Family Frenzy in Wine Country

The Case for Kids and Canines

two small dogs riding in car and out the car window is a very large wine bottle and barrels

 By: Susan DeMatei and Nathan Chambers

Let’s kick things off with a dose of reality. We’ve all been there: it’s a bustling Saturday morning in July, you’re bracing for a packed day at the Tasting Room, and Murphy’s Law is in full effect. Two of your staff are out sick; another is off serving the crowd at an art and wine festival downtown. You unlock the door at 10:01 AM, only to be greeted by a frazzled family of five: mom, dad, and three rambunctious kiddos. The younger two are reenacting a wild-west shootout with gravel as ammo, while the third is glued to an iPad, deep in the latest YouTube Kids saga. Mom and Dad look like they’ve just survived a hurricane, and you have a “high-roller” group arriving in fifteen minutes. And then comes the kicker: “Can we bring in our German Shepherd?” You contemplate if it’s too late to call in sick.

Inclusive is the New Black

  If you have yet to hear, exclusive is out, and inclusive is in. Wine Country is in transition. Once upon a time, parents would leave their little darlings with Grandma and Grandpa for a weekend of serene wine tasting. No screams, barks, gravel fights, or corkscrew chases – just pure, undisturbed, oenophile bliss.

  But the landscape is shifting. Gone are the days when only adults graced the vineyards. Millennials and Gen Z are now our primary guests, and they have an entirely different vision of vacation based on their values and lifestyles.

chart reflecting USA fertility rates 1990-2023

The Millennial Way of Life

  Millennials – the primary purchasers of luxury wines – are adulting very differently than their parents or grandparents. Children are no longer “to be seen and not heard.” They incorporate children into their lives rather than revolve their lives around kids’ activities.

  These choices make sense if you consider they marry later, have kids later, and are parenting differently than previous generations. They marry around 30 (compared to Boomers at 23), and the average age for starting a family is between 30 and 34. With 15 years of a career established, they’ve built a firm adult foundation. So, they prefer to incorporate their kids into their activities rather than revolving everything around the kids. “Helicopter” parenting with structured times and schedules has given way to “drone” parenting, where the kids are encouraged to explore and gain confidence with new experiences. The 2023 Annual US Family Travel Survey revealed that 81% of parents plan to travel in the next 12 months, indicating a robust interest in family travel. (Traveling with the family is one of the major tourism trends in 2024). According to Travheir, 44% of millennials with children have traveled together, and 62% have included children under five. Many parents believe bringing along their children is essential for a child’s development. A recent study by the Family Travel Association found that 88% of families believe travel helps children overcome lingering pandemic impacts.

resident population in the united staets in 2022, by generation (in millions)

What Does This Mean for Wineries?

  With these generational changes, families and even pets will become more common at wineries, urban tasting rooms, and, yes, even at events. What is important to realize is that this isn’t laziness, selfishness, or just that they didn’t want to pay for a sitter. Showing up with kids demonstrates their values. They hold their inclusive belief system dear and will not want to see it challenged. In today’s “cancel” society, you might think twice before telling a feisty mom with a large online following that you didn’t want to allow her child on the patio. A quick search on Google will bring you dozens of outraged parents indignantly waiving one-star reviews.

chart showing resident population in the United States by 2022, by generation in millions

Adapt, Don’t Collapse

  This doesn’t mean you need to completely fold to pressure and allow children to run wild. With some forethought, you can make your experiences positive for well-behaved kids and your best adult guests. Wineries are no strangers to pivoting. Rainy day? Clear the bar for indoor tastings. The large group arrives early? Grab that chilled Pinot Grigio and entertain them in the garden while your team preps inside. The same flexibility applies to welcoming families. Happy parents are likelier to join wine clubs, buy bottles, and rave about their experience.

Planning for the Future

  Embrace the chaos and plan for it. Here are some ideas to make your winery more family and pet-friendly:

•    Kid Seating: There are no bar stools for the kids, but maybe some reserved outdoor tables with snacks like applesauce tubes, pretzels, and water. A coloring book and crayons can go a long way in keeping them occupied.

