

4Calculators

4Past vintage wines and / or competitor’s wines

4Cork screw

4Quiet room

4An open mind and a great tasting team (….. but not too many people )

Cover Crops are a Powerful Tool for Vineyards

field of red flowers

By: Annie Klodd, University of Minnesota Extension Educator

Under-vine cover crops are managed plants grown underneath the rows of vines. Vineyard managers grow them on purpose to help achieve certain goals in the vineyard. I find them fascinating to talk about because their benefits and challenges are complex and never guaranteed.

  Grape growers working with overgrown vines might bring in competitive cover crops to slow their vigor. Organic-leaning vineyards often use cover crops to suppress weeds in place of herbicides. Those on steep hillsides should think about installing cover crops to stop erosion. If the cover crop is selected and managed well, vineyard managers should find success with these goals for at least several years.

  Other benefits are less straightforward. In some cases, cover crops might help increase soil organic matter and retain nitrogen, but the effects are often less that one might expect. Grasses tend to re-capture the nitrogen they put back into the soil after decomposition, so it may never reach the grapevines. Flowering cover crops will help attract pollinators like bees to the vineyard. This is wonderful as long as you are avoiding insecticides, which can kill those bees congregating around your flowering cover crop.

  Growers considering cover crops should first decide what goals you want to accomplish. Then, learn which types of cover crops to plant based on what will help achieve those goals. For example, a simple perennial fescue mix works wonders for most goals – vigorous fescues can easily outcompete most weeds, slow excess vine growth for several years, and support soil structure while requiring minimal mowing. Flowering species can be incorporated if desired. Vineyards hilling up graft unions each winter should consider annual cover crop species because the soil is frequently disturbed.

Slow Down Overly-ambitious Grapevines

  Is excessive vigor a problem in your vineyard? Are you constantly hedging and thinning to keep them under control? A strong, thick stand of under-vine cover crops might help slow the growth of overly-vigorous grapevines. Plants with dense root systems like perennial grasses compete with grapevines for water, nutrients, and space in the soil. When those roots get established, they tend to take up so much space in the soil that the grapevine roots avoid the top several inches of soil. The top few inches of soil are often the richest in nutrients and organic matter. So, when the grapevine roots are forced out of this area of soil, it can cause the vines to grow more slowly as they have limited access to the buffet of top soil resources.

  To use cover crops for vine vigor management, select a short, densely-growing perennial grass such as fine fescue. Wait to plant it until the vines are at least 3 years old, so that the grass competition does not stunt their early growth.

  There are many fine fescue species to choose from. The species that I have personally worked with is creeping red fescue. Fine fescues are short, only growing about 8 inches tall, and only need to be mowed 1-2 times per season. These grasses are also effective weed suppressors because they form a thick thatch of grass blades along the soil surface, blocking sunlight from hitting the soil surface. During my graduate research on fine fescues in vineyards, creeping red fescue formed a dense tangle of roots in the top 10 cm of soil, forcing the grapevine roots to avoid that area and grow deeper into the soil.

  To plant this cover crop, spread the seeds on lightly cultivated soil under the vine rows. Fescues are cool-season grasses that germinate best in cool, rainy weather. So, plant them in the spring after snow-melt for best results.

Say No to Weeds

  To suppress weeds, the stand of cover crops should be dense enough that it prevents direct sunlight from hitting the soil. Perennial fescues, described above, achieve this well. Clovers do a relatively poor job of densely covering the soil unless they are planted at very high seeding rates. If you want weed suppression but also insect attraction and nitrogen fixing, mix clover in with a fescue seed mix rather than planting it alone.

  Annual cover crops generally germinate and establish much faster than perennial species. They will do a better job of fighting weeds in the three months after planting. The obvious tradeoff is that they must be re-seeded each year. Perennial cover crops are less likely to provide effective weed management in the first year but will perform better long-term if managed well.

  Many annual species can be used for weed suppression if planted at high seeding rates. It is wise to include grasses in an annual cover crop mix if weed suppression is a goal, because they will help cover the soil more densely. Hairy vetch has also been shown to have good weed suppression but can become weedy. Whatever you do, just be sure to select low-growing species.

Cover Crops for Soil Health

  Cover crops improve healthy soil by adding organic matter, reducing erosion, and improving soil structure. Reducing erosion and improving soil structure are always good things in vineyards. But those considering cover crops for organic matter and nitrogen additions should ask themselves two questions first:  1) Will my cover crop add enough organic matter to make a difference? And 2) Does my vineyard actually need higher organic matter and nitrogen, or is my soil already ideal for grapevines?

  Sometimes certain cover crops can help retain or increase soil nitrogen, but this effect does not necessarily benefit the grapevines. If the soil and foliar tests indicate that the vines have sufficient nitrogen already, adding more is not beneficial. Most vineyards I know in the Midwest do not need to increase nitrogen.

  Secondly, even though grass cover crops put nitrogen back into the soil when they break down, their roots tend to take this nitrogen back up rather than releasing it into the soil for the grapevine roots to use. A 16-year study at a Cornell University vineyard found that bark mulch under the rows contributed more nitrogen to the soil than grass or herbicide treatments.

  This same 16-year study also found that bark mulch contributed more organic matter to the soil than cover crops, along with a 10-fold increase in phosphorous. While all plant matter contributes organic matter to the soil, the amount of matter added via cover crops is generally less than large outside inputs like mulch, compost, or manure.

  The ideal soil organic matter content for grapevines is 2-3%. Adding organic matter beyond that may not actually benefit your crop and can lead to excess vine vigor. Therefore, it is OK if a cover crop’s organic matter contribution is small.

  If, after reading this, you think that your vineyard’s soil could use more organic matter and nitrogen, consider cover crops, compost, or wood-based mulch accordingly.

Flower Power or Flower Downer?

  Flowering cover crops attract beneficial pollinators like bees. I am a full supporter of bees. That said, when deciding to add flowering cover crops to your vineyard, consider whether or not you plan to use insecticides going forward. Many broad-spectrum insecticides, including some organic ones, are highly toxic to bees.

