Improving Late Season Spray Coverage  

close-up of leaf sprayed with water

By: Kirk Williams, Lecturer-kirk.w.williams@ttu.edu

Lots of time is spent selecting products to control late season pests but how much time do we spend fine tuning our sprayer for these applications?  Late season spray applications can be critical in delivering clean fruit and keeping a functioning canopy post-harvest especially in areas where rainfall is common during the growing season.   Effective late season spray applications can be more difficult to achieve due to a larger and denser canopy.   

  Understanding spray coverage requires that you understand how droplets are created.  Hydraulic spray nozzles create a wide range of droplet sizes.   These droplets are measured in microns with droplets from 150 to 300 microns considered the most effective at being deposited in grapevine canopies when used with air blast sprayers.   Larger droplet sizes may bounce or roll off leaves while very fine droplets are more prone to drift.  Theoretical spray coverage based on average droplet diameter is 30% for 100-micron droplets, 15% for 200-micron droplets and 10.1% for 3300-microndroplets.  A greater number of spray droplets per unit area will have a higher probability of controlling the target pest. 

  Evaluating your spray coverage at any time of the season is critical but as the canopy gets larger and denser it becomes even more critical.  One way to evaluate spray coverage that requires minimal effort is with water sensitive cards placed in critical parts of the canopy such as the fruiting zone.  When spray droplets land on the water sensitive card, the card turns blue.   Water sensitive cards should be used when the humidity is below 80% and the canopy is dry because any moisture will turn them blue.  The water sensitive cards will react to moisture in your fingers, so be sure to wear waterproof gloves when placing the cards in the canopy.

  Spray coverage standards do not exist for control of specific insects or diseases.  Recommendations from Syngenta, one of the manufacturers of water sensitive cards, recommend 20-30 droplets/cm2 for insecticides and 50–70 droplets/cm2 for fungicide applications to provide satisfactory results.  A square centimeter is about 1/6 of a square inch.  The water-sensitive cards can be visually assessed for coverage through the provided viewing cards.  Visual observation can help you understand coverage and see droplet size, but it does not give you any numerical information that can be used to improve spray coverage.

  Water sensitive cards can be scanned and analyzed by computer programs such as the USDA’s ARS DepositScan.  The program gives you percentage coverage and deposits per cm2 .  While very accurate, this is a slow process and not well suited for the quick results needed for adjusting sprayers in the field. 

  Apps are now available that will quickly and easily analyze water sensitive cards for coverage.  SnapCard is an app that is available only for Android smart devices.  SmartSpray, is available for both iOS and Android smart devices. Developed for use in field crops such as strawberries, the spray card analysis portion of the SmartSpray app is a useful tool for analyzing percent coverage as well as accounting for small and large spray droplets.  

(Figure 1)

grapevine canopy was sprayed (Figure 1) and analyzed for spray coverage using the SmartSpray app (Figure 2).  The analysis from the SmartSpray app came back with 35% coverage with small droplets and 3% coverage with large droplets.  This quick analysis shows very good coverage for this application and within the range of what we would consider good coverage.   The SmartSpray app does not report droplets per cm2  so to confirm that our coverage number matched up to droplet number the same card analyzed by DepositScan. DepositScan reported 125 droplets per cm2 which is more than the target 50-70 droplets cm2 for fungicide applications.  The SmartSpray app can be a new tool to quickly analyze your spray coverage in the field when using water sensitive cards. 

(Figure 2)  

If your water sensitive cards indicate that you are not getting good coverage there are several ways to adjust your sprayer to improve coverage. 

Increase Air Flow

  Lower fan speeds may have been used in the early part of the growing season to reduce drift.  In the later part of the season many sprayers can be adjusted to increase fan speed.   For increased late season spray coverage in dense canopies, increasing the air flow may be the easiest way to improve coverage.   Deflectors that focus the air flow more horizontally or on the fruiting zone may also improve coverage.  Keep in mind that excessive air flow can increase drift by pushing the spray droplets past the canopy target.   Be sure to confirm coverage using water sensitive cards after increasing airflow. 

Change Sprayer Output

  Increasing sprayer output by decreasing forward speed or by using larger nozzles can improve spray coverage but it does require that you recalibrate your sprayer due to these changes.   A higher volume can improve coverage if your droplet coverage is low based on your water card analysis.  The target is still to have many small droplets in the canopy.   Too much volume can run spray droplets together and cause spray run off of the leaves. 

  There are many action items to do in a vineyard to keep it productive and produce high quality grapes.  Taking time during the season to check your sprayer coverage and then adjust as needed is one of those critical items.  Larger and denser canopies may require that you take the time to look at your coverage later in the season as well.  New and old tools are there to assist you in evaluating and improving your spray coverage. 

Sources:

Bettiga, L.J. ed. 2013.  Grape Pest Management (3rd edition).  Publication 3343. University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources.  Oakland, CA

Nansen, Villar, G. D., Recalde, A., Alvarado, E., & Chennapragada, K.  2021. Phone app to perform quality control of pesticide spray applications in field crops. Agriculture (Basel), 11(10), 916.

Landers, Andrew J., 2016.  Effective Vineyard Spraying (2nd Edition).   Effective Spraying.  Geneva, NY

Zhu, Heping; Salyani, Masoud; Fox, Robert D.  2011.  A portable scanning system for evaluation of spray deposit distribution.  Computers and electronics in agriculture, Vol.76 (1), p.38-43

Kirk Williams is a lecturer in Viticulture at Texas Tech University as well as being a commercial grape grower on the Texas High Plains.  He can be contacted at kirk.w.williams@ttu.edu

10 Tips That Will Make Your Brand Pop at a Wine Sampling or Tasting Event

guests looking at wine

By: Ray Sheehan, Founder – Old City Media

When attending a wine-tasting or sampling event, your brand needs to sparkle like fine champagne. Potential customers need to see you and know you are the best brand in the room.

No matter what you are selling, if customers don’t believe it, they won’t buy it. With that in mind, here are 10 tips that will help your brand make an impression.

Tip #1: Hire Knowledgeable and Outgoing Brand Ambassadors

Whether you hire internally or outsource to an agency, knowledgeable and outgoing brand ambassadors are the key to a successful wine-tasting event. During the night, they will represent you to potential customers and introduce them to your product because they serve as the face of your brand.

  It’s critical to hire friendly and outgoing ambassadors who easily engage with customers. At a wine sampling event, personable ambassadors attract a crowd, while shy and reserved ambassadors can appear unapproachable. Once they get people talking, they also need the confidence to motivate consumers to buy products.

  Your brand ambassadors also need to be knowledgeable about your brand and the wine industry as a whole, which is why a TIPS and/or RAMP certification is a must. These certifications ensure your brand ambassadors know what they’re talking about and can be trusted to represent your product.

Tip #2: Train Brand Ambassadors about what Makes Your Brand Special

  You may have the best wine in the world, but if your brand ambassadors don’t know how to present it properly, no one will ever know. Before the tasting event or sample sale, train them thoroughly about what makes your brand special. They’ll need to interact with new customers, answer questions about your product, talk about what sets it apart from other wines, and convince them to buy it.

  Before brand ambassadors represent you at the tasting event, they should know your brand’s story, mission, and values as well as yourself. If your brand has a competitive advantage over the other wines available that night, make sure your brand ambassadors know it.

  Make sure to provide thorough training to address the following aspects of your brand:

   Your brand’s history — brand ambassadors should be well-versed to speak about how your company came about, who founded it, and why. This information will help ambassadors answer questions with a personal flair that tells customers why they should buy from you, not another company in the industry.

●   Your brand’s unique products — brand ambassadors need to be able to speak about each separate product you offer. For this reason, train them with specifics about how your wines are made, how you source ingredients, how you promote sustainable manufacturing, and what makes your wine stand out compared to other brands on the market.

●   Your customer benefits — brand ambassadors must be able to highlight the value of your product(s). For instance, if a prospective customer walks up to them and asks what results they can expect to see, taste, or feel, this can include things like less sugar, fewer calories, organic ingredients, and unique flavors.

Tip #3: Scope Out the Event’s Location Before the Wine Tasting

  Call the event manager and ask for a tour of the space. As you look around, ask about the venue and what amenities to expect. Find out if the event has Wi-Fi, as well as if you will be able to access a sound system, and ask whether you can use a stage or podium.

  It’s a good idea to bring a list of questions regarding the venue’s expectations. Find out if the venue has restrictions on branded materials, such as professional banners or tablecloths, and ask if the venue allows games and activities at tasting events.

Likewise, ask event organizers about other products that will be served during the tasting. Find out if there is a dress code, and be sure to abide by it. If the event is at a restaurant or marketplace, ask about their set-up expectations. When you arrive with all your supplies, you will want to be able to set up without taking away from the customer experience.

  Finally, confirm the event will have your product available at the wine sampling. Believe it or not, many brands simply assume this and arrive to find out otherwise.

Tip #4: Establish Clear Goals and Objectives for Your Bbrand Ambassadors

  Before the wine sampling, establish clear goals and objectives for each of your brand ambassadors. To set these goals, consider how you will ultimately measure success for the event.

  Successful event marketing has a solid foundation with clear goals and objectives. In other words, before you can put on a successful event, you need to know what success will look like and how you will measure it. To do this, set key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate your ambassadors’ performance. In a nutshell, KPIs allow you to judge performance in relation to a specific and measurable standard.

  Decide whether your goals relate to sales volume or customer satisfaction. In either case, take a hard look at those numbers now. Next, determine how your brand ambassadors can enable your brand to maintain or surpass those numbers at the event. Finally, set your budget for the event, and make sure your goals realistically justify that expenditure. 

