Exploring the Latest Research Into Regenerative Agriculture

sheep grazing in a grape vineyard

By: Becky Garrison

In What Your Food Ate: How to Heal Our Land and Reclaim Our Health (W.W. Norton & Company), authors David R. Montgomery and Anne Biklé expound on their research into regenerative farming practices that can put carbon back into the ground and improve soil health. This research builds on Montgomery’s introduction to carbon farming that he presented at the 2020 Oregon Wine Symposium. (See the June/July 2020 issue of The Grapevine Magazine).

  Biklé and Montgomery set out to examine the regenerative practices on farms that grow food crops by assessing 10 farms from California to Connecticut that engaged in these practices. When they analyzed how the topsoil from these farms compared to their neighboring farms, they found three broad principles that are central to supporting soil life. The first was the need to minimize the disturbance of the soil. This can translate into no-till or minimal tillage. The second principle is to avoid having bare soil by keeping the ground covered with living plants. Third, grow a diversity of living plant matter.

  Also, they suggested a fourth optional principle: reintegrating animal husbandry. While animals are not necessary for building healthy soils, their presence can serve as an accelerant in speeding up the process.

  In Biklé’s estimation, all of these principles are tailorable. He said, “They’re customizable to a given grower’s setting because what’s going to work in in the Pacific Northwest is going to be different than what’s going on in, say, California or upstate New York.” Hence, it’s key to find a mix of species for a particular cover crop that works on a regional basis. For example, a farm in California that’s subject to ongoing heat and drought would benefit from cover crop species that are particularly resistant to heat waves and do not require much water. Also, a cover crop mix can attract beneficial insects specific to a region that are pest predators or provide other benefits.

  Biklé adds, “If you think of the soil as having a diet it will be different depending on each vineyard’s unique conditions. In other words, the basic principles and practices of maintaining soil health need to be tailored to the soil. Growers can leverage soil health into vine health and a generally more resilient crop, along with minimizing pests and pathogens.”

How to Assess Soil Health

  They recommended assessing the health of one’s soil using the Haney soil test, which was named for USDA scientist Rick Haney. This test includes more than a dozen different soil test values, including standard macro- and micro-nutrients for plant consumption. Compared to other soil tests, the Haney test also estimates nutrients for microbial consumption with a focus on how much nitrogen and carbon are present in the soil.

  This analysis enables growers to ascertain not just the nutrients contained within this soil sample but also how the microbes are making these nutrients available to the soil. If these numbers are low, that’s a strong indication of the need to increase the organic levels through practices like cover crops, leaving residue on the ground or planting high exudate producers (a term that refers to carbon-rich materials).

Results of Applying Regenerative Farming Practices

  They found that, on average, in less than a decade, the topsoil on the regenerative farms in their study had about twice the soil organic matter and a three times higher soil health score than their neighboring farms. Also, when they compared the minerals, vitamins and phytochemical density in the crops they grew, they found that regenerative farms have roughly a 20 percent higher level of phytochemicals, such as carotenoids, phytosterols and polyphenols. Furthermore, they could not find an instance where the regenerative farm performed worse than the conventional farms in the same region. 

  In particular, they noted how regenerative farmers constantly observe what’s transpiring in the field.

Putting These Principles Into Practice

  At this point, they don’t have data demonstrating specifically how these practices work in vineyards. However, their research into how these practices impact food crops points to some positive practices that Biklé and Montgomery hypothesize can be applied to the vineyard. For example, it’s highly suggestive that cover crops planted between the vines will influence both the microbial communities that the plants interact with and the levels of phytochemicals and potential minerals the vines can pull out of the soil and incorporate into their fruit. The end goal is to create an environment where the vine can succeed by relying on its inherent biology.

  Here, Biklé stresses the need to find that sweet spot where there’s just enough stress from physical factors like drought and freeze and biological factors, such as nibbling pests. These stresses cause the plant to churn out phytochemicals. “We know these phytochemicals relate to the flavor and quality of wines, as well as nutritional and health benefits found in wine and other kinds of crops.”

  Too often, Biklé and Montgomery find farmers consider no or minimal till an adequate response to carbon farming practices and do not pursue the other principles for maintaining quality soil. As grapevines aren’t plowed over every year, there’s already some minimal disturbance at play. But growers also need to manage the rows between their vines by planting diverse cover crops. While some growers feel cover crops will compete with their vines, As Montgomery reflects, “If you raise cover crops and then knock them down so they become mulch, these cover crops help keep moisture in the soil more than they respire themselves.” 

  When planting new vines, Biklé recommends doing so with an eye to things like cover crops and animals if a grower is considering those practices. For example, she says to think about the height at which to train the lowest branches to allow enough clearance for cover crops and room for animals like sheep to graze.

  On the topic of inputs, Biklé says, “Occasional use of synthetic chemicals like fertilizers or pesticides probably isn’t a big deal in most cases. But their routine use can affect soil health through interfering with the communication and signaling between a vine host and its root microbiome. As a consequence, root microbiota significantly curtail their normal activities, like stimulating vine phytochemical production and delivering water and must-have nutrients to vines.” 

Challenges in Adopting Regenerative Farming Practices

  In their experience, the biggest difficulty with growers making this switch is their mindset. “If something is working well enough, there’s a reluctance to change,” Biklé opines. Once one can get over this reluctance and adopt an experiential mindset, one can begin to move into the world of carbon farming.

  Other concerns include the need to purchase new equipment. In addition, a given practice might be more labor intensive, which can be a challenge, especially if a region is facing a labor shortage. Also, some may not wish to have sheep in their vineyard based on the assumption these animals would disturb their guests or workers.

  According to Montgomery, a key concern is the need to develop a regional understanding of what would work for vineyards in a given region. He recommends establishing a consortium of local growers who could collectively experiment with what would make for good cover crops between the vines. These growers could set aside a block where they can tinker in their quest to assess the best practices that work in their particular vineyard. In particular, look for any connection between the polyphenol levels of the wine and what’s present in the soil.

  Historically, terroir has been viewed from a winemaking perspective as reflective of the climate, soil and environment. Montgomery and Biklé hope their ongoing research into regenerative farming practices will expand this definition to include an understanding of the soil’s microbial components and how these microbes’ impact both soil health and the quality of the fruit harvested from the vine.

Mobile Bottling Preparation

mobile bottling wine truck in the process of bottling wine

By: Thomas J. Payette, Winemaking Consultant

Welcome to Eastern Winery and exploring this article.  Preparing for bottling is no easy challenge.  [This article can also be adapted for onsite bottling as well.]   However, the key to success while preparing for the mobile bottler to arrive is communication and planning.  This can’t be stressed enough when you digest the following topics below.


  It is recommended to contact a mobile bottler at least 6 months prior to needing them.  Discuss the plan from wine styles, case volume, road access for their truck and address other questions the bottling operator may have.  Then request their spec sheet in terms of label wind, label core size, capsules, bottle styles, screw cap capabilities etc.  Does the mobile bottler require power?  What amp service and what configuration?  Start to lay the foundation as you move forward toward bottling what your vision is and taking note if that bottler can fulfill that vision.  Set firm dates with the bottler at this time, also, since many mobile bottlers fill their calendars quickly. 


  Keep in mind the success of hitting the bottling dates with a mobile bottler are crucial to your business.  Should one piece of the puzzle not come together just right – it could result in unlabeled product being run or canceling the bottling all together.  Either situation may result in huge delays in being able to get the bottler back to your facility and lost revenue during that time.  Success is less expensive.

Dry Goods Ordering

(Labels, Capsules, Closures, Bottles)

Labels: Now having spoken to the bottler you can start to order dry goods from your vendors.  Speak with the label company and give them the wind directions/orientation.  Of course, make sure TTB approval and any other governmental approvals needed for any labels are in hand before printing labels.  New labels can take as long as 6 months lead-time so do not delay this process.  Get the label design, approval and printing process started and keep it rolling.

Capsules: Contact suppliers and determine if they have what you need in stock or just what their supply situation is for the capsule(s) desired.  Either place an order for them or have them placed on hold.  Some custom capsules come from overseas so allow enough time to have them arrive by boat saving plenty on airfreight shipping.  Get this process started and stay on top of the capsules.