  Because flowers attract these beneficial and sensitive insects to the vineyard, pollinator experts at Michigan State University and University of Minnesota have advised against spraying insecticides if flowers are in bloom. If you do use insecticides throughout the season, opt to plant flowering plants outside the vineyard rather than in the rows. Alternatively, you could try growing flowering plants and mow off the flowers before spraying insecticides.

Planting a Vineyard? Hold that Thought

  Just like weeds, thick stands of cover crops in the rows will slow the growth of newly planted vines, causing a delay in yield. In general, I advise waiting to plant cover crops under vine rows after Year 3, or until the grapevines have both cordons established (you should still plant grasses in the aisles during this time).

  The exception to this 3-year rule would be if the vines are excessively vigorous during establishment – in that case, a cover crop could help manage their rate of growth and suppress bull canes. I have seen this occur in a Minnesota vineyard with over 5% organic matter. Due to the extreme vine vigor during Years 2 and 3, I broke my rule and recommended planting an under-vine cover crop during vineyard establishment.

  If cover crops seem like the right choice for you after reading this far, give them a try! Reach out to your local seed representatives and ask for some samples to try in small areas of the vineyard. If it works for you, let your neighbors know!

Sources: 

•    turf.umn.edu

•    Atuche et al.  2011.  Long-term effects of four groundcover management systems in an apple orchard. 

•    HortScience 46(8)

•    Klodd et al. 2016 Coping with cover crop competition in mature grapevines.  Plant and Soil 400: 391-402

•   MSU webinar recording – April 8th, 2021

Crop Insurance is a Valuable Tool for Growers

vineyard with an overlooking lightning strike

By: Trevor Troyer, Agricultural Risk Management

I am not sure how many of you made it to Unified in Sacramento this January.  I did, it was my first time back since the pandemic.  I had a good time catching up with friends and making new ones.  The company was good and so was the wine. 

  If you had a chance to go to any the sessions you might have come across ones dealing with climate and weather conditions in the vineyard.  I attended some of these and they were very informative.  One was dealing with how to mitigate cold damage in grapevines.  Another one talked about how to deal with drought in the vineyard. It is interesting how we adapt to the conditions around us and how we adapt those plants and animals we have domesticated. 

  One thing I have learned over the years is that, things do not stay the same.  Change is inevitable.  This is especially true in farming.   You cannot expect to have the same growing conditions every year nor can you expect have the “right” crop every year.  Times change and so do tastes and desires in food and wine.  I know of plenty of vineyards that have pulled out one variety and planted another as trends changed.  As a grower you have to mitigate these risks and stay relevant. 

  Growers that adapt and learn new techniques are able to get by in tough times.  Things are not getting easier; input costs are still extremely high compared to years past.  Water regulations in some states are problematic. And climate and weather factors make it difficult, to say the least. Grape crop insurance can be a useful tool to help you continue making a living.

  With all that being said I have heard growers say that they can’t afford crop insurance.  With margins getting tighter, crop insurance is a tool, in my opinion, that you should not forego.   In the sessions I went to they discussed methods of handling the vineyard to mitigate damage. But what about those instances when you don’t make a crop or do not make much of one?  This is when crop insurance is important.  If you don’t have money to grow a crop the following year, you are out of business.

  Crop insurance is designed to help a grower get enough money to be able to produce a crop the following year.  It is not set up to replace profits lost.  I have had winery owners complain to me that it doesn’t cover the cost of how much their wine is worth.  While I can totally understand this, it is the growing costs that are being insured against. Crop insurance does not cover the production costs of making wine or juice etc. 

  Here are the Causes of Loss for Grapes out of a National Fact Sheet from the USDA:

Causes of Loss

You are protected against the following:

•   Adverse weather conditions, including natural perils such as hail, frost, freeze, wind, drought, and excess precipitation.

•   Earthquake

•   Failure of the irrigation water supply, if caused by an insured peril during the insurance period.

•   Fire

•   Insects and plant disease, except for insufficient or improper application of pest or disease control measures.

•   Wildlife or

•   Volcanic eruption

     Additionally, we will not insure against:

•   Phylloxera, regardless of cause; or

•   Inability to market the grapes for any reason other than actual physical damage for an insurable cause of loss.

  Risks are different depending on growing regions throughout the US.  Regional issues play a large part in decisions on whether or not crop insurance is right for you.  And then how much coverage is needed for the risks involved in making a profitable crop.  Are you concerned with late frost or freezes?  Have there been issues with wildfires?  Do you have a wildlife problem in certain areas of your vineyard? 

  Grape crop insurance is an Actual Production History (APH) policy. This means it uses the vineyard’s historical production per variety to determine how much is covered. Basically, you are covering an average of your tons per variety. Since crop insurance is subsidized the insurable varieties, prices per ton, premiums are set by the USDA. This also means that there is no difference from one insurance company to the next. Essentially you are insuring your future crop not your vines.

  You can cover your historical production from 50% to 85% in 5% increments.  You cannot cover 100% of your production.  Because of this there is a built in “deductible”.  For example, if you chose to cover 75% of your production then you would have a 25% production deductible.  If your average is 5 tons per acre, at 75% you would be covered for 3.75 tons per acre.  Your deductible would be 1.25.  If you harvest less than 3.75 tons per acre you would have a payable loss. 

  The states where grape crop insurance is available are Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia and Washington.  Grape Crop insurance is not available in all counties in the above states though. 

  Crop insurance premiums are partially subsidized through the USDA Risk Management Agency.  Take advantage of this valuable tool to keep yourself in business.

What Does Sustainable Packaging for Liquid Look Like in 2023?

recycling symbol with bottles

By: Sam Johnson

The process of designing sustainable packaging for liquids is a complex one. Today’s store shelves are lined with glass bottles of wine, spirits, juices, and more — all of which include packaging that may be elegant but is certainly not eco-friendly. For instance, in order to make glass, we need sand, and every year, the world uses 50 billion tons of sand to manufacture glass — a number roughly twice the amount that all the world’s rivers can produce. Moreover, removing this sand from riverbeds and shorelines disrupts ecosystems and leaves communities vulnerable to flooding. Glass is infinitely recyclable, but we make approximately 10 million tons of it every year, and our recycling statistics still have significant room for improvement. According to the most recent statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency, we recycle only 39.8% of wine and liquor bottles and only 15.0% of other glass jars.