  You should offer your brand ambassadors incentives to drive sales at the sampling event to meet these goals. These incentives can be in the form of inexpensive gift cards or free products.

Tip #5: Ensure Your Brand Ambassadors Look Professional in Branded Attire

  Make sure your brand ambassadors are dressed to impress by providing branded apparel that looks like it belongs at the wine sampling. Your ambassadors should have clothing that is both professional and comfortable.

Remember to plan for all weather. Equip your brand ambassadors with a change of clothes if they find themselves outdoors in wet or dirty conditions.

Tip #6: Design an Enticing Branded Setup

  Make sure your branded setup is eye-catching, even from across the room. Creative and fun booths are guaranteed to draw customers your way. Picture a balloon arch that mimics grapes on a vine. 

  For smaller sampling events, I recommend a 10’x10’ booth and cocktail table set-up, a professional sign to promote your brand, and a banner or backdrop that can be used in photos. To add flair, finish your booth with a branded tablecloth and wine glasses.

  In all the fun of designing a creative space, remember to keep it clutter-free and easy for attendees to navigate. If you display too many products in one area, people will likely get confused and purchase less.

Tip #7: Bring Both Digital and Hardcopy Marketing Materials

  In this day and age, we all know the value of digital marketing materials. Shareable social content will allow your experience to live on long after the last sip of wine. Bring favors emblazoned with your event’s hashtag, and find a clever reward to encourage your customers to snap and share pictures on their social media channels.

  Someone on your own staff should also be there to document the tasting. After the event, that staff member can publish those videos and pictures on your brand’s social channels.

  In addition, always come prepared with hard copy marketing materials in case the location has Wi-Fi issues. Print branded fliers that highlight the wines you are serving at the event so attendees who enjoy your product can jot down key notes before moving on. Best of all, they will be able to access the information about those wines when they get home.

  Hardcopy materials can also present an opportunity to collect customer information. For example, if you offer customers business cards at a wine-tasting table, you can naturally ask for their contact information during the exchange.

Tip #8: Increase Engagement with Games, Q&As, and Free Samples

  Plan to draw potential customers to your booth with games, Q&As, and free samples. A simple spin-the-wheel game increases your brand’s visibility and engages interest around the entire room. The truth is that, if you can get people to have fun, they’ll be far more likely to remember what they liked about your wine in the future.

  Plan games that are relevant to your brand’s identity. Games are a great way to engage with customers and get them talking. For example, a matching game can launch a conversation about favorite wine and food pairings. The activities you plan don’t need to be lengthy — five minutes max should do it.

  Another idea is to use samples of your product to make the games more fun. For example, blindfolded contestants can guess the color of grapes to earn their tastings.

Tip #9: Reward Potential Customers with Free Swag

  You need to give away some sort of free swag. A small gift, sample, coupon, or even a branded hat will make people feel special.

  The best swag is relevant to your brand, the event, and the target audience. For a wine-sampling event, branded wine glasses or corkscrews are perfect.

  The most important tip is to ensure your customers walk away with something useful in their hands. When guests leave your event with merch they value, your brand gains a pair of legs that take it beyond the sampling. Customers will carry your branded swag to cars, houses, and offices. If those souvenirs remind people of the fun they had that night, they may even share the experience with friends and family.

Tip #10: Above all, Have Fun!

  The most important thing to remember when working at a wine sampling or tasting event is to have fun! Before the event starts, ensure your brand ambassadors know their roles, and are relaxed and ready to go. Your final pep talk should not be about making more sales or getting more traffic on social media. It should be about making sure the brand ambassadors have fun. This event allows them to show off their personalities, so let them shine.

  A wine-sampling event can introduce your brand to new consumers and strengthen your relationship with current ones. Use these 10 tips to design an event that will create a memorable experience for your patrons, increase awareness around your brand, and learn even more about what your target audience wants.

  Ray Sheehan is the Managing Partner of UpcomingEvents.com, a North American event production and marketing company. He has a background in strategic planning, marketing, event management, and advertising and has helped the company expand from one city to over twenty states. Before this role, Ray owned and operated philly2night.com, a production and news company in Philadelphia and South Jersey. He oversaw all aspects of the business and produced a nationally syndicated television show. In 2020, he launched the G.I.F.T Program as part of Old City Media. Ray is recognized as a leader in the special events industry and an innovative thinker in the Philadelphia community and beyond.

Top 5 Vineyard Equipment Companies & What They Offer

man riding a crop machine

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

Choosing the right equipment is one of the most important decisions a vineyard owner will ever make, especially since heavy pieces of machinery are significant investments built to last for many years. Some companies that cater to the needs of vineyards specialize in just certain, niche types of equipment, while others are one-stop shops that offer nearly everything required to grow and harvest grapes for making wine.

  To help you narrow your options, here are five top companies offering vineyard equipment and what makes them stand out as suppliers in this industry.

Gearmore, Inc.: 24 Implements to Make Your Vineyard More Productive

  Gearmore, Inc. is an employee-owned business specializing in implements for the agricultural and light construction industries. Based in Chino, California, Gearmore has been in business for approximately 60 years and provides quality implements through servicing tractor dealers.

  Robert Giersbach, the marketing manager for Gearmore, told The Grapevine Magazine, “We have always placed a priority on vineyard implements due to the large acreage on the west coast. There are about 900,000 acres of vineyards in California, which includes table, raisin and the largest being 615,000 acres of wine grapes.”

  Since growing grapes requires many types of machinery, Gearmore offers 24 unique implements for vineyards in varying widths and capacities. These include vine trimmers, leaf removers, pre-pruners and multiple pieces of spraying equipment. Gearmore also offers compost spreaders, rotary tillers, soil conditioners, weeders, cultivators and numerous other options relevant to essential vineyard work.

  “The California vineyards are planted in row spacings from four to 12 feet, with six- and eight- foot rows now being the most popular. The coastal vines are using mainly trellis with vertical shoot positions, but the hotter Central Valley requires a trellis system, such as California sprawl, double cross arms or quad.”

Kingsburg Cultivator, Inc.: Durable Products with Replacement Parts

  Kingsburg Cultivator, Inc. was established near the small, rural town of Kingsburg, California in the 1950s as an agricultural equipment manufacturing and repair company. Chuck Norris from Kingsburg Cultivator said that his company offers a wide range of equipment and solutions for all seasons.

  “We specialize in berm management solutions, which include our products made in the central valley of California,” Norris said. “We also import equipment out of Italy known as Orizzonti. Within our berm management division, we have mowers, blades, discs, sweeps, tillers, paddles and string weeders. We have single-sided and double-sided frames that we can mount in either the front or rear front or rear of the tractor based on the needs of the customer.”

  KCI’s pruning division offers various pre-pruning solutions available in both single and double-sided frames. These options include sickle bars, disc pruners and high-speed skirters with many adjusting configurations available year-round.

  “Our Orizzonti line offers different length shredders as well,” Norris said. “You can interchange flail blades or hammers in any of the shredders we offer. Our spreader division consists of vineyard models and has interchangeable attachments for different applications. We offer a KCM 58 and KCM512 with bander and spinner attachments. The spreader dimensions are five inches wide by eight inches long and five inches wide by 12 inches long. The banding configuration comes in five-, six- and eight-inch lengths. Our supersealed bander allows little to no loss in product.”

  KCI has been a manufacturer of vineyard equipment for over 65 years, starting with a belt drive skirter that operated off the crankshaft of the tractor. Since then, the company has stood out because of the quality of its products, outstanding service and replacement parts on hand.

  “Since the beginning of time, we at KCI have had a high expectation of product quality and durability, and we stand behind our products,” Norris said. “Customer and field service also is what sets us apart from other similar businesses. With our experienced office and shop staff, we can help our customers timely and efficiently. KCI makes sure to prepare and have replacement parts on the shelf ready for when our customers are in need. We understand that downtime is a very costly expense and always keep the customers’ best interests in mind. With us being a fabrication shop, in some cases, we can even build parts for equipment other than ours if our customer isn’t able to find the part needed. We also do field repairs of our equipment for our customers with service trucks and skilled technicians if we can’t diagnose and troubleshoot the problem over the phone.”

New Holland Agriculture: Grape Harvesters & Tractors Just for Vineyards

  New Holland Agriculture, a subsidiary of CNH Industrial, brings over 125 years of experience to the industry and serves vineyards with specialty tractors and grape harvesters. Tanner Cady, a viticulture marketing specialist for specialty tractors and harvesters at the company, told The Grapevine that New Holland Agriculture’s specialty tractors come in various ranges for horsepower, width, height and traction style, specifically the T4F/V, T3F and TK4 models.

  “Wine grapes range in row spacings from 3.5 feet to 11 feet,” Cady said. “We have three different tractor widths – 42 inches (T4V), 55 inches (T3F) and 63 inches (T4F) –  to fit those applications. In most scenarios, height is not a problem like it is for table grapes. And depending on the size of the operation, you can choose between 80, 90, 100 or 110 horsepower for the T4F/V and 60, 70 and 80 horsepower for the T3F.

  New Holland has a tractor built for vineyards planted on steep hillsides, too, the TK4 Crawler.

  “This tractor is available in different horsepowers, widths and heights,” Cady said. “Depending on producers’ applications, they may want one with or without a cab, one that is 46 inches wide or 70 inches wide or lastly, one with only 80 horsepower versus 100 horsepower. The T3F also has a very low center of gravity that makes it useful on hillsides, too.”

  New Holland Agriculture’s grape harvesters are available for row widths of 3.5, 4.5, 5.5 and 7.5 feet. The horsepower ranges are from 128 to 182, and three different cleaning styles are available: straight to tank, destemmer and Opti-Grape.