Corks and other closures:  Typically not a huge issue in terms of lead time but still a great idea to place an order 2 months in advance with a ship date to arrive at your winery at least 10 days prior to needing them.  This can be extended to longer in house time if testing of the corks is performed.  Leave time for the test, rejection and re-ordering (with branding) to make sure the bottling date remains secure.  Screw cap and other closures with printing need to be ordered well in advance.

Bottles: Once again stay in contact with the supplier just to make sure what you need will be available when you need it.  Contact the bottle supplier three months in advance just to check in and secure your needs.  Perhaps place an order early on to be refined after filtering and racking losses are realized.  Let them know a rough idea of what your needs are and project out on ship dates for a timely arrival.


  Often the easy part!  Start making blends well in advance and start working toward stabilities.  Leave enough time or “wiggle room” to be able to re-perform any stability actions again just in case one process doesn’t react as the lab trials predicted.  Try to set up a wine production schedule that has your wines ready about one month prior to the bottling trucks arrival.


  Make sure your wines are filtered to the proper pore size that you and the bottler discussed.  In most cases a 0.45-micron cartridge filter will be used but if you plan to do otherwise – discuss this in advance.  Discuss who supplies the cartridge and what the “lock system configuration” is for their filter housing, size etc.

Three Weeks Before Bottling

  Three weeks prior to bottling start to take inventory of where items are from your suppliers.  Mistakes happen so just check in to make sure all is moving forward.  There is still time to fix small mistakes and suppliers that have inadvertently dropped the ball will jump through hoops to make it right.

  Start looking at the small things too.  Shrink wrap, carton tape or glue, case coding ink, date stamps, and product codes.  Place the order for any inert gases you may need: notably Nitrogen and Carbon Dioxide.

Three Days Before Bottling

  Start a plan to warm your wines to the desired bottling temperature typically between 60-65 degrees F.  Look at the weather forecast to see what the actual temperature may be on the bottling day.  Address extreme cold or hot temps with the mobile bottler group.

  Start to review the parking lot area.  What cars, trucks or tractors will need to be moved?  Will the press need to be relocated on the crush pad?

  Collect dry goods and formulate the vision of where the truck will be, how empty glass will be supplied, how full cases will be removed, how the wine hose will supply the truck, how the water supply will connect and supply the truck. 

  Start double checking that you will have the helpers needed to run the line for that day.  Place a reminder call to them. 

Day of Bottling

Morning:  If the truck is not already there make sure you have already clear the proper amount of maneuvering space for their entry.  Have inert gases ready and a water source (chlorine free) available.  The bottling crew will need to start their steamer as soon as possible to sterilize their filter and filling parts.

Glass: Make sure the glass bottles are in an area you can get to them to supply the truck rapidly.  They should already be “pulled from the warehouse” and acclimating if needed.  Bottle temperature is important too.

Other dry goods: Be ready to load all the dry goods such as capsules, closures and labels on the truck early in the day so the bottlers can set their equipment to those supplies.  The team may request them at another time – but be ready.

Startup:  It is recommended to always remove the first set of bottles equal to the number of spouts of the bottling line prior to closure application and to dump them into a clean bucket.  These bottles can still be refilled and used in most cases.  The collected wine in the bucket may be dumped to bulk unless the winemaker prefers this not to happen.

Quality Control

  Discuss any quality control issues with the mobile bottler group.  In many cases they will bring certain issues up to you that they see and you should bring anything up to them that concerns you.  Have people at places needed to make sure operations are happening as they should.  The people placing the bottles of wine back in the box should be fast but also have a keen eye for any abnormalities.  Make sure they know they can bring any concerns to your attention or the appropriate person.

  Make sure that the operations in the truck are running as they should.  Take bottles and inspect them.  Check the vacuum, label spacing, label alignment, fill level, capsule application, and everything from start to finish.  Is everything up to what you expect?

Some Other Handy Tools

Melting Crayons: These crayons melt at certain temperatures and can be used to touch certain surfaces to test the steam and sterilization process is going as predicted.  Infrared equipment may work here but the author has not tested those to be certain.

Calipers: These are an item many wineries have anyway but have them close by.  It helps when looking at issues on the Quality Control level and helping work through dry goods/machinery functionality problems.

Vacuum Needle Gauge: These items are needed as a Quality Control check to monitor the vacuum being pulled at the corker.  These can be obtained from winery supply vendors or feel free to contact me (540-672-0387) for a parts list to make one of your own (less expensive).

Oxygen Meter: This is a great time to get a feel for your bottler and the oxygen pick up at certain stages.  Once you know a unit and the operation of that unit the amount of testing may be reduced possibly. 

First Time Winery Bottling

  Pallets, depending on how many cases you will have per pallet of finished wine product, will be in short supply.  Make sure to have enough pallets to cover the needs.  New glass often comes with near 100 cases per pallet and many wineries will stack 60 cases per pallet at bottling.  These pallets need to be of good to great quality.


  Build on your communications with your bottler.  Every mobile bottler has different equipment and run patterns.  Once each of you get familiar with the other – the systems come together flawlessly, and bottling becomes an enjoyable process again.  Build on this foundation to develop a checklist of your own that is specific to your winery, wines, and packaging.  Keep quality in the forefront as a winemaker.


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

  Many thanks to Landwirt bottling and New Kent Winery for their allowing me to be involved on the day of their bottling to write this article.       

Bottling Checklist

(For most bottling truck needs / change as needed)

1.     Early Communications

2.     Stabilities checked; wine warmed to 65 degrees F; filtered to 0.50 microns.  Truck will have pre-filter and 0.45-micron filters typically.

3.     Cartridge filters on hand if needed.

4.     Free SO2 and pH known, and action taken accordingly.

5.     Gases (CO2 and/or Nitrogen)

6.     Water hose and enough hose to get to the truck (if used)

7.     Dry goods: Corks, bottles, capsules, and labels (TTB approved)

8.     Wine from vented tank with enough clean wine hose to reach truck.

9.     Acclimated glass – sweating could be an issue.

10.   Date stamp for cases – Gov. head.

11.   Product stamp or labels for product

12.   Shrink wrap – to wrap pallets of cases.

13.   Extra (dry) pallets – very solid and well built.

14.   Tape and tape guns to seal cases. 

        Glue if gluing.

15.   Utility knives, Permanent marker pens

16.   Helpers (Quality Control) and water for them to drink

17.   First aid kit, ear plugs

18.   Vacuum needle gauge, Calipers, Melting

        crayons, Oxygen meter.

19.   Dump first bottle per spout (re-blend to tank)

20.   Great communication the day of bottling

  Check with bottling truck to make sure you have all items they need.  Label configuration (wind configuration), bottles they can run, capsules, closures (real, synthetic, screw cap) etc.

NOTE: Be sure to vent tank and make sure contents are uniformly mixed.

Highlights of the National Clean Plant Network Grapevine Tier II Meeting

photo of grape vineyard with protective wrapping at base of vines

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

The National Clean Plant Network (NCPN) is a USDA funded program focused on specialty crops such as berries, citrus, grapevines, fruit trees, hops, roses, and sweet potatoes.  The clean planting material is to be distributed to nurseries for further propagation and distribution to growers. The NCPN operates under high standards for the production of true-to-type and pathogen-tested (mainly viruses) plant material.  The branch of the NCPN that focuses on grapevines (wine, table, and raisin) met on January 26 in Davis, CA and virtually.  Grape Clean Plant Centers are located in California, Florida, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, and Washington States.  Representatives of the clean centers, as well as members of the grape industry, extension, State and US regulators participated in the meeting.  Each of the Clean Plant Center directors presented an update highlighting last year’s activities.  In addition, a few presentations focused on NCPN business, strategic plan, economic research on the return of investment of clean centers, and extension activities.  Here I summarize the highlights of the discussions.