  Unfortunately, rigid plastic bottles are not the answer. As a material, plastic has revolutionized the way we do business and the way we live, having become a necessity in everything from our food packaging to our textiles and electronics. But with the raw materials necessary to manufacture glass slowly running out, manufacturers are now seeking ways to make plastic packaging more sustainable.

  The answer to this problem is minimizing waste and reducing the materials needed to package products. Reducing packaging waste means less waste to deal with at the recycling plant or ending up in landfills, resulting in less plastic finding its way back into our environment.

Current Packaging Options for Wine are not Sustainable

  Today, it isn’t easy to imagine a wine industry without glass, cardboard, or plastic packaging. In relation to the broad scope of history, however, these packaging materials happen to be fairly recent inventions.

  In 1869, John Wesley Hyatt treated cellulose from cotton fiber with camphor to invent the first synthetic polymer. While searching for an ivory substitute, he stumbled on a revolutionary material that forever freed manufacturers from natural materials such as stone, wood, metal, bone, or horn. Suddenly, manufacturers could make their own raw materials, which was hailed as a great win for the environment — plastic would save elephants, rhinos, and tortoises from the ravages of human greed, as well as put affordable manufactured goods within reach of all classes.

  Roughly a century later, however, society’s optimism for plastic began fading. People first took note of floating plastic garbage on the ocean’s surface in the 1960s. Now, 8 million pieces of plastic pollution enter our oceans every day, amounting to 12 million tons of plastic waste dumped into the oceans every year. In total, we create 300 million tons of plastic waste each year — over 270 million tons of which end up in our environment after being dumped into landfills and oceans.

  Despite the damage caused by plastic since its introduction to consumer markets over a century ago, recent studies have warned that the environmental impact caused by glass bottles — the primary packaging utilized by the wine industry — is even greater than that caused by plastic ones. According to experts from the University of Southampton who spearheaded one such study, “The environmental impact of glass bottles (new and recycled)…[was] the most [negatively] impactful packaging” for each category of drinks included in the study, “with plastic bottles always [showing to be] the second-most impactful.”

  In essence, the University of Southampton study showed that, while traditional plastic packaging tends to cause a larger environmental impact “at the end of [its] life cycle,” glass bottles cause more harm to the environment overall. This is because glass bottles require more energy to produce and transport since they weigh more than other forms of liquid packaging, which releases greater quantities of carbon emissions at each step of their supply chain.

  To compound this issue, the furnaces required to manufacture glass bottles run 24/7 and, according to AGC Glass Europe, “…cannot be stopped and cooled” so long as they are in operation, which typically lasts 15-18 years. Moreover, along with emitting larger quantities of carbon emissions (CO2), these furnaces can also release greater amounts of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), further contributing to acidification and the formation of smog.

Alternative Packaging Solutions for Wine Have a Long Way to Go

  In light of the costs and environmental impact associated with manufacturing, filling, and shipping glass bottles, wine-makers have increasingly looked to more environmentally-friendly alternatives. Perhaps the most common and popular of these is cardboard, which has given rise to the popularity of boxed wine among eco-conscious consumer markets.

  While both glass and cardboard are considered to be equally recyclable, cardboard used for boxed wine boasts one primary advantage in regard to sustainability: a lower carbon footprint. Additionally, cardboard costs much less than glass bottles to produce and ship and poses far less risk of breaking than glass.

  However, alternative packaging like cardboard for the wine industry is not without its drawbacks. For one, wine cannot be poured directly into a cardboard box — it must be contained within a plastic bag that is then placed in the box. As such, boxed wine cannot age, making it a less appealing option for consumers with a more refined palate or those seeking a bolder taste in their wine. Moreover, the inclusion of plastic bags in packaging for boxed wine inherently makes them a less-sustainable option for both manufacturers and consumers.

  Although there are more environmentally-friendly packaging options available within the wine industry, none currently available are completely sustainable. In order to achieve this desired level of sustainability, manufacturers should look to ways that allow them to lower the base amount of packaging used through a practice known as source reduction.

How Source Reduction Can Make the Wine Industry More Sustainable

  The overall goal of source reduction is to curb waste at the source before it is even created. In fact, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says source reduction is the most promising means to achieve sustainability.

  The main goal of source reduction is to reduce the amount of material used in packaging so that less ends up in landfills or oceans when it’s no longer needed. To do this effectively, forward-thinking manufacturers must examine every stage of their packaging production process, from sourcing materials all the way down through shipping and disposal options after use.

  Source reduction is the first step in any sustainable packaging strategy, and most manufacturers are finding that flexible packaging is the way to make it happen. The amount of plastic required for liquid packaging, for example, is cut drastically by using flexible packs instead of rigid plastic containers or bottles. Reducing the amount of plastic used in packaging means less plastic for consumers to recycle as well as reducing manufacturers’ carbon footprint by using less energy in the production process.

  Source reduction also means ensuring that packaging does not add unnecessary weight or volume to products. Flexible packaging for liquids like wine is far lighter than heavy glass bottles. Less weight equates to less pollution from transportation costs.

  Statistics prove that flexible packaging requires fewer resources and less energy to produce. For example, according to Robbie Fantastic Flexibles, a member of the Flexible Packaging Association, “the manufacturing of 780,000 flexible pouches consumes 87% less coal, 74% less natural gas, and 64% less crude oil in comparison to the manufacturing of rigid packages.”

Innovative and Sustainable Packaging for Liquids

  There are new and more sustainable ways to package liquids that result in less waste and greater ease of use for consumers. The design of rigid plastic and glass bottles has not changed significantly since they hit store shelves a half-century ago. But today, some manufacturers are designing flexible plastic packaging for liquids that will provide circularity throughout their supply chain and the product’s lifecycle.

  For example, one new alternative to consider comes from AeroFlexx in the form of the AeroFlexx Pak. These paks are produced with up to 50% recycled material and include a self-sealing valve, allowing consumers greater ease in dispensing only the amount of product desired at a given time.  