  “Straight to tank is our most basic way of removing mog,” Cady said. “This is made up of two to four fans. Those fans are standard with all other forms of cleaning. Destemmer is our mid-range form of cleaning. It acts as a sieve while forcing grapes to fall through a mesh belt. It then collects the leaves, wood and anything else that isn’t a grape to continue down the belt and over the back of the machine onto the ground. While destemming, it also breaks up the clusters and collects the rakis while directing the grapes to the hopper. Opti-Grape is our premium sorter. This is done with what we call an ‘Air Knife.’ It uses pressurized air to discharge everything other than grapes out the side of the machine, leaving a nearly perfect sample in the hopper that is ready for the winery and requires no additional sorting at the winery.”

  New Holland is unique in the industry because it is the only manufacturer to make grape harvesters and tractors under the same umbrella.

  “Also, both our harvesters and tractors run FPT engines,” Cady said.” “This is particularly important when it comes to harvesters. Other grape harvester manufacturers run a third-party engine that requires separate technicians from those who will service the harvester itself — one unit and two technicians for servicing. With the New Holland grape harvesters, our technicians are trained on both the engine and the harvesting mechanisms, meaning we can service both in the same visit.”

Kubota Tractor Corp.: Reliable Tractors and a Knowledgeable Dealer Network

  Kubota Tractor Corp. introduced its first tractor to the U.S. in 1969 and has expanded to offer many products today, such as utility vehicles, lawn mowers, construction equipment, agriculture tractors and hay equipment. Erik Lisitza, Kubota’s product manager for specialty tractors, told The Grapevine that his company offers various power units and implements for the vineyard market.

  “Kubota’s M Narrow Series tractors, which includes the M4N and M5N, are offered in both open station and cab models with three horsepower ranges and multiple transmission options, in addition to the M5N Power Krawler Narrow CAB half-track model,” Lisitza said. “Our implements for mowing, seeding and tillage are offered through our Land Pride brand.”

  Kubota introduced its second-generation M5 Narrow Series at the exhibitor grounds at the World Ag Expo in February 2023, which includes two new models, the M5N-112 and the M5N-092. The durable workhorse tractor users have come to rely upon remains at the core of these latest models. However, updated comfort features and visibility enhancements are now available while using them among the rows and vines.

  “Our consistent offering and being known for our simple and reliable tractors is what makes Kubota stand out as a provider of vineyard equipment,” Lisitza said. “Our knowledgeable dealer network works and lives where the vineyards are, and they know their customers and the specific needs of their industry.”

Jacto Inc.: A Sprayer Specialist with a Global Presence

  Headquartered in Tualatin, Oregon, Jacto Inc. offers high-tech products and innovative solutions for the agricultural industry and has a presence in over 100 countries. Jacto has a history that dates back over 75 years and has plants and offices in Argentina, Brazil, Thailand and Mexico.

  Walter Mosquini, Jacto’s international sales manager, told The Grapevine that the primary sprayers that his company sells to vineyards are the airblast sprayers. Jacto offers 13 different models of airblast sprayers ranging from 50 gallons to 1,000 gallons. 

  “We also offer a mini-tower kit for four different models to provide even better coverage to the crop. The other type of sprayer the vineyard market buys from Jacto is a hooded herbicide sprayer to spray weeds between the rows while protecting the crops from chemical drift.”

  Mosquini said that Jacto is unique as a vineyard equipment provider because of its global presence and long history in the industry.

  “We offer many models of sprayers, from hobby vineyard operators to extensive corporate vineyards,” he said. “Our sprayers are built to withstand the heavy use found in commercial farming. Our Arbus 200 sprayer can be operated with an 18-horsepower tractor, keeping the tractor and sprayer cost at a minimum.”

Choosing Equipment for Your Vineyard

  Each of these companies has something unique to offer vineyards, and the industry leaders who work for them can provide helpful advice for choosing new equipment to grow grapes.

  Giersbach from Gearmore said, “When asked by growers what equipment they may need, we ask about the row width, tractor model and what operation and outcome they hope to achieve. Yet established growers usually know exactly what they need and do not require our input.”

  Cady from New Holland Agriculture recommends buying equipment that does not run a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF).

  “You will only find this with New Holland equipment; we maintain a low carbon footprint without the need for a DPF,” Cady said. “Also, consider your acreage, terrain, row spacing and yield when choosing a harvester or tractor. Those play considerable factors in the make-up of the equipment a producer will need to purchase.”

  Mosquini from Jacto shared his company’s sprayer selection guide with The Grapevine, a guide designed to help vineyards determine the model of sprayer that will work best for their needs. The guide addresses 12 essential factors to consider, starting with the type of crop, the number of acres to be sprayed, the typical galloon sprayed per acre and pump capacity. Tractor speed, row spacing, crop height, turning area and crop density are other factors to consider.

  Lisitza from Kubota advises vineyard owners looking to buy new equipment to talk with a local dealer for the best advice before making a major purchase.

  “They know our equipment, and they know your business and the vineyard market. Their knowledge can help you get into the right piece of equipment for your operation,” he said.

  Norris from KCI advises prospective customers to do their homework and ensure their fields are set up properly to run the equipment they are trying to purchase.

  “Make sure to include photos, videos, row spacings, type of field and irrigation techniques to ensure the mechanized equipment won’t damage or cause more issues than your current practices,” Norris said. “If your field is not set up correctly but you want to move to more mechanized techniques, make changes to your field before the purchase. Also, make sure the company supports your equipment with service and parts availability. The sense of assurance when your equipment malfunctions or is damaged and parts are a call away is priceless. Reliability is very important for the product you plan to buy as well. Do research into the company producing the machine of interest. This can include looking at reviews and comments on Google, asking current owners of the machine and going to see the machine run in the field for yourself.”

The Application of Tissue Culture for Grapevine Disease Elimination

grapevine field in rows

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

My experience working with tissue culture techniques on grapevine dates from my first job (after my post-doctoral fellowship at UC Berkeley) at Agritope, Inc., a biotechnology company that was based in Oregon.  The company owned a grapevine nursery and I was hired to start a disease testing and eradication program for their elite clones and varieties. 

  More recently, I have produced tissue culture plants from heritage Cabernet Sauvignon clones that were acclimated and planted in California vineyards.   This spring (Argentina’s fall) I spent over a month working at a biotechnology company in Mar del Plata in Buenos Aires province.  The laboratory is interested primarily in the micropropagation of different plant species such as garlic, kiwi, fruit, and ornamentals crops.  Recently the lab started working with woody plants such as grapevines and invited me to spend time working and training their staff on grapevine tissue culture and diagnostic techniques.

Plant Tissue Culture

  Plant tissue culture technology (growing plants in vitro) can be used for the quick propagation of grapevines but also is a technique that is used for the elimination of plant pathogens (disease causing agents). The propagation material may start in a greenhouse using either dormant grapevine cuttings or in the lab using nodal sections (portions of a shoot with at least a bud) from an actively growing plant. 

  In the laboratory, a process called surface sterilization is used to remove external bacterial or fungal species that can affect plant growth in culture. The cleaning process involves treating the nodal portions of the vine in a detergent and bleach solution. 

  After this process, the nodal sections are placed in a special media that contains nutrients and hormones that sustains plant growth.  These plants are grown in sterile (autoclaved or baked) vessels at ideal light and temperature conditions. This process is known as plant tissue culture initiation.  All the work is done under aseptic conditions in a laminar flow hood that keeps the environment clean and free of airborne microorganisms. If the purpose of initiating plants in tissue culture is the elimination of plant pathogens, the meristematic tissue from each of the plants can be isolated.

Plant Meristem Isolation

  The plant meristem is a portion of the plant with cells that has not differentiated into specialized tissues (e.g., leaves, stems, roots) and are capable of producing a new plant (the tissue is totipotent). The meristematic tissue is also responsible for keeping the plant growing. The advantage of using the apical (the uppermost meristem dome) is that the vascular tissue has not been differentiated and it is expected that viruses (or other pathogens) are not yet present in an infected plant.  By isolating the smallest possible meristematic tissue (generally the meristem dome plus a couple of leaf primordia), and growing it in tissue culture, it is expected that the new plant that is regenerated will be free of pathogens.  The meristem tissue culture technique has been used for decades to produce healthy grapevine plants as well as plants from many other species. The smaller the meristem (0.1- 0.3 mm), the higher is the chance of viral elimination.  However, these small meristems are more difficult to regenerate.  The trick is to isolate many meristems of various sizes (0.1 – 0.5 mm) and test each regenerated plant to determine if the pathogens that were present in the original plant were eliminated.  Because of the small size of the meristems, the work must be done using fine dissecting tools with the aid of a dissecting microscope under aseptic conditions.  Research in my laboratory has shown that tissue culture plants have a higher virus concentration than plants grown in greenhouse or field.  Therefore, the testing of plants to determine their virus status, can start very early in the process, collecting small amounts of tissue during the first transfer to fresh media.

Plant Growth and Propagation

  Once a clone is obtained (always best to produce more than one) that has tested free of the pathogens of interest, the plant propagation starts.  Once the regenerated plants are grown, these must be transferred to fresh media regularly (every 3-4 weeks) to replenish nutrients.  With each transfer it is possible to produce 5-6 new micro-propagated plants.  At some point the plants will be transferred to the greenhouse to be acclimated.  Because there would be a shock for the plants to be moved from the pampered conditions in test tubes, initially the plants must be grown under misting conditions.  In the growth chamber or greenhouse, the humidity must be kept very high to allow the plants to acclimate as they were “spoiled” growing in culture media.  Up to this point, the plants were grown in a clean environment to ensure that pathogens or environmental contaminants were not present. The plants will continue to grow in the greenhouse up to a certain point and brought to the nursery to further propagate and/or start the grafting process.  Because the potential of re-infection, it is important that plants are always protected.  This is accomplished by potting the plants in clean soil and growing in a greenhouse or screenhouse with a mesh that offers insect protection.