The NCPN Strategic Plan (2023-2028)

  Before I describe the strategic plan, I will define and clarify what are G1 clean plants propagated at any of the clean plant centers.  The first generation of plants propagated in a clean plant center is known as a G1 plant.  Plants propagated from G1 are known as a G2 plants, plants propagated from G2 plants are G3 plants, and so on.  Under NCPN, a clean plant is defined as one that has been tested at the G1 level for viruses and certain pathogens of economic importance (the pathogens were not detected).  Note that so far more than 101 viruses have been reported in the grapevine crop, and only a few of these viruses are of economic importance.  NCPN also tests for the bacterial pathogen Xylella fastidiosa and certain phytoplasmas.

There are five goals in the NCPN strategic plan: security, redundancy, capacity, availability of tested plant material, and sustainability.  Security refers to NCPN ensuring that G1 stock propagated in clean centers are free of economically important viruses by utilizing standard operating procedures for testing and to prevent reinfections.  Redundancy applies to the need of having at least two different plants of commonly planted cultivars and rootstocks in at least two different locations. Capacity pertains to the development of an inventory of the plants propagated in each clean plant center and determine the priorities of selections needed to be protected nationwide.  Availability refers to the need of having plant material tested for economically important viruses available.  Finally, sustainability relates to the assurance that the program meets financial and fiscal stability and the support from NCPN is not higher than 30% of the total center’s budget.  In other words, each center is expected to procure financial support to carry out the clean plant activities (user service fees, other grants, etc.).

Highlights of Clean Plant Center Director Updates

California:  Maher Al Rwahnih, Foundation Plant Services in Davis, reported that the Classic Foundation Block (an older block planted in the field at UC Davis) continues to test free of Grapevine red blotch (GRBV) and Grapevine leafroll -3 (GLRV-3) viruses. The completion of a greenhouse in Davis has allowed to move plant material to be protected from insect vectors and potential virus transmission. Funding is being procured from the industry to build a second greenhouse as NCPN does not fund construction of buildings or any infrastructure.

Washington: Scott Harper, Clean Plant Center North West reported on the removal of the outdoor foundation block due to the infestation of dagger nematodes and Tobacco (TRSV) and Tomato ringspot virus (ToRSV) infection is some of the accessions.  At the moment, the only available foundation block is planted in a screenhouse with regular testing for the presence of GRBV, GLRV-3, and Xylella fastidiosa.  In addition, the foundation was subjected to the testing of TRSV and ToRSV due to the outdoor infestation findings stated above.

Missouri: Sylvia Peterson and Wenpin  Qiu, Midwest Center, reported that all of their G1 plants are hosted indoors in a greenhouse were subjected to RNA-seq HTS.  The results of the two positive findings (GLRaV-2 and GLRV-3) were verified by RT-PCR.

North Carolina: Christie Almeyda, Muscadine Grapes Clean Program, reported that all plants are hosted in triplicate in a screenhouse and tested for 13 different pathogens.  Plants were distributed in Arkansas and North Carolina.  The program NCPN funding has fluctuated throughout the years and stresses the importance of locating supplementary funding to run clean plant programs.

Florida: Violeta Tsolova, Muscadine/Southern Grapes reported hosting and maintaining a G1 outdoor  Muscadine and Pierce’s Disease tolerant interspecific hybrids (3-12 plants) and a single plant of each in a screen or greenhouse. New plants are tested for 19 viruses and Xylella fastidiosa.  The G1 foundation is tested yearly for leafroll, red blotch, and Grapevine virus B.

New York: Marc Fuchs, The North East Clean Plant Center at Cornell University, reported that the center does not host a G1 foundation.  The center has focused their activities in the introduction, therapeutics, and release of a number of accessions.

Economic Studies on the Advantage of the Clean Plant Programs

  Jie Li from the Dyson School of Economics and Management Department at Cornell University lead a discussion on the need for more economic studies related to the use of clean planting material.  A study was completed by Dr. Li and colleagues that analyzed the activities performed at the Foundation Plant Services program at the University of California at Davis.  The study focused on the return of investment of producing and distributing grapevine leafroll disease tested plant material to nurseries planted by growers in different regions in California between 2006 and 2019.  The  results showed that depending on the disease incidence estimated, the hypothetical return of investment was 1:22 (assumes a 5% leafroll disease incidence) or 1:96 (assumes a 20% disease incidence).  In other words, $1 spent to produce plants at FPS yielded $22 or $96 in return, assuming a 5 o 20% disease incidence, respectively.  The research identified the main beneficiaries were the nurseries, but logically the benefits ultimately trickled down to growers and wineries.  The discussion led by Dr. Li was done to determine how to design other studies that would focus on additional clean plant centers and other diseases (i.e., red blotch, Pierce’s disease, etc.).

Production of NCPN Extension Videos

  Cain Hickey, viticulture extension educator at Pennsylvania State University, lead a discussion on the potential of developing informative videos focusing on different aspects of the NCPN program.  The Pennsylvania State University in cooperation with Cornell University already produced four videos describing the NCPN program, grapevine certification and clean planting stock, as well as other regional focused viticulture issues such as delayed pruning, spring freeze vine protection, etc.  The videos can be viewed following the link: https://extension.psu.edu/answers-from-the-vineyard-winery-and-tasting-room.

  The group brainstormed ideas on future video productions that could focus on: virus elimination methods, crown gall and fungal pathogens, grower testimonials on the use of clean planting stock, definition of G1 and G2 plants, disease spread in the vineyard, etc.


  It is important to understand that a clean plant is one  derived from a plant that has been tested for a number of economically important viruses and certain pathogens and the target pathogens were undetected.  It does not mean that the plants are free of all pathogens.  Most of the clean plant centers do not test or exclude fungal trunk disease pathogens or Agrobacterium vitis (the causal agent of grapevine crown gall).   In no way it means that that nursery material derived from plants released from a clean plant center will always be clean (pathogen-free). There are still challenges for maintaining a virus-free grapevine plant collection. It is good to see that NCPN is moving towards having redundancy on the grapevine variety collection. This will ensure that if there is a disease outbreak in one of the centers, another center will have the plant material available for easy replacement.

  There was agreement from both participating NCPN and nurseries that currently it is not possible to certify vines free of Agrobacterium vitis.  This is important to point out particularly in cold climate grapevine growing areas prone to freezes.  But in my experience, I have seen  vines develop galls due to the bacterial infection in California too.

In spite of the limitations of clean plant programs, the use of certified material is less risky than planting field selections of unknown infection status.  It is always prudent to test the planting material for important pathogens to verify lack of infection. Last but not least, when developing a new vineyard block it is important to plan in advance.  The timely planning will allow inspection of the nursery increase blocks early in the fall (before the leaves fall) as well as the evaluation of the quality of the finished planting product.  

  Judit Monis, Ph.D. provides specialized services to help growers, vineyard managers, and nursery personnel avoid the propagation and transmission of diseases 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 world.  For more information or to request a consulting session at your vineyard please contact juditmonis@yahoo.com or visit www.juditmonis.com

Improve Vineyard Spray Performance with Adjuvants

photo showing tractor spraying inside a vineyard

By: Kirk Williams, Lecturer-Texas Tech University

Pesticide applications in the vineyard whether using an organic product or a synthetic product, are often needed to maintain a weed free vineyard with a healthy canopy, to prevent the loss of fruit and preserve fruit quality. We want to ensure that when we make a pesticide application in the vineyard that we get the most efficacy out of that product that we apply. There are many factors that contribute to a successful and effective vineyard spray application. One factor is good coverage of the target, which, for foliar applications to grapevines, includes the fruit and canopy.  The primary factors affecting coverage are the application rate, pressure, droplet size, and penetration into the grapevine canopy which is usually assisted with air produced by the sprayer.

  The use of adjuvants in the spray tank can help assist in making a good application perform its best.  Adjuvants are not going to fix poor coverage, poor timing of applications or bad weather conditions at the time of the application. Adjuvants are materials added to a spray tank to aid or modify the action of a pesticide or the physical properties of the mixture.  

  There is a wide selection of adjuvants that perform distinct functions so understanding how each adjuvant type works is important in choosing the right one.  We will be looking at different adjuvants that can help in making an application perform its best.   Most adjuvants are used at low rates and their rates are expressed on a volume per volume basis (e.g. 2 pts per 100 gallons).