  Unlike traditional glass bottles for wine, these innovative valves do not need to be closed by consumers. When consumers knock a package off the counter, it will not spill. When they drop it onto the floor, it will not splatter, and they can hold an entire package upside down without any components escaping. In addition, products such as these remove the need for additional components in the wine’s packaging — caps, corks, and lids, for example — helping to further reduce waste for both wine-makers and consumers.

  These new flexible packages will allow consumers to use every bit of the product they purchase.

Unlike boxed wine that frequently uses non-recyclable plastic in its containers and dispensers, innovative flexible packaging for wine has the added benefit of being curbside recyclable wherever other similar products are accepted.

  For retailers who ship large quantities of glass bottles and jugs containing wine, flexible packaging will offer a way to transport that product without waste due to breakage. Furthermore, lighter plastic packaging means they pay far less for shipping.

  When forward-thinking manufacturers design flexible packaging for wine with source reduction, sustainability, and recycling in mind, it creates a win/win scenario. These sustainable packaging alternatives require fewer plastics to produce and less energy to ship, saving money in production and transportation, as well as in potentially-wasted product.

  These changes in liquid packaging are not just good for the environment — they leave a positive impact on everyone involved.

About the Author

  Sam Johnson has spent a decade drafting, editing, and managing content across an array of industries including entertainment, technology, environmental, political science, government relations, and more. obtained his MBA from the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College in Winter Park, FL, in 2017. After graduation, he consulted with the Office of Technology Transfer at NASA-KSC to help commercialize environmental remediation technology for startups.

Trends in Email Effectiveness

A Five-year Historical Review of Performance Metrics

finger pointing towards a mail icon

By: Susan DeMatei, Founder of WineGlass Marketing

Since 2018, WineGlass Marketing has monitored email responses to help plan and inform our campaigns. (You can find the 2022 report at wineglassmarketing.com/2022-email-benchmark-report.) For this year, we included a look back at five years of data because it is a fantastic opportunity to track the impact of COVID on our email responses. The behavior changes of planned campaigns by wineries and customers’ reactions during COVID and Shelter in Place should be evident by looking for anomalies. This article will review the historical data to compare to 2022 data and trends.

INCREASED FOCUS ON DATABASE GROWTH

  A byproduct of COVID is that we learned that keeping in touch with our customers is essential to our business survival. When the steady stream of new customers off the freeway to our tasting rooms stopped, we found ways to talk to existing customers in our database. We remembered what we learned when that freeway opened again in 2021. We kept adding names and coveting that connection, swearing we would never leave ourselves that vulnerable again. Between 2020 and 2021, the average database size jumped 37% to over 6.5k.

  But, we took our feet off the gas because, in 2022, we saw it fall to the lowest point since 2018. Let’s hope that in next year’s benchmark study, we see increased attention in this area and that our databases grow again.

THE AVERAGE MONTHLY CAMPAIGNS PER WINERY ALSO FLUCTUATED

  We interpret this increase as wineries finally started segmenting during COVID because they had the time and resources to look at their data. So, when 2021 came along, it was game on with A/B splits, automated drip campaigns, and segmented offers.

  We also noted a great deal more “resends” in the data from 2022, showing that more wineries are comfortable with reminding non-openers or non-responders that they’re missing out on a great deal. In 2022, the wineries surveyed reported an average of 5.27 campaigns per month – either completely new campaigns or resends or different segments.

SEASONALITY IS STARTING TO CHANGE

  If we split out volume by month for these five years, we get an idea of the increase in campaigns in 2022 and the seasonal trends. Wineries cluster emails around club shipment times in March and fall harvest and load more holiday emails into the fourth quarter. This trend has been consistent throughout all five years.

  However, in 2022 we saw more emails during the summer. Perhaps this is because of the increased adoption of summer “cold” shipping, or segmentation and testing are planned in the summer months to minimize the impact on crucial selling seasons. But we can say that going “dark” in the hot months is no longer a common practice.

OPEN RATE DECREASED, BUT CTR INCREASED

  Open rates have been on a steady decline for the past three years. But don’t worry; this is consistent with any industry trends and has been this way year after year since somebody sent the first email in the early 1990s. Why? Two reasons. First, as consumers, we’re tired of emails. As any of you know, you work hard on that subject line and content to get attention. We must overcome considerable inbox clutter.

  And secondly, there is an inverse relationship with volume. As marketers, emails are cheap, so the ROI is worth it to send a lot of them. When consumers don’t open them, we resend reminders. We get a few more opens, but typically these emails perform worse than the initial email launch, which brings down the overall campaign open rate.

  Sadly, although they clicked to go to the website, the conversion went down (shown on the cart with the orange line and right-hand secondary axis.) This decline is the fault of the website page, not the email. Click-through rates have increased. The emails enticed potential customers to open, read and click, but something happened. Google Analytics provides this data from the website. If wineries are not looking at their visitors’ paths and creating custom landing pages for each email, the most compelling email in wine country may not end with a sale.

  The common question is, “how frequently should we email our customers.” The answer is to send emails as often as possible as long as you can offer compelling content. Customers will tell you when they don’t value your email – they’ll leave.

  Looking at the bounce rates, with all the campaign increases in the past five years, wineries did an excellent job of keeping the segmenting tight and the content on point, as evidenced by the decrease in bounce rate.

  In sync with our tendency to send more emails in Q1 and Q4 – open rates by month show the inverse. Our customers are more likely to open our emails in Q1, Q2, and Q3 when there is less clutter in their inboxes. Open rates are the lowest in the fourth quarter when the email frequency is highest.

  Click-through rates follow a similar seasonality to our frequency and show a higher CTR with more campaigns. Looking at wineries’ sales, we can confirm that Q1 and Q4 is the online buying season.

AOV AND AVERAGE ORDERS PER CAMPAIGN ARE BACK TO NORMAL

  So, did all this convert to dollars? Sort of. This chart shows the Average Order Value in the blue bars, and the orange line is the average number of orders per campaign. It makes sense that during COVID, we saw a spike in orders (because there was no other way to order) yet a dive in AOV (due to discounts.)