•    Kid Juice Tasting: Offer kids their “tasting” experience with various juices in plastic cups. They can swirl, sniff, and taste alongside their parents, perhaps even jotting down their impressions.

•    Tour Guide Games: Insurance permitting, why not engage kids with a scavenger hunt during tours? Flashlights in the cellar, leading the group – it’s all about making them feel involved and excited.

•    Selfie Stations: Set up a spot for fun photos, including their dog. Parents can share these on social media, and you can create a winery dog calendar as a special gift for wine club members.

•    Doggie Snacks: Go out with dog snack packs, perhaps from a company like Barkuterie. Consider a small, fenced area for dogs to roam off-leash if space allows.

Embrace the Change

  You survived the visit. The family bought four bottles, the kids didn’t set anything on fire, and they’re off to the next winery. Now, it’s time to reflect: what can you do to be more family-friendly? How can you welcome pets while ensuring everyone’s comfort? With some planning, you’ll enhance your guests’ experience and boost your bottom line.

  Susan DeMatei founded WineGlass Marketing; the largest full-service, award-winning marketing firm focused on the wine industry. She is a certified Sommelier and Specialist in Wine, with degrees in Viticulture and Communications, an instructor at Napa Valley Community College, and is currently collaborating on two textbooks. Now in its 12th year, her agency offers domestic and international wineries assistance with all areas of strategy and execution.

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

Old Mill Vineyard

Big-Time Wines from a Small-Town Winery

sign for old mill vineyard shown in grass and trees

By: Gerald Dlubala

  When it was time to move on from a career in the greens industry, where Kurt Grohsmeyer gained over three decades of experience growing everything from sod to shade trees, evergreens and everything else that grows in the ground, he and his wife Donna planted 400 grapevines on their rural Metamora Illinois property. Little did they know that by going in a different direction and planting grapevines to make wine for personal use and sharing with friends, that just nine years later, in 2014, they would successfully launch their own wine brand, Old Mill Vineyard Wines.

Increased Harvest, Tasting Room Addition Lead to a Full-Time Winery

  “Honestly, I didn’t know what I was doing,” said Grohsmeyer. “We started on 10 tillable acres the first year, with eight different varietals being planted side by side on an acre and a half.

  We just wanted to see what would survive and what wouldn’t. And you know what? Almost everything grew successfully. After that, we planted in increments, adding another acre or two to fill the ten acres. There wasn’t a real plan. The process just kind of morphed into a philosophy of, well, this works, so we’ll add more of it.”

  Grohsmeyer researched the best varietals for his growing zone, meeting with the IGGVA (Illinois Grape Growers & Vintners Alliance) and conducting his own independent research. This gave him direction on which varietals to choose to increase the likelihood of success in his growing zone.

  “The eight initial varietals we planted the first year included four reds and four whites,” said Grohsmeyer. “They all grew well enough to expand each one into their own acre, filling up eight acres. That gave us two remaining acres to add two more varietals.” Another challenge presented itself when it came time to harvest.

  “That first year, we harvested about five tons of grapes,” said Grohsmeyer. “I could handle a little bit of grapes because I initially intended to make some dry-style wines for my wife and her friends. But what to do with the rest was the question. So, I got hooked up with another vineyard in the area and sold grapes to them. From there, everything just took off and exploded on us. We went from harvesting five tons that first year to a harvest of 50 tons of grapes. It was sometimes overwhelming, but that’s when we knew and decided it was time to go full-time with the vineyard.”

  The Old Mill Vineyard averages about 35 to 40 tons of grapes annually. Grohsmeyer still sells some of his grapes to his original buyer, but as his winery, vineyard and on-site tasting room grows in popularity, he finds himself keeping more and selling less.

  “Our buyer is very understanding,” said Grohsmeyer. “He’s the largest producer in Northern Illinois and maybe the state. Actually, he was the one who, while looking at his grapes here, convinced me to take advantage of our scenic views and rolling vistas and build my own tasting room to sell our wines on-site. It was in 2016 that our tasting room, Bent Tree at OMV, became a reality. But as we sell more through our tasting room, we have to keep more of our grapes. We do all our own production, including harvest, crush, fermentation and on-site bottling. Our grapes and wine go from our vineyard to the barn to the tasting room.”