  We will only be looking at the main adjuvants that are used in grape production.   There are many different brand names with most large agricultural retailers having their own brands.  Due to this we will be talking in general, not about specific branded products.  Adjuvants selection should be based on several factors including what is specified on the pesticide label, your specific water quality and cost.    

Buffers/Water Conditioners

  In certain water situations such as high pH or the presence of large amounts of hard water cations such as calcium or magnesium you might need to consider adding a buffer or a water conditioning agent to the spray tank.  Buffers or water-conditioning agents are compounds that reduce the damage caused by alkaline hydrolysis and adjust the pH of the spray solution to maintain it within a pH range of 4 to 6. Alkaline hydrolysis is a degradation process in which the alkaline water breaks and reduces the effectiveness of the pesticide’s active ingredient.  Certain insecticides such as the pyrethroids and carbaryl are susceptible to alkaline hydrolysis.  Certain weak acid herbicides such as glyphosate and glufosinate perform better in an acidic spray solution than an alkaline solution. Buffers or water conditioners are normally added to the spray tank prior to adding the pesticide. 

Special Purpose Adjuvants

  There are several adjuvants which may be used in certain situations which may not always be needed for all vineyard applications.  Many of these are also components in blended purpose adjuvants. 

Many vineyards spray applications tank mix several products and sometimes include foliar fertilizers.  Some combinations can be physically or chemically incompatible, which may cause clumps to form or products to separate in the spray tank.  Compatibility agents prevent mixing and settling out problems that can occur in these situations. 

•Antifoam agents suppress surface foam in the spray tank and minimize air entrapment which can cause pump and spray problems.

•Drift control agents modify spray characteristics by minimizing small spray droplet formation.  Small spray droplets are more prone to drift so by reducing the number of small spray droplets off site droplet movement should be reduced. 

•Sticking agents, commonly called stickers, assist the spray deposit to adhere or stick to the target such as clusters or leaves.  The sticking agents usually come combined with other adjuvants such as surfactants to allow for easier mixing.   Sticking agents are helpful when periods of rain are expected after an application.  A good example of the need for a sticking agent is the use of contact fungicides in the spring where rainfall is likely.

grape leaves showing no surfactant


  One of the most used adjuvants in vineyard spray applications are surfactants.  The primary purpose of a surfactant, also known as a surface-active agent, is to reduce the surface tension of the spray solution to allow closer contact between the spray droplet and the plant surface.  Water droplets are held at contact angles ranging from 60° to 140° with a significant variation between species.   Water droplets with high contact angles on grape leaves are shown on the left side shown above.  Water droplets with surfactant added are shown on the right side shown above.  The water droplets have completely spread out with the addition of the surfactant.   Complete coverage of the target is important for most pesticides and the addition of the surfactant demonstrates how they can improve coverage. 

  Non-ionic and organosilicone are the most used types of surfactants.  Organosilicone surfactants are noted for their increased spreading ability versus traditional surfactants and the low surface tensions of their spray solutions.  Organosilicone surfactants have lower use rates but may be more expensive than   non-Ionic surfactants.  Non-ionic surfactants have a higher use rate but may be less expensive. 

Blended Purpose Adjuvants

  Blended purpose adjuvants contain various combinations such as a surfactant plus a water conditioner plus a drift inhibitor plus an anti-foaming agent.  Because of the multiple adjuvants included they serve primary and secondary purposes.

   If you don’t need all the components included in the blended purpose adjuvant, then you might be better off from a cost standpoint to just use those adjuvants that you need.   Blended purpose adjuvants are becoming more common because multiple ingredients are included in one product. 

  Choosing the proper adjuvant for a vineyard spray application can be confusing but knowing the major types and functions of adjuvants should make selection easier.   Read pesticide labels to see what adjuvants if any are recommended for use.  Once you know which adjuvant you need, select a product that you can source and read the adjuvant label as well. 


Curran, W. S., and D. D. Lingenfelter. (2009).  Adjuvants for Enhancing Herbicide Performance.  Penn State Extension.

Hazen, J. L. (2000). Adjuvants: Terminology, Classification, and Chemistry. Weed Technology, 14(4), 773–784.

  Kirk Williams is a lecturer in Viticulture at Texas Tech University and teaches the Texas Tech Viticulture Certificate program.  He is also a commercial grape grower on the Texas High Plains.  He can be contacted at kirk.w.williams@ttu.edu

Five Predictions for Wine Marketing

two hands hovering over a world globe with a question mark in the world globe

By: Susan DeMatei, Founder of WineGlass Marketing

When I start feeling optimistic, I imagine one or two people might read these blogs, (although I have a sneaking suspicion that they sit out on the internet equivalent of a doctors waiting room table between the large type Reader’s Digest and June 2004 People magazines). But I wouldn’t be able to legitimately pretend to be an industry expert if I didn’t do the obligatory “predictions” blog.

  I will stick to my lane: Marketing. Because it’s what I know and also there are many other excellent articles out there (https://napavalleyfocus.substack.com/p/the-wine-boom-is-over) with overall market predictions. (But, then again, what do I know? My senior thesis at Boston University was an analysis of radio and TV media consumption patterns with the supposition that cable television would never take off because people wouldn’t pay for it.)

  So, I’ve been wrong. Like, really wrong. But assuming I get lucky sometimes, here are five things I believe will come to pass.

1)  Generation X will demand attention. We’ve been doing more and more data appends lately (see prediction #3) and it is nice to see Gen X routinely show up as a prominent segment within wineries databases. Marketing doesn’t talk too much about Gen X because we’re the stereotypical middle child between Boomers and Millennials who are instantly repelled by anything targeted to us. Whatever you are hoping we will like, buy, or do, we’ll hate, boycott, or do the opposite.

  There are reasons for this. We grew up as the first generation where our mothers wanted to work, yet there were not sufficient after school activities or social services to support that type of family unit. As “latch key kids” we fended for ourselves and grew up largely on our own to became fiercely independent, highly cynical and defenders of counterculture.

   But now, our parents are passing on, and Boomers are the first generation to have accumulated significant wealth. And lucky us, we’re now the recipients – right about the time we’re empty nesters or thinking about retiring and spending some money on leisure activities. In the economic press this is referred to as the great wealth transfer, and it will make Generation X an enticing target. So, expect more press and focus on targeting this group. (And expect us to retire and age very differently than Boomers…but that’s a topic for another blog.) The smart winery will give this some thought and consider Generation X as a viable option for current targeting.

chart showing how much will each generation inherit from 2024 until 2045

2)  Clubs are going to continue to fade…and they aren’t coming back. I’m sorry if this is a bummer, but I strongly believe the club model will not continue past Boomers. (And by club model, I mean a pre-selected shipment of wines sent out on a set schedule to customers who have their credit card on file.) Boomers are the last generation to be programmed before the internet to narrow down a search with things like magazines, catalogs, and Consumer Reports to find their brands, and then stick with them.

  The internet has not only introduced unprecedented variety, but also the concept of impermanence. It’s not a big deal to swap suppliers for a product on Amazon or brands at a store in Instacart. The club model just doesn’t fit with how most of us shop and make choices now. Wineries that are actively expanding to alternate sales channels such as online or partnerships will see less declines and be healthier in the next five to ten years.

3)  The answer is inside of us. For the longest time, the answer was external – cast a wide net for traffic. Go out and blanket tourists with ads to come to your winery. Once they’re at your location, selling wine and clubs was relatively easy to a captivated audience that was in awe of what you could do with some funny looking fruit. But now, wineries are not novel anymore, and subsequent generations are not enamored with Wine Country.

  Hopefully, if you’ve had a clue during the past decades, you’ve been collecting names and sales information from all those visitors. Now is the time to analyze them. Data modeling to find and target look alike audiences of your best buyers is not new to most industries. But, as usual, the wine industry is slow to adapt and we’re just now learning this. The wineries that invest in data appends and analysis to understand their specific customers and then go after a similar audience target will be the winners.

chart showing benefits of database marketing

4)  Evolution will favor the adaptable…even the mutated.  If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result, it should also include doing the same thing repeatedly when all signs point to change simply because it worked in the past. Wineries that are open to new ideas, programs, sales channels, and products will fare better than those who hold onto tradition. Today’s wine consumers aren’t concerned with the right appellation, or the famous winemaker, or the best score. They don’t want to book a 90-minute lecture about soil composition. (Did anybody, ever, want this?). They are looking for different experiences from brands that hold their interest. Focus on your brand story and listen to the young ones on your team. Experience is great, but fresh ideas will be the deciding factor.