  If you combine the relatively equal AOV and average orders per campaign for the past two years with the previous chart that demonstrates a decrease in conversion rate for 2021 and 2022, we see more frequent campaigns and higher prices to counteract the lower conversion. That is one way to compensate but imagine the impact if that conversion rate went up.

  The summary? Email is far from dead or a bad investment, but to combat lowering open and click-through rates, there is little to do about maturing channel fatigue except write the best subject lines you can and create compelling content your targets want to read. We say better content and not better offers because the click-through rate went down when everyone slashed prices and offered steep discounts in 2020. So if you focus on good content and segmentation, your emails will continue to bring you sales.

  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   

Why the Results Vary when Grapevine Samples are Submitted for Disease Testing

close-up of grapevines

By: Judit Monis, Ph.D. – Vineyard and Plant Health Consultant

You probably know that there are many options when it comes to laboratory testing services.  It can be confusing to the grower, vineyard manager, and/or nursery staff to decide which laboratory to choose

  I am always asked by clients: “why the results of samples submitted from the same vineyard block yield different results at different laboratories?” There are many different reasons and I will try to clarify some aspects associated with laboratory issues (method/techniquess used) and sample collection that will affect the final disease diagnostic results.    Finally, I will introduce the concept of standardization of diagnostic methods used for the detection of grapevine pathogens. After reading this article, my hope is that you hire a knowledgeable plant pathologist who can determine your best options based on your needs and walks you through the process.

Description of Most Common Laboratory Techniques:

Microbiological Culture: Fungal and bacterial pathogens can be cultured and isolated in specialized media.  However, microorganisms could compete among each other.  Microbe(s) that grow faster will outcompete microbes that grow slower, making the diagnosis of certain bacterial or fungal pathogens difficult.  The diagnosis could be biased or the laboratory may not be able to report the disease causal agent unless sophisticated molecular methods are used in combination with culturing methods. However, in some cases, the identification of the fungal taxonomic family (i.e., species of the Diatripaceae or Botryosphaeriaceae family isolated from a canker) or bacterial genus (Agrobacterium species isolated from a typical gall) may be sufficient to decipher the cause of the problem.  Phytoplasmas (a special type of bacteria that lack cell walls) and viruses cannot be cultured and their identification must be carried out using molecular and serological methods.

  ELISA, PCR, RT-PCR, qPCR: ELISA is the abbreviation for “enzyme-linked immuno-sorbent assay, and consists the binding of a protein (coat protein, in the case of a virus) on a plastic test plate that was coated with specific antibodies.  A positive reaction is seen when there is a change of color in the wells of the test plate (colorimetric enzymatic reaction). ELISA detection is limited to the amount of virus present in the sample, therefore not prone to lab contamination.  During the Coronavirus pandemic you probably heard in the general media talk about antibody tests.  ELISA, although different from the rapid home COVID 19 tests based on immunochromatography, is an antibody test.  PCR, is the abbreviation for polymerase chain reaction (this is a molecular based test).  The technique allows the multiplication nucleic acid from the concentration of pathogen present in the vine. The process is specific, and utilizes copies of small portions of the pathogen’s genome (called primers) to start the copying process. The amplification is repeated many times, with each copy making more copies, so after the completion of an appropriate number of PCR cycles, more than a billion copies of the nucleic acid is produced. For RNA viruses the detection is done using RT-PCR (RT stands for reverse transcription, a molecular way of copying the RNA to produce DNA).  PCR and RT-PCR are sensitive techniques used for the detection of grapevine pathogens.  Quantitative or Real Time PCR is a modification of PCR that can provide the relative quantitation of the pathogen present in a sample (abbreviated as qPCR and qRT-PCR).

  The sensitivity and specificity of the detection of pathogens can be influenced by the season as well as the part of the vine from which samples are collected. While ELISA is generally thought to be less sensitive than RT-PCR, ELISA has a broader spectrum of detection and can detect a range of virus variants. On the other hand, PCR is very specific, this can be an advantage but also a disadvantage.  If the detection is too specific, it could miss the detection of isolates of the same virus even when small changes (mutations) are present.  This is even more true when TaqMan, a type of qPCR that in addition to specific primers uses a specific probe is applied for the detection of viruses in grapevine samples.   This is why running both ELISA and RT-PCR consecutively is recommended for the reliable detection of grapevine viruses, as each method is designed to detect different portions of a virus.   Since Grapevine red blotch virus is a DNA virus, and ELISA is not available, I recommend that PCR is performed to amplify at least two different locations of the viral genome.

Rapid Tests for the Detection of Grapevine red blotch and Grapevine Pinot Gris Viruses

  A single use strip test based on the recombinase polymerase amplification (RPA) assay has been developed for the detection of Grapevine red botch virus (GRBV) and Grapevine Pinot Gris virus (GPGV).  The manufacturer claims that these tests can be performed in the field. However, to obtain reliable results, the assays should be conducted by experienced technicians in a clean laboratory.  If a lay person were to attempt to run this type of assay, the assay instructions must be carefully followed.  The protocol includes many steps that require measuring small quantities of reagents (microliters).   Thus, it is worthwhile to have an experienced laboratory run these tests.  Laboratory personnel are used to running different protocols and are trained to keep the sample and other materials free of contamination.  Another drawback of these rapid tests is that these are only available for two grapevine viruses.  As I have noted in other articles, the symptoms caused by grapevine pathogens can confused.  For instance, a negative GRBV result, may give a false reassurance that the vines in the vineyard are healthy when they could otherwise be infected with leafroll (GLRaVs), Vitiviruses, a combination of these, and/ or bacterial or fungal pathogens.

Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP)

  Like PCR, LAMP is a nucleotide amplification method that uses primers to initiate the copying process of the pathogen’s nucleic acid.  It differs however as the reaction often does not require the extraction of nucleic acid and is performed at a constant temperature (isothermal).  These LAMP assays have been developed in South Africa for the detection of GLRaV-3 and at Cornell University for the detection of GRBV.  Training of the methodology for the detection of GRBV was covered in various sessions by the Napa Valley Vineyard Technical Group.  The technique is claimed to be as or more sensitive than PCR.  Because LAMP assays are very sensitive, it is prone to contamination (i.e., yield false positives).  Like RPA, the operator will need to follow carefully a protocol that requires the measurement of very small volumes of reagents.  The technology also requires the initial investment of laboratory equipment and a clean area to perform the operations. 