Virus Detection and Evaluation of Candidate Selections

  Many vineyards and wineries are interested in propagating their own heritage selections or clones.  In some instances, these clones were introduced hundreds of years ago by families who immigrated from Europe.  At that time, quarantine and plant introduction programs were not as reliable as they are presently.  Consequently, many of the imported grapevine plant material carried important and deleterious pathogens.  In addition, over the years of being planted in the field, even healthy vines may become infected with numerous pathogens due to the spread of pathogens from vineyard to vineyard.

  Every project starts with the testing of the plant material the grower wishes to treat.  Based on the results, the laboratory can opt to apply meristem tissue culture or other disease elimination techniques.  Thermotherapy (heat treatment) and cryotherapy (cold treatment) are other methods that have been described and can be used in combination with meristem tissue culture and micropropagation.  But by far, the meristem tissue culture is the most applied method when it comes to disease elimination for grapevines.  This is because the meristem tissue culture is a technique widely accepted by growers.  Although, thermotherapy is a very old and successful method, some growers do not accept its use as they are suspicious that deleterious mutations can occur in the plant material.  This concept has not been scientifically proven though.

  Although generally, the meristem tissue culture technique is applied for viral elimination, a bonus result is the eradication of pathogenic bacteria and fungi.  Because disease diagnostics have been covered in other articles I wrote, I only summarized here.  Basically, the same methods that are used to detect pathogens in the field are used for the detection of viruses (or other pathogens) in tissue culture.  The material being tested however, is always actively growing tissue culture plants.  It is important to test the plants as soon as there is enough plant material and is generally done during the first transfer to fresh culture media (the best conservative sample are leaves with attached petioles).  Because this type of tissue is sensitive to wilting (spoiling) it is important to coordinate testing with the laboratory to assure that the samples arrive in good conditions. The early testing will allow the laboratory to discard the clones that test positive for a pathogen of interest and only propagate those that are not infected.

Conclusions

  The use of tissue culture propagation and meristem culture for disease eradication offers an advantage: the nursery will be starting with a clean product (not only virus tested but likely free of bacterial and fungal pathogens), grown under aseptic conditions.  To preserve, this health status, it is important that plants are moved into a hermetic greenhouse (or screenhouse with small mesh) with mitigation practices to avoid the entrance of insect vectors and /or pathogens.  Finally, the plants must be moved to a screened area in the field (preferably isolated from other grapevine growing vineyards).

  There might be concerns from the industry that tissue culture plants could have juvenile traits (take too long or never produce fruit).  These are valid concerns and the issue varies from variety to variety or even among different clones of the same variety.  There are however growing techniques that can be applied at the nursery to avoid juvenility traits from happening.

  The slogan from the National Clean Plant Network is to “Start clean, stay clean”.  It is important to have nursery programs that produce the cleanest (disease tested) material.  However, if the plants are grown carelessly, likely these plants will become reinfected.  Therefore, my hope is that this article will provide guidelines to allow the planting material to remain clean after the effort and expense of subjecting the material to disease elimination treatments.

  Judit Monis, Ph.D. provides specialized services to help growers, vineyard managers, and nursery personnel avoid the propagation and transmission of disease caused by bacteria, fungi, and viruses in their vineyard blocks.   Judit (based in California) is fluent in Spanish and is available to consult in all wine grape growing regions of the word.  Please visit juditmonis.com for information or contact juditmonis@yahoo.com to request a consulting session at your vineyard.

Uncorking Accessibility

Ensuring Your Website Complies With the ADA

Americans with disabilities act

By: Vanessa Ing, Farella Braun + Martel

In today’s digital age, having an online presence is crucial for businesses, including wineries, breweries, and other beverage companies. Accordingly, it’s essential to ensure that your beverage website meets federal standards for accessibility to avoid lawsuits and fines. In this article, we will help beverage companies understand how to comply with federal law and implement accessible features on their websites.

Why is Web Accessibility Important?

  In 1990, Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It prohibits businesses open to the public (otherwise known as “public accommodations”) from discriminating against people with disabilities in everyday activities. These everyday activities can include purchasing goods and services, or offering employment opportunities. 

  In March 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice issued web accessibility guidance, reiterating that ensuring web accessibility for people with disabilities is a priority for the Department. Relying on the ADA’s prohibition against discrimination and its mandate to provide equal access, Department of Justice emphasized that the ADA’s requirements apply to all the goods, services, privileges, or activities offered by public accommodations, including those offered on the web. The Department of Justice’s guidance was particularly timely given that many services moved online during the pandemic. 

  In its guidance, the Department of Justice explained that people with disabilities navigate the web in different ways: for example, those with visual impairments might require a screen reader that reads aloud text to the audience.  Those with auditory impairments might require closed-captioning software, while those with impaired motor skills might require voice recognition software.  A website, therefore, should be compatible with the full range of such software. 

Is Your Beverage Company a “Public Accommodation” Business?

  Public accommodations include businesses that sell goods and services, establishments serving food and drink, and places of recreation or public gathering.  Companies that sell drinks, wineries that offer a tasting room, or breweries that host events are all considered public accommodations.  Thus, those businesses’ websites must comply with the ADA by being accessible to people with disabilities. 

  It is an open question whether beverage companies without a physical location open to the public must still have ADA-compliant websites. Some jurisdictions, like the Ninth Circuit (which has jurisdiction over Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington), have tied the necessity of ADA-compliant websites to the existence of a brick-and-mortar location (Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC). However, the Department of Justice, along with several federal circuit courts of appeals, has taken the position that even a public accommodation business without a physical location must have an ADA-compliant website. 

  Given the increased prevalence of online-only services open to the public, it is very likely that litigation over the next few years may resolve this open question.  In the meantime, it is wise for beverage companies to take preventative caution and ensure that their websites are accessible. 

What are some Website Accessibility Barriers?

  To ensure ADA compliance, beverage companies must be aware of common website accessibility barriers.  These include poor color contrast, lack of descriptive text on images and videos, mouse-only navigation, and more.  By addressing these barriers, beverage companies can enhance the user experience for people with disabilities.

  Six examples of website accessibility barriers highlighted in the DOJ’s accessibility guidance include:

•    Poor Color Contrast: Ensure sufficient color contrast between text and background to aid individuals with visual impairments or color blindness. Use color combinations that are easy to distinguish.

•    Use of Color Alone to Give Information:  Avoid using color alone to provide information.  Using color alone can be very disorienting for someone who is visually impaired or colorblind.  Someone who is colorblind might not be able to distinguish between shades of gray.  One solution might be to ensure that symbols conveying information are differently shaped.    

•    Lack of Descriptive Alternative Text for Images and Videos: Provide descriptive text (alt text) for images and videos, allowing screen readers to convey the information to visually impaired users. This makes your content more accessible and inclusive.

•    No Closed Captions on Videos: Include closed captions for videos to accommodate individuals with hearing impairments. Utilize manual or automatic captioning options and review the captions for accuracy.  Free options are available on the web.

•    Inaccessible Online Forms: Make online forms user-friendly for people with disabilities. Provide clear instructions before the form, ensure that a screen reader could recognize required fields and fields with special formatting, ensure keyboard-only navigation, use accessible labels for inputs, and display clear error messages.  Note that an image-based CAPTCHA is not a fully accessible way to secure your form; your CAPTCHA should offer users who are visually impaired an audio alternative.

•    Mouse-Only Navigation: Enable keyboard-only navigation on your website to assist individuals with motor skill impairments or those who cannot use a mouse or see a mouse pointer on the screen.  Make sure all interactive elements can be accessed using the tab, enter, spacebar, or arrow keys.  Use a “Skip to Main Content” link to ensure that users employing only a keyboard can easily navigate the website’s primary content. 

  To implement these features, beverage companies should discuss accessibility concerns upfront with the web developer.  Beverage companies should keep in mind that posting a phone number on a website to call for assistance, as commonly utilized by businesses, does not sufficiently provide equal access to the website and the services or goods provided.

Who can Sue Beverage Companies?

  Non-compliance with ADA standards can lead to potential lawsuits.  Although some courts have held that a nexus must exist between a private plaintiff’s disability and the web accessibility barrier claimed, a private plaintiff may easily surf the web for websites that are inaccessible.  A private plaintiff may then file a lawsuit in federal court without first notifying the business.  Further, liability under the ADA is strict, which means that the intent of the business to comply is immaterial.  Thus, it is prudent for beverage companies to proactively address accessibility issues to avoid potential legal troubles. 

  Private lawsuits under the ADA can result in injunctive relief (a court order to comply with the ADA) and attorney fees.  And in some states, like California, the state law version of the ADA may enable plaintiffs to demand monetary damages ($4,000 per violation of the ADA). 

  Government involvement, while less frequent, is possible in cases involving national retailers.  If the Department of Justice observes a pattern or practice of discrimination, the Department will attempt to negotiate a settlement, and may bring suit on behalf of the United States. At stake are fines of up to $75,000 for the first ADA violation, and up to $150,000 for each subsequent violation.

What are the Rules for Website Accessibility?

  Although the ADA itself does not spell out the rules for website accessibility, several sources provide detailed rules that can aid beverage companies in building accessible websites. 

  First, the ADA authorizes the Department of Justice to enforce the statute.  Accordingly, the Department develops and issues regulations explaining how businesses must comply.  Specifically, § 36.303 of the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations specifies that a public accommodation shall provide auxiliary aids and services when necessary to ensure effective communication with people with disabilities, and that a public accommodation should consult with people with disabilities whenever possible.  The Department also issues administrative guidance, such as its March 2022 guidance described above.  