5)  Napa and Sonoma will slowly begin to trail other wine regions. Napa, and to some extent Sonoma, are the old guard in the US wine business. With our hospitality industry turning 50-ish this decade, we are the most experienced and will be the most reticent to change. But remember that everything we’ve developed has been focused on Boomers and pre-internet ways of doing things.

  Established but younger wine country locations like Willamette, Walla Walla, Santa Barbara and Temecula are beginning to break with tradition and offer more inspired marketing. More recent markets like Texas, Virginia, the Finger Lakes or even the Mid-West are just now developing and won’t feel the pressure to conform with past operational procedures. Free from history they will develop not only new products to attract consumers but embrace novelty and imagination to move toward new experiences. Just sign up for some of their newsletters and check out their programs. You’ll be surprised what you find.

  So, there you have it. These are five marketing trends I see coming that you might want to consider in the back of your mind when you’re planning out activities for 2024. My wish for you is to be creative, open, and innovative this next year.  And ignore the headlines – all the doom and gloom articles are just trying to get clicks. The wine business isn’t going away, it is just evolving. 

Basic Mechanics & Benefits of the Alternating Proprietorship Arrangement

2 men looking at wine bottles on a table with a country map

By:  Louis J. Terminello, Esq. and Bradley Berkman, Esq.

Brand owners and wineries have options available when negotiating a wine packaging arrangement. This article will focus on the mechanics of an alternative to the standard contract packaging relationship. As a jumping-off point, contract packaging arrangements are one in which a winery will contract with a brand owner to produce and bottle wine for the brand owner. In the world of wine production, this is commonly referred to as a custom crush arrangement.

   It is a relationship of independent contractors, memorialized in an agreement where the brand owner pays a fee for the bottling services of the winery, and the winery, in most instances, delivers the final bottled product to the brand owner. The beverage alcohol licenses required are both federal and state production/winery licenses held by the winery, and almost always a federal wholesales license issued by the Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) – which is held by the brand owner – and other state licenses are required.

  All production reporting prepared and submitted by the winery and excise taxes, though almost always charged to the account of the brand owner, are reported, and paid by the winery. For all intents and purposes, the brand owner acts as both brand owner and distributor within the three-tier system and reports and pays excise tax at the state level, if required. Both parties benefit from this type of bottling arrangement. For the winery, this arrangement is an additional revenue stream. For the brand owner, a product can be brought to market without the high costs of investing in a production facility.

  Separate from the above arrangement, TTB has a unique licensing scheme available that may be more advantageous to wineries and brand owners for numerous reasons and is referred to as an alternating proprietorship arrangement.

Alternating Proprietorship Defined

  In the alternating proprietor relationship, an existing winery agrees to lease its winery premises to another party for the production of the “lessees” wine. The parlance typically used is “host” and “tenant.” The established winery acts as the host of the premises (think landlord) while the tenant “leases” the winemaking premises to produce its wine. There is an actual and permissible operational shift. Responsibility for, and the activities of, production may be taken over by the tenant operator. The relationship should be memorialized in an agreement between the parties, but the relationship requires application and approval by TTB before commencing production. 27 USC 24.136 (the Federal Code of Regulations) establishes the terms and requirements of the arrangement and is reprinted here for the reader’s review.

27 USC 24.136

§ 24.136 Procedure for alternating proprietors.

(a) General. Wine premises, or parts thereof, may be operated alternately by proprietors who have each filed and received approval of the necessary applications and bonds and have qualified under the provisions of this part. Where operations by alternating proprietors are limited to parts of the wine premises, the application will describe areas, buildings, floors, or rooms which will be alternated and will be accompanied by a diagram delineating the parts of the wine premises to be alternated. A separate diagram will be submitted to depict each arrangement under which the wine premises will be operated. Once the qualifying documents have been approved, and operations initiated, the wine premises, or parts thereof, may be alternated. Any transfer of wine, spirits, or other accountable materials from one proprietor to the other proprietor will be indicated in the records and reports of each proprietor. Operation of a bonded winery engaged in the production of wine by an alternate proprietor will be at least one calendar day in length.

(b) Alternation. All operations in any area, building, floor, or room to be alternated will be completely finished and all wine, spirits, and other accountable materials will be removed from the alternated wine premises or transferred to the incoming proprietor. However, wine, spirits, and other accountable materials may be retained in locked tanks at wine premises to be alternated and remain in the custody of the outgoing proprietor.

(c) Bonds. The outgoing proprietor who has filed bond as required under § 24.146 and intends to resume operation of the alternated areas, buildings, floors, or rooms following suspension of operations by an alternating proprietor shall execute a consent of surety to continue in effect all bonds. Where wine, spirits, or other accountable materials subject to tax under 26 U.S.C. chapter 51 are to be retained in tanks on the wine premises to be alternated, an outgoing proprietor who has filed bond as required under § 24.146 shall also execute a consent of surety to continue the liability of all bonds for the tax on the materials, notwithstanding the change in proprietorship.

(d) Records. Each proprietor shall maintain separate records and submit a separate TTB F 5120.17, Report of Bonded Wine Premises Operations. All transfers of wine, spirits, and other accountable materials will be reflected in the records of each proprietor. Each proprietor shall maintain a record showing the name and registry number of the incoming or outgoing proprietor, the effective date and hour of alternation, and the quantity in gallons and the percent alcohol by volume or proof of any wine, spirits, or other accountable materials transferred or received.

Summation of Basic Requirements:

  An examination of the code helps us parse out the basic requirements and responsibilities of the proprietor under the alternating relationship. Foremost, bear in mind that under this production paradigm, both entities, while conducting their respective operation, are treated as  proprietors under the law. Focusing on the requirements of the tenant proprietor, TTB requires that:

•    The alternating tenant proprietor must qualify as a bonded winery and obtain a Federal basic permit as a wine producer to conduct operations at the host’s location. 

•    The tenant proprietor must comply with record and reporting requirements of its operations by preparing and submitting its own operational reports to TTB just as any other fully functioning wine operation must do.

•    The tenant proprietor must obtain TTB approval of an application for a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) before bottling the wine at the host’s location.

•    The tenant alternating proprietor must pay the excise tax for wine bottled and removed from the host’s location.

•    By extension, the tenant proprietor must hold an adequate bond to conduct its operations.

  There are a variety of benefits to the tenant producer under this production relationship. Perhaps the most significant, depending on the production levels of the host, is the availability of the reduced excise tax rates under the Craft Beverage Modernization Act (CBMA). The tenant’s own production levels are considered exclusive of the host’s production levels. The reduced tax rate, which may not be available under a standard custom crush arrangement, may now be available to the tenant winery contingent upon its own production levels which is an attractive benefit to the tenant proprietor.

  Note that TTB will scrutinize applications of alternating proprietorship to be sure the arrangement is not jeopardizing tax revenue, among other issues. Some of those additional areas of concern include an applicant’s attempt to qualify as a producer to take advantage of state tasting room regulations or to engage in direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales.

   Although these options may be available to a tenant proprietor, the spirit of the intent of this bottling relationship should be the guiding principle. All other benefits may be available and are certainly worth exploring. Experienced counsel should be consulted if any uncertainty is present as to the permissibility, processes, and procedures of structuring an alternating proprietorship arrangement.

What is the Most Important Decision in Choosing Grape Crop Insurance?

man on phone in vineyard looking at crop damage

By: Trevor Troyer, 
Vice-President of Operations 
for Agricultural Risk Management

What is the most important decision in choosing grape crop insurance?  Is it which coverage level to choose?  Is it which insurance provider to use?  Is it whether to insure all your grapes or only those that are the most susceptible to adverse weather conditions?  Is it checking to make sure the company you are going with has a good adjuster? Is it making sure the insurance company is local?