Next Generation or High Throughput Sequencing:

The next generation sequencing (NGS) also known as high throughput sequencing (HTS) is a powerful method that allows a laboratory to detect any organism present in a sample.

  When NGS or HTS is applied, the complete sequence of the plant genetic material and its microbiome is obtained.  Generally, during the sample preparation, the pathogens specific sequences are enriched to increase the sensitivity of the assay (for example the lab may just amplify fungal sequences).  The data obtained is analyzed with sophisticated software that is able to analyze the bacterial, fungal, viral, or other microorganisms (beneficial or pathogenic) sequences present in the sample.  The method can provide relative quantitative data, generally expressed in percentages, of each organism found.   The NGS has been widely used in research and has allowed the discovery and characterization of important viruses such as Grapevine red blotch virus and many Vitiviruses. Presently, this technique is being applied commercially to test plant and soil samples for the detection of bacterial and fungal microorganisms.  It is recommended that a plant pathologist with expertise in bacterial, fungal, and/or viral taxonomy be available to associate the presence of the microorganisms found with disease symptoms (or potential disease development).

The Results Obtained from Different Laboratories can be Different

  Frequently, the cause of different testing results at different laboratories can be due to operational

errors.  In my career running plant diagnostic testing labs, I can confidently say that I have seen a lot of things that can go wrong during sample processing. It is not my intention to list them here. The key is that the laboratory has knowledgeable personnel capable of catching the mistake before the results go out to the client (i.e., something does not look right, lets repeat the test or investigate further). A false positive, is the reporting of a sample positive for certain pathogen(s) when it really is not infected.  This can be due to contamination in the lab but also due a mix-up in the field or in the laboratory during the process.  False negatives can also occur, and this can be due to the lack of sensitivity of the assay used, problems with sampling (either in the field or laboratory), and/or when the lab technician made a mistake.

  Let’s assume that everything goes well at the laboratory.  The operator uses the best technical skills and applies good quality assurance and control (QA/QC).  An important factor to take into consideration is the quality and type of sample collected in the vineyard submitted to the lab for testing.  It is known that even when sampling from different portions of the same vine, different results can be obtained. The failure to detect a pathogen that is present in low concentration is due to uneven distribution of certain pathogens in the vine   If your goal is to determine which is the best laboratory for pathogen detection, it is important to send samples  with known infection status to each laboratory.  Further, the collector must be able to prepare cuttings of the same vine material represented equally in samples submitted to each laboratory.

  At the time, there is no accreditation that is specific to grapevine diagnostic testing.  Therefore, each laboratory applies their own testing and sampling protocols. These methods were developed and optimized with positive (infected with the pathogen of choice) and negative controls (not infected with the pathogen of choice).  Additionally, a reputable laboratory should use specific internal controls to determine the quality of their processes. 

  The implementation of an accreditation and certification system for diagnostic laboratories would provide an unbiased evaluation of the laboratory processes.  Standardization of sampling and testing is common in other fields of food and plant biotechnology.  It is surprising that the grapevine industry has not adopted an accreditation system given the losses that pathogens cause to this perennial crop. The standardization of the diagnostic methods used for the detection of grapevine pathogens will provide reliable results to stakeholders.  The future goal of the viticulture industry should be to adopt the accreditation of grapevine diagnostic laboratories.

  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.  During the Coronavirus pandemic, you can also schedule virtual vineyard consultations.  Please visit juditmonis.com for information or contact juditmonis@yahoo.com to request a consulting session.

Celebrating Oregon’s Alternative Wines

crowd outside a winery

By: Becky Garrison

Even though Oregon’s pinot noir wines tend to grab the bulk of the headlines, this region produces over 80 grape varieties. Among the most popular grapes grown include chardonnay, gamay noir, pinot gris, riesling, rosé, sauvignon blanc, syrah, tempranillo and zinfandel.

The Launch of the Alt. Wine Fest

  In 2019, Mallory Smith and Martin Skegg launched the Alt. Wine Fest in Oregon’s Willamette Valley as a vehicle to showcase the full range of Oregon’s bounty. Described as “Oregon’s Other Wine Festival,” the forthcoming 2023 festival has expanded to include 35 winemakers pouring over a hundred wines. Other offerings include tacos, lawn games and a DJ. 

  The inspiration for this festival stemmed from Smith’s work at a bottle shop in northeast Portland, Oregon. She found that those customers asking for Oregon pinot noir were mostly from out of town. When she introduced non-pinot noir varieties to locals, they would be excited and surprised that those things even existed. On a similar note, they noticed that even people who worked in the wine industry in Oregon didn’t know that there were a lot of other grapes grown right in their backyard.

  As Smith reflects, “We knew of many producers making ‘alt’ wines, but because we ran in those circles we didn’t realize how much it was an untapped market. So, the Alt. Wine Fest was not only an opportunity to highlight a lot of smaller producers and showcase underdog grapes, but also to give people the firsthand opportunity to discover, taste and explore these wines.”

  They first launched the festival at the Old Schoolhouse, a wedding venue located in the heart of the Willamette Valley wine region in Newberg, Oregon. The owner and her family helped them get this festival off the ground, and this sold-out event exceeded their expectations.

  When reflecting on the success of their inaugural festival, Smith points to a shift in the consumer market for Oregon wines. “Even though there are some corners of the industry that still believe anything other than pinot is a sideshow, there has been a shift in the last few years. People are more interested in the possibilities of these other grapes and the production of non-pinot wines has been slowly increasing. Generally, we had good support from the industry, and the likes of the Willamette Valley Wineries Association were enthusiastic about the event.”

  Following a two-year pause due to COVID, they re-launched this festival. As they knew they needed to expand to accommodate the growing interest in non-pinot wines, they sought a larger venue. So, they moved to Abbey Road Farm, a winery, bed & breakfast and event space in Oregon’s Yamhill Valley. They kept the same formula but had more people and winemakers. This event sold out again. “It was good to see that people still had the same enthusiasm for the wines as before the pandemic,” Smith noted.