  Second, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities, provides detailed guidance concerning the display screen ratios, status indicators, audio signals, and other accessibility features. 

  Third, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (WCAG 2.1), which were originally designed by a consortium of four universities, provide highly specific web accessibility guidelines grounded on the idea that information on the web must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.  These guidelines are widely referenced in court cases and settlements with the Department of Justice, as the guidelines address numerous aspects of web accessibility and offer three different levels of conformance (A, AA, AAA). Beverage companies can consult the WCAG 2.1 guidelines (including a customizable quick reference guide, at https://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG21/quickref/) to ensure their websites meet ADA compliance. 

Looking Ahead

  Web accessibility standards evolve over time, with updates being released periodically. Beverage companies should stay informed about changes and updates to ADA compliance regulations. For example, the WCAG 3.0 is scheduled for release in the latter half of 2023, further refining accessibility guidelines.

  In sum, by understanding and identifying web accessibility barriers, and implementing necessary accessibility features, beverage companies can enhance user experiences and minimize the risk of legal repercussions. Embracing web accessibility is not only legally required but economically prudent in the long run, as it enables beverage companies to cater to a broad and varied audience, and demonstrates a commitment to inclusivity in the digital realm.

  Vanessa Ing is a litigation associate with Farella Braun + Martel and can be reached at ving@fbm.com. Farella is a Northern California law firm representing corporate and private clients in sophisticated business and real estate transactions and complex commercial, civil and criminal litigation. The firm is headquartered in San Francisco with an office in the Napa Valley that is focused on the wine industry.

Raising the pH of Wines by Easy De-acidification Trials

scientist pipetted wine

By: Tom Payette – Winemaking Consultant 

In the previous issue of The Grapevine Magazine the topic of lowering the pH was reviewed.  This issue will cover the reverse situation winemakers may have in the cellar with wines that are too acidic or with pH’s too low.  These are critical choices for the winemaker to make with the proper balance and style of wine anticipated to be made.  Following the trials below will help the winemaker review, in the lab first, lowering the acidity to achieve the proper acid palate structure and chemistry.  Finesse must be used at this decision making process time using both the lab and the wineglass.  Keep in mind this trial and mechanism may best be suited for wines from grape base and may not apply to fruit wines.

Trials in the Lab

  The lab is the first place the winemaker should turn to experiment with small batches of wine to make a winemaking addition decision.  This will give nearly concrete evidence from the lab as well as tasting trials to determine the appropriate amount and kind of de-acification tool(s) to use in each individual instance of a wine.

When?

  The acid and pH of a wine should be addressed as early on in the winemaking process as possible.  Often this decision is predicted just before harvest from previously collected data and made at harvest or just after fermentation.

Why and Where?

  The reason we do trials is to experiment with refinement and correction of a juice or wine.  Always work in small quantities, in the lab, with a sample so one does not potentially create a larger issue, in the cellar.  Trials can be tested and tasted to see what the results would or will have been if the addition was made to the actual tank or vessel of juice/wine.  This eliminates guesswork and unnecessarily shooting from the hip of which many winemakers can find themselves guilty of during critical times.

Tools Needed

•    Scales that measure in grams preferably to a tenth of a gram.

•    4 – 600 milliliter beakers or larger for mixing

•    1 – 500 milliliter graduated cylinder

•    100 gram lab sample of Potassium Bicarbonate  (KHCO3).

•    100 gram lab sample of Calcium Carbonate   (CaCO3).

•    5 – 375 milliliter wine bottles with T-tops

•    Magnetic Stir plate with stir bars and retriever for the stir bars.

•    Representative sample(s) of each wine to be worked with (2.5 liters).

•    Clean wineglasses

•    Watch glasses to cover each wine glass.

•    Spit cup

•    Other testing equipment to answer other lab questions if needed.

•    Sharpie™ pen or pencil for marking beakers.

•    95% ethanol to remove Sharpie™ pen marks off glassware.

How?

  Start with something simple where results can be easily determined with the wineglass to give the confidence needed to build upon this procedure.  An example of this may be an acid reduction trial for pH lowering and/or palate modification.  Let’s go over this process.

1.    Start with an ample quantity of wine to work with in the lab – perhaps just over 2.5 liters of a representative sample from a wine vessel to be reviewed.

2.    Label the 375 milliliters bottles noted above to reflect their contents as noted below.  Be sure to include a control by filling one bottle with a portion of the sample collected in step #1 and label it control.

3.    Label one beaker 0.5 grams per liter KHCO3 (Potassium bicarbonate) and another beaker 1.0 gram per liter KHCO3.

4.    Label another pair of beakers to represent the CaCO3(Calcium Carbonate) rates of 0.5 grams per liter and 1.0 gram per liter. {See caution below}

5.    Using the 500 milliliter graduated cylinder divide the wine into the four – 500 milliliters labeled beakers that were just labeled.

6.    Accurately weigh 0.25 grams of KHCO3 and fully dissolve in the 500 milliliters labeled appropriately.  Use the stir bar and plate for this process. ( 0.5 grams per liter )

7.    Accurately weigh 0.50 grams of KHCO3 and fully dissolve that quantity in the beaker that represents that rate.  ( 1.0 gram per liter )

8.    Repeat the same process above using the CaCO3 additions and place them in the beakers.

9.    Allow the beakers to settle and set (loosely covered) after the reactions have fully taken place and all the products have dissolved or finished their action.  There may be some gassing.

10.  Once the reactions are complete (two hours roughly depending on the wine and room temperature) transfer the mixed samples into their respective labeled 375 milliliter wine bottles and about 50 milliliters into a small wine glass.

11.  Degas and run chemistries on the remaining sample left over (roughly 65 milliliters) measuring pH and TA readings at a minimum.  Include the chemistry of the control.

12.  Place the wine bottle samples off to the side to be tasted in a week to 10 days.  [Placing them in a refrigerator may also help precipitate tartrates giving the tasters a better indication of the final acidity after cold stabilization.]

13.  After the week to ten days : re-taste and retest the chemistries to further help make the final decision on what action to take or furthering trials in the lab for better refinement.

14   .Be sure to record all data and tasting notes in the lab so they can be used as a reference for future trials on the same wine or for predictions on other wines to have trails performed.  Each wine does behave differently; however, so always do trials.

Set up the Tasting Trial a Week to Ten Days Later

1.     Pour about 50 milliliters or a quantity one desires to smell and taste, of the control wine prepared in step #2 above, into a wine glass and place it to the left hand area of the tasting glass orientation.  (It is a common practice industry standard to always taste against a control from left to right.)

2.     Pour the trials to be tasted, made in steps 6,7 and 8 above, in the wineglasses to the right of the control.  Mark their contents and perhaps place the two lower additions closer to the control and the larger rate additions to the far right.

3.     Add to this flight any wines from past vintages you may want to review or any other blind samples from other producers you may care to use as a benchmark.  Only do this step if needed.  Mark their contents.

4.     Taste and smell each wine several times.  Go through the flight and detect what wine/juice may best match or improve the desired style one is trying to achieve.  Review the chemistry data generated in step 13 above while tasting the trials.

5.     Select the best match and leave the room for 1 to 2 hours so your palate may return to equilibrium.

6.     Return and re-taste to confirm your previous decision with a fresh palate.

  If chemistries should play an important role be certain to run a necessary panel of lab test to ascertain the proper numbers are achieved.  One may need to balance taste, flavor and chemistry to make some of these choices.  Have all the data necessary available to make those choices.  

Calculation:

  Let’s take the above trial as the example.  If we dissolved 0.5 gram of KHCO3 into 500 milliliters of wine we now have 1 gram per liter equivalent.  If this was the chosen amount we simply take the amount of wine, in liters, and multiply that by one.  This will represent the amount of KHCO3, in grams, to be added to the tank of wine.  Dividing the grams by 454 will give the number of pounds if your cellar has scales that measure in pounds. 

Spicing it Up!

  Once the first set of trials is mastered one may build on to the next step projecting out what one may want to do with the juice or wine.  This could eventually, and perhaps should, build out to treating large enough samples that one could cold and protein stabilize the wine in the lab, filter to the projected desired micron size and taste with a panel.

  Recall there are other ways to reduce total acid when making wine.  Be sure to keep malo-lactic in your tool box as an option to review.  Some yeast also reduce malic acid and amelioration (not a first choice mind you) can be explored.  Blending can also be used to make a resulting wine with reduced acid.

Double Checking the Results

  From experience, one can get so creative in a lab it can be difficult to trace exactly how one arrived at a certain desired concoction.  Copious notes should be taken throughout the complete process in the lab.  Given a tank of juice or wine can often equate to hundreds of thousands of dollars or more it may be prudent to run the selected trial a second time, and compare, to confirm any addition rates before performing the final action in the cellar.

Action in the Cellar

  This is often the simple part.  Using the above KHCO3 addition as an example, weigh the desired amount of KHCO3 in a bucket or appropriate container.  Start mixing the wine and start slowly adding the product.  Be sure to make note how full the tank is and to make sure that gassing may not be an issue.  Continue to mix until the addition is fully integrated based on your knowledge of your tank size and/or pump speed and then select a sample from the sample valve for tasting, a pH and titratable acidity analysis.   This will confirm the task was achieved and on target to the lab results.

  Some winemakers, especially when using CaCO3, will split the wine volumes and treat only a portion with the full amount of the CaCO3 and then blend the two wines back together after the reaction has taken place. This could be roughly a 50-50 split.  Potentially less chalkiness is detected and the pH shift may be advantageously less.

Summary

  Given time and experimentation with this system many pH-raising trials with additions will become easy and systematic.  Trials will often take less time to prepare and one may taste at several points during the day.