  Those are all important questions to ask.   But how can you answer all those questions?   You would need years of experience and knowledge of all the insurance providers.  You would need to personally know the adjusters in your area.  More than likely you don’t know the answer to those questions.  That is why the most important decision in grape, or another crop insurance decision is having a good and knowledgeable agent.

  Why is this important?  A good crop insurance agent is trained in all the aspects of your specific crop.  He or she knows which coverage levels do the best for making sure that your grapes are protected.  They are not going to just sign you up on the cheapest plan to get a commission.  They will go over why they think you should have a certain level.  Coverage in Grape crop insurance goes from CAT (Catastrophic 50% coverage with 55% of the price per ton value) all the way to 85%.   Depending on how many acres and locations you have choosing the correct coverage level is vital.

  A good agent will also go over which endorsements would be suitable for your vineyard.  What is Yield Adjustment? Why is this important.  Do you have more than one location?  They should speak to you about Optional Units.  (Optional Units allow different locations to be adjusted separately at the time of a claim.  This way production from one location is not co-mingled and therefore causing a claim not to be paid or reducing the claim amount.)

  A good crop insurance agent also knows which Approved Insurance Providers, AIPs, are doing the best with your crop.  Some insurance companies focus on row crops.  Others focus on certain areas of the US.  While some of these might be available in your area, they may not be the best option for your grape crop insurance.  Currently there are 13 insurance companies that are approved by the USDA to service crop insurance policies.  All thirteen may not be available in your state.  For example, in New York state only 8 of these 13 companies are active. It is important to have a good insurance company.  But you are probably not going to be able to determine that unless your agent is guiding you with that.

  Having a good adjuster is important as well.  A good agent knows which approved insurance providers have been doing well with Grape claims and which have not.  Claims should all be done the same but sometimes you might get adjuster that is new to grapes.  This can cause problems.  Agents have to stay out of the claims process per rules by the USDA, but they can help you make the right decision on which company to go with based on past experiences. Your agent can help answer questions about your policy and how it relates to a certain loss.  They can also send you material on how claims are paid out and losses are calculated.  An agent cannot ride with you and an adjuster to look at your grapes.  An agent cannot send you claim documents etc.  But they can make sure you understand your policy and the claims process.  And most importantly they can put you with an insurance company that has good adjusters.

  There are a lot of moving pieces to a crop insurance policy.  Perennial crops are fundamentally more complicated than a row crop like corn, soybeans or wheat.   You need an agent that understand the complexity and can help you navigate coverages and options.  Crop insurance policies and options can change every year.  Your agent has to be up-to-date and aware of all changes.  Just because an agent has an insurance license and they can sell crop insurance does not mean they are knowledgeable.  It also doesn’t mean they understand grape crop insurance.

  While crop insurance coverage is the same from one insurance company to the next.  Premiums are also the same for the same coverage from any of the approved insurance providers.  This doesn’t mean that each policy is structured the same.  What endorsements have you added? Do you have QL, Quality Loss so you can use pre-quality loss production in your database? Do you have Basic or Optional Units? What about Contract Pricing? All these things can be the difference in getting a claim paid.

  You should ask your agent how long they have been selling crop insurance.  Do they work with a lot of perennials.  Do they have other grape policies.  Just because they are local does not mean they know grapes.  Sometimes the best option is a national agency that works with grapes across the US and in multiple states.  How long have they been working with vineyards in your state?

  The person that is most important in your grape crop insurance is your independent insurance agent.  The more knowledgeable they are the better.  This is the person you have to place your trust in.  He or she can guide you through the complexity and help you tailor a policy that best suits your needs and locations.

Women and Winemaking-A Constellation of Stars Creating Stellar Wine

Attorney Theodora Lee-Owner of Theopolis Vineyards
Attorney Theodora Lee-Owner of Theopolis Vineyards

By: Cheryl Gray

Women have been an integral part of winemaking since the days of ancient Egypt, Greece and the Roman Empire. Today, they own vineyards and wineries and have a hand in virtually all aspects of creating wines that earn accolades and appease palates around the world. 

  Among them is Attorney Theodora Lee, a senior partner in a San Francisco law firm who never imagined herself becoming a vineyard owner and winemaker. Lee’s groundbreaking step toward establishing Theopolis Vineyards came in 2003 when she bought several acres of land in the Yorkville Highlands region of Anderson Valley, a Northern California wine-growing region about two hours outside San Francisco. Anderson Valley is a designated AVA (American Viticultural Area) known largely for producing pinot noir and sparkling wines.

  Lee was no stranger to farming since she grew up around farms in her native Texas. As a seasoned litigator and trial lawyer, she also knew that she had to equip herself with knowledge about viticulture, which she did at UC Davis. However, Lee hadn’t planned on going solo when the time came for her first grape harvest, one that would result in her first award-winning wine.

  “From 2003 until 2012, I was quite content being a grape farmer, plowing the land, pruning the vines, fertilizing the vineyard, mowing, chopping, weed eating, erosion control, tying the shoots up to T-posts, fruit thinning and picking the grapes during harvest. As any winemaker will tell you, great wine starts in the vineyard.

  Then, in 2012, an ill-timed rain fell during harvest, and I rushed to pick my grapes at 22 brix. The buyer at that time had contracted for grapes at 25 brix, so they rejected the entire lot – 10 tons of fruit. Faced with no one willing to purchase fruit at a lower brix level at the last minute, I decided to have my fruit custom-crushed.”

  Lee’s pivot to a custom crush led to Theopolis Vineyards’ award-winning 2012 Estate Grown Petite Sirah, which earned a gold medal at an international wine competition. Her moniker in the wine industry is “Theo-Patra, Queen in the Vineyards,” part of which is a throwback to her pledge name as a Delta Sigma Theta Sorority member.

  “Now that I have a wine brand, the greatest motivator for me is to produce premium wine which is second to none. I love to bring folks pleasure in the bottle, and it is very important that I produce the best product to bring to the marketplace.”

  Theopolis Vineyards consistently rakes in awards, with 90 percent of its products sold directly to consumers. Lee says that as a small craft winery, a three-tier distribution system doesn’t make economic sense for her company. Instead, Theopolis Vineyards focuses on direct shipping to a customer base stretching across the United States and, more recently, Belize. Lee adds that the company has a few distributors focusing on its handcrafted products, and those relationships have worked well. The wine club approach, however, has been spot on. 

  Lee’s advice to other women who want to enter the world of winemaking is straightforward.

  “For anyone thinking about entering the viticulture industry, I suggest that you find your passion.   There are all aspects, from vineyard management to enology, business management, marketing, sales and wine education. So, my slice of advice: ‘Pursue your passion, educate yourself, work extremely hard, be persistent and be very patient, but never give up and keep climbing, then success is yours for the taking.”

  Cathy Corison, founding partner of Corison Winery in California’s Napa Valley, knows a thing or two about that advice. Corison took a career pivot of sorts and beat the odds. Corison’s journey to winemaking began in college when, as a biology major, she found herself drawn to the science of winemaking. A master’s degree in enology, followed by multiple opportunities to get hands-on experience, led to Corison finally making her breakthrough, establishing Corison Winery in 1987. She did it by purchasing grapes grown in the region between Rutherford and St. Helena, an area known for prime benchland vineyards. Purchasing barrels followed, and then, to produce the wine, Corison had to depend on vacant space in other wineries to create her first products. All the while, she was still moonlighting on other winery and vineyard jobs. 

  Corison Winery finally got its own estate vineyard in 1995 when the company bought the former Kronos Vineyard, which had operated as a farm for over a century. Corison would use part of the land purchase to build a winery in 1999, a Victorian-style winery barn structure designed by William Martin, an architect. In 2015, Corison Winery purchased the nearby Sunbasket Vineyard after sourcing grapes from it for more than 25 years. 

  Together with her husband and business partner, William Martin, Corison has established a reputation for the winery by producing cabernet sauvignons that are marketed as globally recognized wines noted for their distinctive taste, longevity and consistency. The majority of sales come through the winery’s wine club, visitors to the winery and online purchases, resulting in exports to 18 countries and a presence in several U.S. markets.