  Moving forward, they hope to keep growing the event as best they can. However, they’re taking it slow to maintain the festival’s heart and soul. Smith notes, “This year, we may have a couple more winemakers, but the attendance will be about the same, as we don’t want it to get too crowded. We’re looking at the possibility of smaller side events. Maybe something educational, as that is one thing people have asked for, or dinners with winemakers or a tasting party.”

Winemakers Speak to Their Experience at the Alt. Wine Festival

  For Brianne Day, owner and winemaker of Day Wines (Dundee, Oregon), participating in the Alt. Wine Festival was a natural fit, given she produces 24 varieties of wine along with two pinot blends and two single vineyard pinot noirs. In addition to highlighting the range and bounty of what Oregon is capable of, she appreciates that most of the producers there have fun with their wines and brands with a more adventurous and creative take on winemaking and wine business creation. “It’s a fun and exciting subset of the industry to be a part of, and I enjoy being with peers who see it that way as well,” she states.

  Day does not grow any fruits and sources from vineyards in the Columbia River Gorge, around the Willamette Valley and the Applegate Valley. Most of the varieties she purchases were planted years ago by growers who wanted to see other kinds of wine made in Oregon. Sometimes growers asked her what she would like to have grown for her. So far, she’s asked for more Italian varieties in southern Oregon. One grower planted the first Oregon Nero d’Avola, and another planted the first Oregon Zibibbo.

  In her experience, these wines are pretty easy to make and bring to market. “The varieties grow well and ripen well in Oregon and in many ways are less challenging than making pinot.”

  As non-pinot fruits are not as readily available to her as pinots, she cannot produce as many of these wines, as she can to meet the demands of the U.S. wine-buying market that appreciates adventurous and creative wines. Some of her wines are only available for sale in the winery because they are in such high demand, and she cannot make large quantities of them. “My biggest challenge is just keeping my distributors happy with what I can supply and having consumers be a little disappointed when we sell out of one of their favorites,” Day observes.

  Among the non-pinots wines Melaney Schmidt and Malia Myers of Landmass Wines (Cascade Locks, Oregon) produce include chenin blanc, tempranillo, grenache and gruner veltliner. They head to the Rogue Valley for their warm-climate fruit, and for cool-climate fruit, they source from the Columbia River Gorge. Since their brand is still young, they feel they have the flexibility to work with whatever fruit interests them.

  They find freedom in making a wine that hasn’t been examined to the point of exhaustion. As Schmidt observes, “You can work with another varietal and steer it in any direction that suits you. If I want to make a juicy, fruit-forward rosé of tempranillo, there is an openness from the consumer because there aren’t any preconceived thoughts about what winemaking style I ‘should’ adhere to.” 

  In their estimation, the  Alt. Wine Fest provided them with a great forum to see and taste how others approach these esoteric varietals. “The event was a huge success and seeing so many people there eager to try new wines was incredible. I’m looking forward to doing it again!” Schmidt exclaims.

The Future of Alt. Wines in the Willamette Valley

  In particular, Oregon’s famed Willamette Valley has seen a rise in vineyards planting non-pinot grapes. According to Smith, producers have run into pinot fatigue when trying to sell into the broader U.S. market, and buyers are interested in different varieties. “It’s not controversial to say that the market is saturated with pinot, and there are already too many mediocre $50 pinots kicking around,” she adds.

  Also, not every site is ideally suited for growing pinot noir grapes. As Smith states, “The valley is big, and there should be more exploration of what else works. There are plenty of winemakers who are vehement that trying to imitate Burgundy was a misstep and that the region has far more potential with other grapes.”

  Furthermore, Smith predicts that climate change will make a difference. “Predictions show that within the next couple of decades, things will become very uncomfortable for pinot in the valley, so winemakers will have to look to other grapes. There are perhaps 90ish different varieties grown in Oregon, but many thousands more are available. Why not give some of those a try?”

  The 2023 Alt. Wine Fest will be held on July 16, 2023, with information available on their website at www.altwinefest.com.

Neal Family Vineyards Leads the Way as The First Regenerative Organic Certificated® Winery in Napa Valley

man holding a shovel

By: Gerald Dlubala

The Neal Family Vineyards in Napa Valley have always been known as prestigious, organically farmed vineyards. And now, going back to their beginnings over 50 years ago, they’ve shown the world what can be accomplished through mindful, organic farming methods and practices. Recently named the first Regenerative Organic Certified® vineyard in Napa Valley, the Neal Family Vineyard Estates becomes one of only five Regenerative Organic Certified® vineyard estates in the world as recognized by the Regenerative Organic Alliance.

  Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC) is an agricultural certification for food, fiber and personal care ingredients. ROC was initially created to address our climate crisis, increased soil degradation and biodiversity loss while also addressing factory farming and fractured rural economies on a global scale. At its core, the certification is based and awarded on the farmer’s ability to adopt and use agricultural techniques that ensure healthy soil, provide ethical and humane treatment of animals and guarantee fairness for all farm employees and workers. There are no gray areas or exceptions within the mandates of the Regenerative Organic Alliance, established in 2018 and now recognized as the highest level of certification available. If a farm fails an inspection, there is a three-year waiting period to try again. One simple mistake or misuse of materials can cause a farm to start from scratch in the certification process.

Organic from Their Beginnings, Neal Family Vineyards Became Pioneers in Grape Growing Excellence

  All four of the Neal Family Winery’s estate vineyards were certified organic by the California Certified Organic Farmers Foundation (CCOF) in 2009, followed by a biodynamic farming certification through Demeter Biodynamic Federation in 2021. In 2022, Patagonia’s Regenerative Organic Alliance added the coveted Regenerative Organic Certified® label to the Neal Family Vineyards after successfully meeting the stringent certification standards.

  “It was really an interesting and eye-opening experience,” said Mark Neal, vintner, founder and owner of Neal Family Vineyards. “I’ve been raised in an organic farming environment going as far back as 1984, so based on the length of service, number of years we’ve been certified organic, and the successful farming techniques we’ve always used, I truly believed that gaining the Regenerative Organic Certification was within our reach. Sometimes if you’re just starting in organic farming, it can be a lot of work to bring your soils back to an acceptable condition. Fortunately, being organically certified in 2009, our soil was already very healthy and pretty much up to standard, so there wasn’t much more that we had to do. It was pretty simple to check those boxes. Additionally, with our chickens, cattle and goats, we met the corresponding acceptable standards for their use, care and overall management.”