Other Helpful Tips

  Caution: Using CaCO3 may result in excess calcium and the potential for calcium tartrates to form.  Be sure to monitor this since these tartrates do not react the same as potassium-bi-tartrates.  There is no affordable way to test a calcium excess instability known at this time.

  Make sure the wine samples are not too cold, during the lab additions, since this may slow the reaction and delay the gassing off that may occur making the 375 bottles, after filling, popping their corks or T-tops.  Make sure the reactions are complete before filling the 375’s.

  Makes sure all solids are dissolved and dispersed equally into any solution.

  When a wines pH is raised it may lower the amount of free SO2 available in that wine.  Be sure to monitor the free SO2 very closely after performing a de-acidification.

  Winemakers may also be able to blend two trials in 50% to 50% solutions to get an example of a trial in the middle without having to make one up specifically to match the amount desired.  An example may be blending the 0.5 gram per liter with a 1.0 gram per liter to understand what a 0.75 gram per liter addition may result.

  Always remember your palate may become desensitized while tasting and to step away from tasting for an hour or two and then return to taste ones preference.  You may be shocked you had become used to certain levels because of tasting such extremes.

  Keep in mind not to over scrutinize your accuracy in the laboratory.  By this I mean make sure that if we measure something very exactly in the laboratory make sure this action will be able to be replicated outside the lab in the cellar.  It is not uncommon, early on, for winemakers to get extremely exact in the lab only to step into the cellar with sloppy control over what they had just experimented with.

  Best of luck, take your time and be sure to review all angles before taking action in the cellar.  That is what trials are all about!

GLACIAL TILL VINEYARD & WINERY

Crafting World-Class Nebraska Wines and Ciders

3 woman chilling under sunset

By: Gerald Dlubala

Nebraska entrepreneur and Glacial Till Vineyard and Winery owner Mike Murman spent much of his free time in the 1980s making beer and wine as a hobby. However, when the demands of family life and work travel increased, he put those hobbies on the back burner: Priorities, you know.

  Years later, Murman noticed the increasing number of vineyards and wineries popping up in his home state of Nebraska, renewing his previously tabled interest in winemaking. That spark was enough of a catalyst that Murman joined the Nebraska Winery and Grape Growers Association, attending numerous seminars and workshops over the next two years.

  In 2003, Murman acquired six acres of land located southeast of Lincoln, Nebraska, in Otoe County and near the township of Palmyra, for personal and family use. Primarily purchased as a place to enjoy outdoor sporting and recreation activities, the spacious acreage was close to his family residence and presented the potential for Murman to rekindle his love affair with grape growing and winemaking. The terroir consisted of glacial till, a fertile, rocky soil left behind thousands of years ago after the glaciers that once covered North America receded. Grapevines tend to like this soil mix, so in the spring of 2003, Murman planted the first vines. He approached grape growing in an organized, systematic way, attending additional classes while studying vineyard orientation, preferred soil mixes and all things necessary for grape growing. A local professor from the University of Nebraska helped with soil testing, confirming that the soil was favorable for growing grapes. All property facets met the desired vineyard success criteria except for the slope orientation, his being northward rather than the preferred southward.

  A record harvest in 2006 prompted the Murman’s to share the great wine with others, and Glacial Till Winery was born. In 2008, Glacial Till Vineyard became a bonded winery, which opened to the public in the summer of 2009.

Ability to Adapt Along the Way is Critical

  “We were set on proving to the world that we could make and sell world-class wine in Nebraska,” said Murman. “But we quickly found that in addition to being a very competitive market, it was difficult to change consumers’ mindsets and convince them that world-class wines can come from the Midwest region, specifically the state of Nebraska. We knew then that we wouldn’t make it by solely selling wine, so we started to host events at our production vineyard.”

  “We started an event called Fermented Fridays, regularly hosting live music and food trucks on our property while featuring a local craft brewery,” said Murman. “These became very popular and successful and, for the most part, brought in more money than initially trying to get our wines on the shelves. In fact, the events became popular enough that visitors started requesting the use of our space for weddings and events. Unfortunately, we weren’t set up for that type of event, so we decided to build a venue with proper facilities to host weddings, get-togethers or any other events. It turned into another business element for us, and we continue to expand business elements when we feel it’s beneficial.”

  Murman told The Grapevine Magazine that farm wineries in Nebraska can operate up to five locations, so expansion is always a possibility. In 2010, he took a storefront in downtown Ashland, Nebraska, and transformed it into the Glacial Till Cider House and Tasting Room, offering food service and event space. With subsequent expansion into adjacent available buildings, the space is now 13,000 square feet. Murman believes that any future expansion must include Omaha as a logical location, with the Tri-City area, including Hastings, Grand Island and Kearney, also in consideration.

Early Adversity Leads to a Shift in Direction

  “In 2014, our area had a severe frost and freeze event causing us to lose pretty much all of our grape product,” said Murman. “In Nebraska, by law, our wines have to use at least 75 percent Nebraska-based product, so gaining access to grapes grown in-state for wine production was next to impossible. My youngest son, Craig, came up with the idea of producing a hard apple cider using pressed apple juice. After some thought and knowing that hard ciders were the fastest-growing liquor segment at the time, we started producing our hard cider using pressed apple juice from Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard in Nebraska City. Hard cider is just apple wine that’s carbonated, so we believed it would be a good fit for us and our business. We produced our first batch, and the distributor that sampled it said he would immediately buy all we had. Well, that was all we had, but right then and there, we told him we’d consider making more if there was interest.” 

  Glacial Till’s hard ciders proved very successful, with Murman recognized as Nebraska’s and possibly the Midwest Region’s most prominent hard cider producer. Murman said that when comparing the production and sales between his wine and cider segments, the cider business is actually outpacing the wine segment. In addition, Glacial Till’s hard cider won the Grand National Championship in the U.S. Open, the youngest cidery ever to accomplish that honor. Murman’s knowledge and winemaking history were credited with helping him win that prestigious award.

It’s Okay to Deviate from Original Plans

  With his entrepreneurial background, it was maybe more natural for Murman to adapt to changes in his original plans than it may be for others. Still, he tells The Grapevine Magazine that the ability to adapt and adjust goes a long way in being successful.

  “It really is important not to get stuck in your original plan,” said Murman. “Embracing the entrepreneurial spirit, remaining adaptable and remaining open enough to see, realize and embrace the fact that there may be a different path to success than you originally planned is critical. Here in Nebraska, we’re somewhat restricted from growing as fast as we might like because of the 75 percent rule. Our growth can be restricted based on the accessibility of the product. So it’s perfectly okay to take a different-than-expected path to success.”

  “For example, we never intended to offer a food service, but we also knew we wanted to offer charcuterie or something comparable. COVID hit right after our new building was constructed, and it was then that we decided to open a kitchen and hire a chef because, according to the rules during COVID, places like ours could only stay open if we served food. As a result of that decision, offering food service has now become a priority for us and an important part of our business model. A third of the revenue out of our Ashland tasting room location is derived solely from our food service. It’s just another example of how being open to change and new direction can work to advance your business.”

Advice for Those Getting Started

  “For any grape growers or someone looking to start a vineyard, it’s important to know what varieties do well in your terroir, as well as what varieties are in demand should you look to sell them to wineries,” said Murman. “If you’re just growing grapes for your own consumption, then by all means, grow what you want, but for business purposes, you have to know the types of grapes that are in demand and easier to sell. We researched what varieties would grow best in our area, initially planting eight to 10 varieties, some we knew to be borderline varieties. For those just starting, I think it would be beneficial to concentrate on getting more production from a smaller number of varietals already proven successful in your environment.”

  Currently, Murman grows several varieties on the estate property. Red grape varieties include Frontenac, Chambourcin, St. Vincent, Marquette and a newer offering, Petite Pearl. White grape varieties include Edelweiss, their most popular white, and La Crosse, Seyval Blanc, Vignole and Traminette.

  “In addition to quality grapevine choices, the vine placement matters,” said Murman. “Grapes don’t like wet feet, so it’s important not to plant in low-lying areas because they can be colder, frost-prone and more likely to retain water. Our glacial till terroir provides excellent well-drained soil suitable for grapevines. Grapes like to put down roots with the potential of reaching 20- to 25-foot depths. Since planting in 2003, we’ve never had to irrigate, and our vines do well. We periodically put down nutrients and then do routine maintenance, like mowing, pruning and all the normal expected chores to keep proper airflow throughout the vineyard. What we do have to deal with here in the Midwest is herbicide drift. It’s a concern because most surrounding farms contain row crops like corn and beans, and any herbicides applied have the potential to travel three to five miles under the right conditions. And then we’ve been through battles over the last couple of years with Asian beetles, turkeys, raccoons, birds and other wildlife problems. Some things we can control, and some we can’t. Our weather and climate are changing in that we don’t seem to get the long stretches of extreme winter weather anymore, but rather we have events that are shorter and at times more severe or impactful.”

The Future Is in the Capable Hands of Family

  Murman says that he now considers himself semi-retired, serving in more of a mentor role for the vineyard and assisting with strategy and long-term planning. At the same time, his three sons handle the day-to-day vineyard and winery needs. All contribute in their own way to continue Glacial Till’s quality, consistent production of great-tasting wine and cider year in and year out. Mike’s oldest son, John, studied under his father and took additional courses to assume the role of winemaker while also running the production and vineyard operations. Tim serves as the general manager, responsible for the back office, including accounting, distribution and distributor relationships, while also looking over the event and tasting room staff. Craig, the youngest, is responsible for all of the creative and technical aspects of the winery, including TTB compliance and reporting, wine labeling, web and social presence and marketing. Glacial Till Vineyard and Craft Cider House employs approximately 15 full-time and 65 seasonal or hourly employees.