  Corison says her motivation is driven by a personal devotion to creating good products.

  “Wine is alive and grounds us. The best part is sharing it with friends, family and guests to the winery. I love the great wines of the world, and it is so gratifying to be a part of that.”

  Corison shares her advice to women who want to enter the viticulture industry. 

  “First, you need to be passionate about wine because this is a very difficult business. Then be prepared and start walking. Persistence and a long view will be required.”

  Persistence and the long view paid off for St. Clair Brown Winery and Brewery, a self-described boutique urban winery and nano-brewery headquartered in the city of Napa, California. What used to be a deserted lot and former machine shop is now production central for hand-bottled craft wines and beers.

  Longtime friends Elaine St. Claire and Laina Brown worked together at other wineries for the better part of 18 years before they took the leap to open the winery portion of their business in 2010, followed by the companion nano-brewery in 2018. St. Clair is the winemaker and brewmaster. Brown serves as the company’s president. 

  According to Brown, the duo’s years of experience at larger wineries gave them real motivation to put wines on the market that would distinguish their products from the rest. The two used that motivation to sit down and make a list of everything they wanted their own venture to encompass.

  “After working in the industry for over 10 years, 20 years for Elaine, we came to a point in      our careers where we just wanted to create wines that were crafted with respect, applying the attention to detail and a level of quality that we were truly proud of and then to share them with our community. Our vision was to make our products for the people around us and for the rest   of the wine industry out of honor for what could be created – not just create another brand wrestling for market share.”

  St. Clair got her wish by being part of creating the best of both worlds. As a UC Davis graduate and an award-winning winemaker and brewmaster, St. Clair had always wanted an opportunity to make both wine and beer, putting to use 30 years of experience in making wines in Napa Valley and a decade more as a head brewer.

  For Brown, experience as a wine industry executive came into play when deciding how to create what she describes as a place where craft wine and beer could be showcased in an inviting space. Brown describes the many different facets of how women can enter the winemaking space.

  “The wine industry is very diverse and creative. My advice is to think of what area speaks         to you and how you want to live. The viticultural side of the industry is the establishing and farming of vineyards. If you are more outgoing, you may prefer a career in sales and marketing or hospitality. There are also many fields that support the industry, which are as wide ranging as technology, accounting and culinary. This industry attracts a lot of talented people with different personality types who work hard and enjoy a great lifestyle. More and more women are working in the wine industry, and there is a place for everyone.”

Galena Cellars & Vineyard-Family Legacy Through Generational Contribution

photo of front of Galena Cellars winery building

By: Gerald Dlubala

When a third-generation winemaker like Eric White, president and winemaker of Galena Cellars Vineyard and Winery in Galena, Illinois, calmly and confidently says that he’s still learning, it shows the dedication and continuous education that occurs in the winemaking industry. According to White, every harvest, every tweak in the process and every batch produced is a learning opportunity, and it’s part of the excitement of being a winemaker.

  White says that the family’s winemaking journey started with his grandparents. “My grandpa Lawlor is the root of Galena Cellars,” said White. “He was this eccentric guy who just liked to do things out of the ordinary. One day, he decided to take a home winemaking class at a community college in Cedar Rapids. At the time, the popularity of wine was taking off on the West Coast, but there were little to no actual wineries throughout the Midwest. Grandpa Lawlor thought this had a chance to be something special, something unique and something they could all enjoy as a family. The idea kind of spiraled from there, and now, three generations later, here we are.”

  The current Galena Cellars and Vineyard location is actually the third winery opened by the family. In 1976, after graduating with her degree in enology from Fresno State University, Christina Lawlor, the family’s second-generation winemaker, opened Christina Wine Cellars in McGregor, Iowa. She produced 200 cases of cherry wine. Four years later, in 1980, a second location opened in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, in an old Milwaukee freight depot.

Finding the Perfect Spot

  It was in 1983 that the Lawlor family came across the location in Galena, Illinois, while on a trip to purchase grapes. Christina recruited her brother Scott and his wife Karan for help with this new family project. Galena Cellars opened in 1985, taking up residence in a restored 1840s granary building on Main Street. Following the opening, Galena Cellars celebrated its first annual Beaujolais Nouveau Wine Celebration and, in the process, gained further recognition when they were featured on The Today Show.

  Galena Cellars wine production grew, resulting in the family purchasing a farm on North Ford Road, just outside of Galena. This made it possible to move their wine production here to the farm and vineyard. It allowed them to start growing experimental grape varietals. It also came with expanded responsibilities, so the family decided to close the McGregor and LaCrosse locations to focus all their energy and resources on the farm and vineyard location.

  “We currently grow La Crosse, Marechal Foch and Petite Pearl, Verona on 4.5 acres,” said Christina Lawlor-White, second-generation winemaker. “Additionally, we have an experimental one-acre vineyard that we work on in conjunction with the NIWG (Northern Illinois Wine Growers). We have 12 vines responsible for 23 varieties. It sounds like a lot, but for me, it’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle. It’s hard work, but it’s also invigorating work. It’s still exciting, and it never gets old.”

  Galena Cellars and Vineyard offers tastings, tours and music at the vineyard. Additionally, guests are always invited to simply hang out and take in the beautiful vistas and all that the farm and vineyard have to offer. If interested, guests can take a more intimate stroll through the vineyards or soak up the area’s picturesque sunsets while enjoying the award-winning wines made right there on site.

  In 2004, five years after releasing its flagship wine, “Eric the Red,” named after Christine’s son Eric, Galena Cellars added a suburban tasting room and gift shop in downtown Geneva, Illinois.

  While offering the same great wines as the farm and vineyard location, the downtown space also featured music, tastings, wine-infused cocktails and small bites available from a full kitchen that perfectly paired with their wines.

A New Generation Continues the Family Legacy

  Galena Cellars’ history reveals a true family business success story. Several family members were included along the way, some even moving to the area to join the business. During this time, Christine Lawlor-White would go on to be named “Winemaker of the Year” three separate years by the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association, owning the title in 2002, 2008 and again in 2017.

  As additional family members completed their education in winemaking and joined the business, some of the others retired. It was in 2018 that Eric and Britt White were called on to continue the family legacy as third-generation winemakers. Eric is the current president and winemaker, and his sister Britt is Galena Cellars’ brand ambassador and wine club manager.

  Following family winemaker tradition, the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association named Eric “Winemaker of the Year” in 2019. Enhancing the ceremony, his mother, Christine, was the one to hand him the coveted award. Eric and Britt are now moving the winery forward, infusing their ideas and techniques into what the family has done before them, and the future looks as bright as the morning dew glistening off of their grapevines.

Family’s Work Ethic Continues Through Generations

  “We grew up in a rural lifestyle that was very different and very unique,” said Eric. “I never really understood the magnitude of what everyone was doing and all of the accomplishments that happened along the way. Looking back, it was a lifestyle of invigorating, hard work.”

  That hardworking family tradition keeps Eric and Britt determined to push the envelope and never shy away from new ideas, as long as they do so in a way that honors the traditions and legacy of the family members who started and grew Galena Cellars to where it is today.

  While many winemakers I speak to dread the harvest season for the endless hours and continuous deadlines that present themselves to get the grapes gathered and processed, this family seems to relish the harvest season. “The harvest is the most exciting time of the year for me,” said Eric. “It’s a second chance on winemaking. It’s when I can assess what I did right and what I did wrong and constantly improve from there. It’s when we can bring in new varieties from the vineyards we worked with in the past and create new styles or variations to offer our guests.”

  “We have a strong passion for perfecting what we do,” said Britt. “We want to stay small and remain unique, and we want to grow our wine club offerings and membership. We offer everything from dry reds to a fruit and dessert selection and everything in between. There is truly something for everyone in our lineup. Additionally, our wine club gives us the unique opportunity to try out new ideas in our cellar and produce unique, small-batch wine exclusively for the members.”

  Galena Cellars Vineyard and Winery offers up to 70 varieties of wine. “We have five acres encompassing three varieties,” said Eric. “We use these three varieties to produce small batches of wine in various styles.”