  But Neal told The Grapevine Magazine that the new and intriguing part of this certification was the component of worker and employee fairness. “It’s obviously important, but maybe hasn’t been formally addressed as part of an official certification process before, and I honestly wasn’t sure where it would lead,” said Neal. “It was a two-day process of interviews that included all of our workers, from the tractor drivers and operators up to our supervisors, many of whom are already considered generational or long-term employees because of their family histories of involvement and acquired quality skillsets within our vineyard operations in full-time, part-time and seasonal capacities.”

  Neal said that while farms may find workers with organic or biodynamic farming experience, it’s more about finding that experience that coincides with the techniques, equipment and way of under-the-vine organic farming practices that the Neal Family Vineyards uses.

  “Finding those workers can be hard, so I can see how caring for the overall wellness, safety and wellbeing of employees makes this a top-shelf certification that is more well-rounded, relatable and understandable to consumers,” said Neal. “Gaining the Regenerative Organic Certification demonstrates that a vineyard is all-encompassing in its operations and going above and beyond the organic process that is concerned mostly with the soil and land. We’re taking care of all components and contributors to our operation, including the employees, their wellness and their safety. And it’s very important to me to serve as a steward to Mother Earth and implement practices and policies that demonstrate our commitment to the three pillars included in the Regenerative Organic Certification mandates.”

  Neal tells The Grapevine Magazine that the people aspect of the certification proves that it takes special people to want to work in a farm environment and in the fields. “In our line of work, everyone wants to talk about the harvest,” said Neal. “But if you really think about it, although harvest is a hectic time, it’s also singularly focused on one goal for the entire vineyard. For me, all of the other tasks that coincide from budbreak through June and on, like suckering, planting, cultivation and more, demand great focus, impeccable timing and a willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done on time. Due to research, farming configurations have changed over the years, but the necessary related tasks can still be the most manual, strenuous tasks in the vineyard. Having and retaining quality people with specialized skillsets to take up the bulk of these person-hours is critical.”

  Neal said the cover crops in his vineyards are generally half permanent and half cultivated, depending on the water capacity of the soil in that specific area. The areas that hold less water get cultivated, while those holding more water may be left to grow and remove or draw out the water naturally.

  “It’s decisions like these that also show the tradeoff with certifications,” said Neal. “Particular types of soils allow for different methods. But if you leave more cover crops, you may have to irrigate more. When you turn that irrigation pump on, do you really know where the power is coming from to operate the pump? Is it coal, natural gas, wind, solar or hydrogen? As a user, you may never know what the real impact of the environment is in some situations.”

Helping Others through Leadership and Mentoring

  “I love being a leader in soil health and generational farming,” said Neal. “We are the largest organic farmer and one of the largest biodynamic farmers in Napa Valley. But I wasn’t aware of how few farms were under the certified organic label until I applied. Currently, only six to seven percent of Napa wineries are certified organic, and I desperately want that rate to increase and gain more of a foothold in our region. For the doubters out there, our experience spans more than 50 years, and I believe that I’ve shown that organic and biodynamic farming practices not only work in Napa, but they work well and present legitimate, beneficial choices to current vineyard owners. Organic options are so much more plentiful and available now that it’s much easier to achieve organic certification than just a few years ago. And in some cases, it’s actually more economical.”

  Neal backs up these comments with his offer to help other farmers through discussions, seminars and through Jack Neal & Son Vineyard Management Services.

  “I want to continue promoting soil health,” said Neal. “I want other farmers to know and realize everything they need is right there in front of them, from Mother Earth. In some instances, it’s even more cost-efficient to go organically. I currently participate in seminars regarding soil health and certified organic growing. My advice is to not leave any gray areas and get your farms certified. It’s no longer enough just to say that you’re growing organically. Get certified and remove any doubt. I want to see Napa Valley grow in organically certified farms, and I’m currently consulting with some of the biggest vineyards in the area to help them be successful. The previous higher cost of going organic is not as much of a hindrance anymore, especially when considering things like the cost of diesel fuel.”

  Neal told The Grapevine Magazine that the decision to grow organically certified is the simple yet critical decision between farming for now versus generational farming with proper soil care.

  “Honestly,” said Neal, “You can’t farm generationally if you’re abusing the soil with increased herbicides and fertilizer use. Why constantly pour more insecticides into the soil and then combat that with extra fertilizers that systematically destroy the very soil you need? Organic alternatives are readily available, so there’s no excuse not to find the one that works for you. With all of the options available now, growing organic is achievable and the right thing to do, and I’m excited to work with those that decide to do so. You’ll create better products, gain wider acceptance and most importantly, preserve our earth.”

  Neal hopes to start a movement in the Napa region, helping farmers make changes that matter. He’s shown that after 56 years of organic farming practices, his methods can be very successful in the Napa region, and he is looking to be a leader in growing the number of farmers that move to organic growing methods. That movement started with Neal now working with major wineries in the region to convert their land to organic growing methods.

The Value of Regenerative Organic Certification to Neal and Napa Valley

  Neal said the all-encompassing aspect of the Regenerative Organic Certification most moves him. “The practice of renewing and maintaining the health of the soil and land, ensuring proper care and management of the animals and of course taking care of the people that help you touch on the most important buttons of any undertaking,” said Neal. “This certification addresses everything related to our future. ROC presents a well-rounded organizational picture that gives the holder a prestigious place worldwide. It’s the highest mark we, as farmers, can achieve, and honestly, I’m honored to be a leader here in Napa, one of the most prestigious grape-growing parts of the world. I was raised with organic farming in my blood, pushing my dad to get our vineyards officially certified even when we were already doing everything right and farming organically from the start. I wanted to remove any doubt, so we can say that we’re not just farming organically; we’re certified in farming organically.”

  More than anything else, Neal wants you to know that you can do it too.

For questions, consultation, or to schedule a visit, go to www.nealvineyards.com