  For more information or to plan a visit to Glacial Till Vineyard and Craft Cidery call:

Glacial Till Vineyard and Winery

344 S. 2nd Road

Palmyra, NE 68418

402.610.3068

Glacial Till Cider House and Tasting Room

1419 Silver Street

Ashland, NE 68003

402.944.2546

Addressing Smoke-Impacted Wines

grapevine field with fire in the background

By: Becky Garrison 

In a press release dated May 5, 2023, Willamette Valley Vineyards, Brigadoon Wine Co., Samuel Robert Winery, Retraite, LLC (F/K/A Lingua Franca – LS Vineyards Holdings, LLC) and Elk Cove Vineyards Inc. announced they hired a well-known legal team to investigate filing suit against Pacific Power, a division of PacifiCorp, in the Oregon state circuit courts. The wineries issued this joint statement:

  “These fires devastated our industry, and we believe it’s time we investigate seeking compensation. We are encouraged by the recent news reports that the other fire victims in the state are finally able to settle their claims against Pacific Power (PacifiCorp). We have hired the lawyers who led the $13.5 billion recovery for the 70,000 victims in the PG&E bankruptcy in California and who recently settled their lead fire victims’ claims against PacifiCorp in the Archie Creek Fire litigation in Douglas County, Oregon.”

  As evidenced by the wildfires impacting the West Coast in subsequent years, coupled with the current wildfires raging in Canada impacting the East Coast and the Midwest, the issue of smoke damage to wine grapes remains an ongoing concern. During the Oregon Wine Symposium held on February 14-15, 2023, moderator Greg Urmini, operations lead for White Rose Estate in Dayton, Oregon, led a panel of winemakers and researchers to discuss smoke-impacted wine. Urmini pointed to the significance of this topic, noting, “It’s important to understand what winemakers are doing to help save their wine because we have to continue to make wines, and we want to be able to provide a good product.”

CASE STUDY: Barrel 42 & Quady North Winery (Jacksonville, Oregon)

  As a founding member of the West Coast Smoke Exposure Taskforce, Nichole Schulte, winemaker and partner of Barrel 42 and Quady North Winery, has experienced trial by fire literally while dealing with multiple smoke indigents over the past decade in Oregon. Overall, she stresses the need to collaborate with local winegrowers and winemakers ahead of time so there’s a strategy already in place regarding what can be done in the winery and the vineyard.

  In assessing the risk of a particular wildfire, Schulte looks at three factors. First, she observes the proximity of the smoke event to the vineyard, adding that the AQI (Air Quality Index) measurements do not provide a direct relationship between air quality and the volatile smoke-related compounds (“phenols”) floating around in the air. Also, she examines the freshness of the smoke, adding that these phenols can degrade or drop out over time.

  The grapes soak up these phenols, which bind to sugar though how much sugar is absorbed by the grapes depends on the varietal and the growing stage. Some grapes ranked from highest to lowest risk for negative effects from smoke damage include pinot noir, grenache, sangiovese, cabernet franc, primitivo, zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah.

  While the most vulnerable times for grapes coincide with wildfire season, there’s no carryover impact in the vineyards from previous wildfire events. Preliminary indications of using barrier sprays in the vineyard show to be very promising. In addition, hand harvest reduces maceration time from harvest to the fermenter. Sort out as much MOG as you can, which means not doing a full cluster ferment. Whole berry ferments tend to produce fruity aromas and esters that can, to some degree, mask the smoke characteristics in the wine. Along those lines, there’s some indication that washing ash off the fruit clusters can help reduce the presence of smoke.

  As you handle smoke-impacted grapes from fermentation to élevage, be mindful that volatile phenols will express early in fermentation. When doing trials where they separated press factions, the data showed that the compounds were still present but that the sensory profiles differed from a light to a heavy press. 

  When conducting experiments to see how certain barrels interact with smoke-impacted wines, they found that the higher the toast of the barrel, the more it interacts positively with the smoke impact of the wine. Also, untoasted oak chips can mask and bind up some phenols, while toasted oak can provide sweet, more complex tannins.

  In Schulte’s estimation, white wine is easier to deal with since you can get the juice off the skin as soon as possible. Hand-harvest the grapes and minimize skin contact and maceration time. Press gently, keeping heavy-pressed juice segregated for possible treatment later or just to keep it out of the main juice. Be sure to discard the solids, though this can be tricky as yeast will need some solids. So, consider using solids and lees from non-impacted lots. But if you can clarify before fermentation, then there’s almost no smoke at the end. For fining, they had success with bentonite, activated carbon and PVPP, as well as Clanil SMK (Enartis), which is a blend of activated carbon, chitosan and pea protein.

  Finally, wine made from smoke-impacted grapes should be bottled and consumed early. Aging these wines will not improve their quality.  

CASE STUDY: Battle Creek Cellars (Portland, Oregon)

  Winemaker Sarah Cabot focused specifically on fruit from Willamette Valley’s 2020 harvest. When presented with smoke-impacted grapes, her first question was whether or not to ferment on skins or go directly to the press. With white varietals, she went directly to the press. Conducting a berry analysis proved to be a good way to determine how much smoke is too much with regard to fermenting on skins.  

  When making white and rosé wines from smoke-impacting grapes, Cabot found that floating was an effective way to clarify the juice, though it only works if there’s a pretty significant volume. Also, the first eight to 10 gallons were discarded. She succeeded with gentle pressing and pre-fermentation, fining with carbon and bentonite with daily stirring for three days, then settling for three days. In her anecdotal sensory analysis, the pre-fining juice smelled like a campfire, though the post-fining juice smelled good. According to Cabot, spending the extra money on pre- and post-treatment before deciding to bottle is worth it in the long run.

  Next, she proceeded with fermentation as usual, adding that this worked best when they chose to go through the process quickly. She took some extra measures during fermentation, finding that there was some evidence that chitosan mitigates the effect of smoke. Also, mannoproteins/polysaccharides, untoasted oak tannins and a vigorous yeast strain with a short lag phase produced high esters. Then she suggested bottling at or above three grams per liter of residual sugar, adding that the higher the sugar, the more pleasing the experience.

  When addressing protocols for red wines, Cabot observed that the best sensory analysis results came when using a high temperature with a heavy mace ratio. The more heavily extracted, fruit-forward wines before smoke mitigation treatments yielded the most balanced and enjoyable wines after treatment.

  Going into élevage, she kept the free run and press fractions separate, adding that the press fraction required a much heavier treatment. If there are a lot of bound compounds, a winemaker can attempt enzymatic hydrolysis in the tank. By holding the wine at a temperature of approximately 64 degrees Fahrenheit for four to six weeks with regular agitation, the results were anywhere from a 15 to 75 percent reduction in glycosylated markers and a corresponding increase in free volatile phenols on all samples analyzed. While this method proved to be effective for her, she admitted it was a pretty extreme thing to do.

  Based on her experience with the 2020 vintage, Cabot concluded that it is possible to make an enjoyable, early-release wine from smoke-affected fruit at a slightly higher final production cost that people will enjoy. With red wines, especially pinot, a heavy extraction approach yielded the best post-treatment result. Also, the commonly publicized “Best Estimate Sensory Thresholds” for VPs seem accurate according to most tasters. In the event of another smoke event, Cabot would stick with the early release and early consumption wines. Also, she would repeat her decision to produce only the sub-$25 SRP pinot noirs due to insufficient data on the long-term bottle aging effects of smoke markers.

For Additional Information

  Those wishing to delve further into the burgeoning research into sensory analysis that includes information on smoke-impacted wine should check out Elizabeth Tomasino’s work as associate professor at Oregon State University: Department of Food and Technology (https://foodsci.oregonstate.edu/users/elizabeth-tomasino) and the Oregon Wine Board: Wildfire Smoke Toolkit (https://industry.oregonwine.org/resources/toolkits/wildfire-smoke-toolkit/). Among the recommended labs for their work with smoke-impacted grapes include The Australian Wine Research Institute (https://www.awri.com.au/), ETS Labs (https://www.etslabs.com/) and UC Davis College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (https://caes.ucdavis.edu/).

Should I Open Up a Claim?

close-up of a plant crop

By: Trevor Troyer, Agricultural Risk Management

When to open up a claim on your grape crop insurance is important.  A lot of growers say that don’t know if they have a payable loss early in the season.  With grape crop insurance you are covering an average of your production per grape variety. Depending on what coverage level you have chosen this could mean you have a large deductible or small one.  I agree it is hard to tell how much early season damage will affect tons harvested.

  Mid May this year there was a bad freeze/frost event in the Finger Lakes region of New York.  While late spring frosts are not uncommon, this one was really bad.  There was widespread damage to grape vines across the Finger Lakes.   The extent of the damage is not fully known at this time.  But there will be a reduction in the tons harvested this year for sure.

  In a situation like the above a claim should be opened immediately.  More than likely, due to the severity of the frost, an adjuster will come out and inspect the vineyard.  I always tell growers that they should take pictures of the frost damage that morning.  It is always good to document damage as close to the time it occurred as possible.

  It may be that some varieties of grapes show more damage than others.  This is to be expected as some are more resistant to cold.  And from what I have seen over the years with frost and freezes is that it doesn’t affect a vineyard or field evenly.  You might have more damage on one side of the vineyard or more damage on the lowest part of the blocks etc.  Damage varies but just because one variety or one area looks better than others doesn’t mean that you should not open a claim on that variety or block.

  I know that secondary and tertiary buds will emerge in the next few days or weeks after a freeze.  You should open up a claim now regardless.  The damage may be less than you think and you don’t end up having a payable claim.  But it is still best to get one opened up right away.  Don’t wait to see how many tons you harvest before opening a claim! 