  “We are working to find the perfect grape to grow in our climate,” said Christine Lawlor-White. “We have an experimental vineyard on the property that allows us to continue our quest to research these new varietals. Our terroir and environment matter as much as the finished product, so finding the perfect grape to grow in our climate can take years of research just on its own. Typically, our best sellers are our flagship, Eric the Red (marechal foch), our Oktoberfest (riesling and muscat blend), our General’s Reserve Red (a red blend of hybrid and vinifera varietals) and our locally sourced Edelweiss.”

  Lawlor-White also tells The Grapevine Magazine that the palates of their consumers continue to change, so their wines are evolving as well.

  “We work in depth with vinifera grapes and implement the education and technology learned from West Coast viniculture and apply that knowledge to our American French hybrid grapes,” said Lawlor-White. “Additionally, we focus on sourcing fruit from our local growers, as well as some of the best-growing regions available.”

  That strategy has served them well. Their awards are too numerous to list here. Yet, from Illinois State Fair Competitions to American Fine Wine Rosé Wine Competition and into Experience Rosé International Wine Competitions, there are enough silvers, golds and double-golds to impress even the most experienced wine consumer.

  “Winemaking is one of those businesses that typically is a family business,” said Lawlor-White. “It’s as if winemaking is in your blood! Each generation makes important contributions, and the wine just gets better and better.”

  “We are fortunate to work together and spend time as a family together doing things we all love to do,” added Britt.

Plan a Visit and Maybe Even a Stay

  Galena Cellars Vineyard and Winery offers an updated tasting room and a wraparound deck to enjoy the unmatched views of the surrounding farmland and picturesque vineyard vistas. Guests are encouraged to stroll through the vineyard

and end their day with a glass of locally made wine while experiencing a memorable sunset in a farm and vineyard setting. For those who want an extended stay, Galena Cellars offers a cozy guest suite and quaint guest house that would be perfect for an extended stay. Treat yourself to a romantic getaway, a family get-together or a simple night away from the rigors and stresses of daily life.

  For more information, including award lists, or to book a stay, contact Galena Cellars Vineyard and Winery at:

Galena Cellars Vineyard

4746 N Ford Road

Scales Mound, Illinois, 61075


Galena Cellars Downtown

111 N Main Street

Galena, Illinois, 61036



Drinks Development, Initial Legal Concerns and Protections

By:  Louis J. Terminello, Esq. and Bradley Berkman, Esq.

It’s invigorating to be in the presence of a creative. A glance at the dictionary reminds us that the definition of creative is one who is capable of creating original things. The drinks business has no dearth of creatives. The industry is replete with driven and creative people who generally take the form of winemakers, brewers, distillers, and brand developers/owners. Their palette is in fact their palate and their medium is a must, mash and/or unique package design. Praise the beverage entrepreneur – they take our tastebuds to new and exciting places. But, as the poet Robert Burns instructed in 1785, the best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men Gang aft agley (Scottish for often go wrong). In more contemporary words, without proper planning, and a bit of luck, all original ideas risk plummeting from the lofty perch where creatives reside.

  Enter stage left; The drinks lawyers who can assist with legal issues surrounding brand creation and launch.  Careful business planning coupled with a punch list of the legal issues likely to be encountered during the process of drink creation is a harbinger of success. What follows are the first few legal concerns that should be considered and sorted through prior to a project launch.

The Novel Idea and the Need to Protect It

  For the entrepreneurial brand developer, creative inspiration can come from anywhere and at any time. Ideas for beverage flavor profiles may come while preparing a unique meal or from stumbling on an accidental blend of flavors while creating a cocktail at home. Brand names may be inspired by a song, or book, or emerge from the ether like an apparition. But the apparition must take physical form if it is to ever end up on the shelves or back bars of saloons everywhere. For the brand developer, without their own means of production, a manufacturer is required. Choosing the right producer is a complicated process with many sub-parts. 

  The first step of course, which may seem obvious, is discussing formulation and taste profile with potential brewers, distillers, or wineries, but how do we protect the novel idea from being misappropriated by a dishonest party. Clearly, the process requires the brand developer to share his secret idea with others to determine if, in fact, the producer can make the stuff.  The dangers of disclosure are obvious – the producer has the ability to take your idea and bring it to market on his own leaving the brand developer out in the cold. In fact, this could happen with anyone the brand developer discusses their new concoction with.

Nondisclosure Agreements-Protecting the Secret

  Prior to engaging in any discussions with any potential producer, it is incumbent on the brand developer/owner to have a well-drafted nondisclosure and confidentiality agreement (“NDA”). The core function of the NDA is to prevent a producer, or any other party, from disclosing the developer’s idea to another or independently producing the product without remuneration to the brand developer. The NDA should call for injunctive relief in order to stop the activity complained of as well as other damages, including money, should that be an available remedy. Commencing good faith negotiations with an honest opposite party is what we all expect and want. However, the developer’s next million, maybe even billion-dollar idea should be protected from the outset with a well-crafted NDA and should be entered into with any party prior to discussing the novel idea.

Intellectual Property Including Trademark

  More importantly, there is a greater area of concern related to protecting one’s brand ownership. The next area of concern and of paramount importance is that the brand name and associated designs and logos be protected. The reader is likely aware that the next item on our brand launch checklist is protecting one’s intellectual property through a trademark (TM). For the uninitiated, trademark applications are submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which once granted, identifies the brand owner of the product, and protects ownership of the name, design, logo, or symbol. A trademark allows the holder of the TM to pursue legal action against a party who may try to use the mark as its own and without the consent of the true trademark holder.

  The first step in the TM process, once the brand developer has come up with a name and/or logo, is to search the USPTO database to be sure the mark is not held by another person or entity, and that the name is available for use. There are only a few more disheartening things than investing resources in brand name development only to find out that it has been trademarked by another party. It should be noted here that all is not lost if the mark is already held by another party.

  These issues are best explored in another article but suffice it to say, there may be ways to gain control and ownership of the TM. Also, as brand sales grow and the brand increases in value significant equity will reside in the brand name. Protecting that equity is paramount particularly if an interested and significant buyer knocks on the door and desires to purchase the brand for enough money which allows the brand developer to retire to their own Caribbean island for the remainder of their days.  It’s important to note that there are various legal mechanisms available to trademark holders that protect their ownership rights to the mark while allowing other parties to use the mark to fulfill contracted obligations.

  Generally, trademarks can be licensed to another party for any use whatsoever but generally, in the world of beverage alcohol, nonexclusive licensing agreements are often used in production and distribution agreements granting limited rights to the non-mark holder. Note that licensing agreements can be complex and are discussed here only to point out their existence and present the option. Any licensing agreement must be carefully drafted to protect the rights of the parties and all trademark matters should be handled by a competent Intellectual Property attorney.

Formula Protection & Production Agreements

  After sourcing a reliable producer for the drink idea, the next crucial step is negotiating and entering a formulation and packaging agreement. It is highly probable that the producer selected will assist in developing the formulation. It is also not uncommon to secure the services of a third-party formula service provider to create the liquid beverage. Whichever avenue is pursued, the brand owner must be sure that they will have ownership rights to the finished product, particularly if the formulation is unique, and that no other party shall have the right to the formula absent the brand owner’s consent. An agreement memorializing all terms of formula ownership must be drafted and executed by the interested parties.

  Well-crafted supply and bottling agreements are the next integral part of the brand development process. In a nutshell, once a partner producer is identified, the brand owner and producer will commence negotiating the essential terms of the business relationship. Essential terms will include items such as production and purchase quantities, pricing and payment terms and delivery terms. Issues such as how to deal with adulterated products and recalls should be memorialized also. In sum, this agreement will memorialize the rights and duties of the parties and ideally will allow for the smoother production of the finished goods allowing the brand owner to focus on securing distribution, selling and marketing to consumers and other brand-building activities.

  In conclusion, the areas above are the first few items that should be addressed when launching a new brand. Protecting the developer/brand owners’ rights in all aspects of product introduction is essential and working with seasoned beverage law professionals should be seriously considered. Experience tells us that brand launch problems can be avoided upfront with proper and competent Beverage Law and business law guidance.