  Here is an excerpt from the “How to File a Crop Insurance Claim” Fact Sheet from the USDA:

  Most policies state that you (the insured) should notify your agent within 72 hours of discovery of crop damage.  As a practical matter, you should always contact your agent immediately when you discover crop damage.

  That same night in May, that saw the frost/freeze in the Finger Lakes region, also saw damage to vineyards along the coast of Lake Erie.  I received calls and emails from growers stating that they had had frost as well.  Obviously, the damage was not as bad as the Finger Lakes, but frost on new buds is not something any vineyard owner wants to see.  I opened claims for all of them even though the extent of the damage was not known.

  I cannot stress enough the importance of opening up a claim early. 

  A lot of claims with grapes are relatively routine.  Once the claim is opened an adjuster will come out and document the damage.  You will continue to grow your crop and try to mitigate any damage received. Once you harvest grapes you will meet with the adjuster and give him your production records that show your tonnage per variety.  He will then adjust the claim based your guarantee (average tons per acre per variety and the price for that variety in the county.)

  In some circumstances you will need to get direction from the adjuster before doing anything.

What are your responsibilities after damage if the grapes have not matured properly and will not?  What if they have been rendered unusable (smoke-taint has been a major cause of this in California)? 

  Here is a section from the Grape Crop Provisions that goes over this:

11. Duties in the Event of Damage or Loss.

In addition to the requirements of section 14 of the Basic Provisions, the following will apply:

(a) You must notify us within 3 days of the date harvest should have started if the crop will not be harvested.

(b) If the crop has been damaged during the growing season and you previously gave notice in accordance with section 14 of the Basic Provisions, you must also provide notice at least 15 days prior to the beginning of harvest if you intend to claim an indemnity as a result of the damage previously reported. You must not destroy the damaged crop that is marketed in normal commercial channels, until after we have given you written consent to do so. If you fail to meet the requirements of this section, all such production will be considered undamaged and included as production to count.

  It is important to stay in contact with your adjuster during a claim.

  A lot of things can happen to your vines that could cause them not to produce a full crop.  The insurance period is long and it is important to report everything that may reduce your crop.

  When you sign up for crop insurance, coverage for grapes starts on February 1 in Arizona and California.  It begins on November 21 in all other states.  The end of insurance unless it is otherwise specified by the USDA RMA, is October 10th in Mississippi and Texas, November 10 in Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.  In all other states the end of insurance is November 20th.  Crop insurance is continuously in force, once signed up for, unless cancelled or terminated.  Your coverage for following years, will be the day after the end of the insurance period for the prior year.

Here are the Causes of Loss per the Grape crop provisions:

(1)   Adverse weather conditions;

(2)   Fire, unless weeds and other forms of undergrowth have not been controlled or pruning

       debris has not been removed from the vineyard;

(3)   Insects, except as excluded in 10(b)(1), but not damage due to insufficient or improper

       application of pest control measures;

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

       measures;

(5)   Wildlife;

(6)   Earthquake;

(7)   Volcanic eruption; or

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

       insurance period.

  Adverse weather conditions could be anything that could cause damage to your grapes. For

example; drought, frost, freeze, excess moisture etc. Wildlife could be bird damage, deer etc.

Fire would also include smoke taint as that is a result of a fire.

  Crop insurance does not cover, the inability to sell your grapes because of a buyer’s refusal or contract breakage. It also doesn’t cover losses from boycotts or pandemics. Phylloxera is not covered, regardless of the cause. Overspray or chemical damage from a neighboring farm is not covered either.

  So, get those claims opened up early and stay in contact with your agent and adjuster.

Permit-Required Confined Spaces

Occupation Safety and Health Act

By: Steven R. Sawyer, ARM, MS, CSP

As many employers have learned over the last few years, employees are a valuable resource.  The ability to find and keep employees has become a challenge for many employers in a variety of industries, including food and beverage agriculture.  Therefore, keeping employees safe is a top priority.

  Employers in the food and beverage agriculture industry, like vineyards and wineries, may have multiple confined spaces in which employees encounter in their daily job tasks.  These include vats, tanks, storage bins, tunnels, duct work, pits, drain systems, and liquid tanks and containers.  Many industry employees are required to enter these spaces as part of their jobs.

  Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), in their Permit-Required Confined Spaces standard 29 CFR 1910.146, describes a confined space as a space that is large enough for an employee to bodily enter and perform assigned work tasks, has a limited or restricted means of entry or exit, and is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.  Additionally, OSHA defines a Permit-Required Confined Space as a confined space with one or more of the following characteristics:  the confined space contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere; the confined space contains a material that has the potential for engulfing the entrant; the confined space has an internal configuration with inwardly converging walls or a floor that slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross section which could trap or asphyxiate an entrant; and contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazard. (OSHA.gov)

  The first step in protecting employees from the hazards of confined spaces is to evaluate the workplace to determine if the workplace contains permit-required confined spaces.  An initial survey or workplace evaluation should be conducted to locate and identify all confined spaces.  This initial workplace evaluation should be conducted by a qualified person who is familiar with the hazards and types of confined spaces.  Although this is the initial step, workplace evaluation must be ongoing for confined spaces which may change over time with the addition of new processes, equipment, or facilities.

  Once a confined space is identified in the workplace, the confined space should be treated as a hazardous area until a qualified person can determine the specific hazards.  Additionally, the qualified person will determine if the confined space is a permit-required confined space or a non-permit confined space.  Hazards an evaluator will look for include atmospheric hazards such as oxygen deficient or toxic atmosphere, biological hazards, mechanical hazards, physical hazards, and chemical hazards.

  If the qualified person has found permit-required confined spaces at the workplace, the employer must notify the employees.  Employees must know their workplace contains permit-required confined spaces, where the spaces are located and the hazards associated with those spaces.  Then, the employer must post signage to inform the employees of the permit spaces.  This signage can read “Danger – Permit-Required Confined Space, Do Not Enter” or a similar statement.  The signs should be posted on the entrance or in close proximity to the entrance of the permit space.

  At this point, an employer has a decision to make about their Permit-Required Confined Spaces:  either allow employees to enter or do not allow employees to enter.  If the employer makes a decision to not allow employees to enter permit spaces, then the employer should take effective measures to secure the spaces.  Some examples of securing permit spaces to prevent entry are padlocks, bolts, chains, and wire cables.

  If entry is necessary for employees to service or clean permit-required confined spaces, the employer must develop and implement a written permit-required confined space program and make the program available for employee inspection.  This written program should include written entry procedures for the permit-required confined spaces along with the hazards present, and how to eliminate or control the hazards. 

  The written permit-required confined space program should include an entry permit.  The entry permit is a document to be used for all permit-required confined space entries.  The entry permit should include the date of entry and authorized duration of the entry, the location of the entry, the names of all entrants, and the work that is being conducted in the confined space.  Additionally, the permit must include the names of attendants, the name of the entry supervisor, the hazards present in the space to be entered, how the hazards will be eliminated or controlled before entry, acceptable entry conditions, results of initial and periodic tests performed along with the names of the testers and when tests were performed, rescue and emergency services to contact in the event of an emergency, communication procedures between the entrant and the attendant, equipment necessary including personal protective equipment, testing equipment, communication equipment, alarm systems, and rescue equipment, other information deemed necessary for safe entry, and any additional permits such as hot work permits.  Lastly, the permit should have a signature line for the entry supervisor to authorize the entry, including the date and time of the entry.  The entry supervisor should communicate the contents of the entry permit to the authorized entry personnel and may wish to post the entry permit in a designated location.

  OSHA requires that employers provide training for all employees who must work in permit-required confined spaces.  The training should occur before the initial work assignment, when job duties change, employee performance deficiencies occur, or when the permit-required confined space program changes or operations change.  Although it is not required to train all employees to the extent of the authorized entrants training, it is a best practice to inform all employees of the confined spaces present in the workplace and the hazards that accompany the confined spaces.  

  If entry is required in a permit-required confined space, the employer must provide an authorized entrant (the person who enters the space and conducts maintenance or cleaning operations), an attendant (a person who remains outside of the confined space), and an entry supervisor (the person who oversees the entry operations and ensures the entrants follow the permit and are safe).  These personnel have specific duties that must occur to ensure safe entry into permit spaces.  Their duties must be followed in order to comply with the OSHA Permit-Required Confined Spaces standard.

  When the entry into the permit space is complete, the entry supervisor terminates the confined space entry.  The entry supervisor can also cancel the entry of the confined space if the conditions within the space are no longer safe for the entrant.  As a best practice, when the entry is complete, a debrief should be conducted with the entry personnel to determine if any changes are needed for future entry procedures.  Employers are required to keep canceled entry permits for one year.  Any deviations or problems with the entry should be noted on the canceled permits.

  Even with a permit-required confined space program in place, emergencies can happen.  It is important that local emergency responders are aware of the specific hazards associated with confined spaces in the workplace.  Invite local emergency agencies to the workplace and evaluate their knowledge of confined space rescue, their rescue equipment, and their capabilities. 

  Having a permit-required confined space program in place will help vineyards and wineries avoid catastrophic incidents and costly OSHA citations.  To learn more about Permit-Required Confined Spaces, go to osha.gov or ansi.org.

  Steven R. Sawyer, ARM, MS, CSP, is the owner/operator of LSW & Associates Safety Consulting Services, LLC.  Sawyer has been active in the safety industry since 1999, much of that time working with multi-faceted, high-hazard agribusinesses, developing a special expertise in grain bin engulfment and prevention; OSHA grain handling standards; lockout/tagout (LOTO); machine guarding; confined spaces; heavy equipment and specialized equipment operations; and safety program development and training.

Website:  sawyersafetysolutions.com