 Scenic Vistas and Comfortable Surroundings Accompany Excellent Wines

  Our place is nothing real elaborate,” said Grohsmeyer. “I still consider Old Mill Vineyard a cottage-type winery and vineyard. Most of the surrounding area is rural farmland, but in contrast, our property features beautiful rolling ground and timber, with a pond and barn setting. I built a tasting room building, planning to have enough seating I’ll ever need. Our tasting room can comfortably seat 30 to 40 inside, and we have as much outdoor seating as indoor.”

  Grohsmeyer tells The Grapevine Magazine that their busiest times start when the weather breaks in spring and last through late fall and early winter when the weather can turn nasty. But the Old Mill Vineyard is a great gathering spot all year round.

  “Our guests and visitors are welcome to come and sit wherever they choose,” said Grohsmeyer. “We can accommodate them indoors, out on the patio or folks are always welcome to bring lawn chairs and blankets to sit and hang out by the pond. We’ve even had people bring bouncy houses for their kids. That’s the situation and atmosphere that we want to promote. Our priority is for everyone to gather, feel welcome and enjoy good wine in our beautiful, well-shaded surroundings. We are kind of hidden from the road. Our entrance is on a corner sheltered by trees, so people tend to drive past a lot without even knowing we’re here. I would guess that some residents of Metamora don’t even know we are here. But once you pull off the road and get here, the landscape changes from the normal cornfields to the beautiful rolling hills of our vineyard.”

Follow Your Passion, Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment

  As happens frequently in the craft or cottage wine industry, what starts as a passionate hobby transforms into a small business. This was the case with Grohsmeyer. But along the way, he never stopped asking questions, seeking solutions or learning the processes for his local growing zone.

    “We started by making dry wines without any real experience,” said Grohsmeyer. “I’m not an experienced winemaker. I never did it before, and I never went to school or had any formal education in winemaking. I’ve never had or followed anyone else’s recipes, and to date, I have only delivered my grapes to two different buyers. But, when delivering grapes, I hung around and helped crush my grapes. I talked to the winemakers and asked questions about what, how and why they were doing the things they did. For me, it was a common sense and straightforward way to gain experience, gather information and learn the initial things in real time that I needed to do from current successful producers in my area. My current buyer has taught me the most of all. I use him as a resource for any questions and have no concerns about following his advice.”

  Grohsmeyer said that when he started making wine, he didn’t have enough vessels to put the wine in and, at the time, didn’t really know where to turn for more storage. He was fortunate to obtain a few used bourbon barrels from a friend’s trip. Grohsmeyer used them to store the excess wine and actually kind of forgot about them for six months. This was back in 2009, before it became the “in” thing to do in the craft wine and beverage market.

  “As it turns out, when we decided to try the wine that came out of them, it was excellent,” said Grohsmeyer. “The wine is a really good, nice dry red with a soft hint of bourbon. Now, this same red wine made from the Chancellor grape that gets aged six to 12 months in used Four Roses bourbon barrels and named Broken Barrel is a mainstay on our menu. It’s a wine for those who say they may not be a wine fan but prefer bourbon. Our Broken Barrel wine often turns non-wine drinkers into fans. It remains in the top two or three in popularity behind our Frontenac Blanc, our youngest and most popular grape. It’s a dry to semi-dry white wine that is a summer best-seller, maybe reminiscent of a Riesling. Everything here is cyclical. Winter and colder temperatures bring more popularity for the heavier reds. But honestly, you can think you made enough of a certain type and then find yourself taking two or three cases to the tasting room every weekend.”

Offering Quality Wine Choices for All Tastes Is Key

  Grohsmeyer said that they started out serving dry wine and continue to draw regular customers for those wines. As their visitor base grew, requests for sweeter wines increased, so Old Mill Vineyard also added those to its wine offerings.

  “Now we run about 60 percent dry and 40 percent sweet,” said Grohsmeyer. “We found that the actual grape varietal isn’t that much of an issue with sweet wines, as long as the proper flavor and sweetness level is there. Currently, we keep about 16 wines on the shelf. Twelve are varietal wines labeled by the grape type. The remaining sweet wines are generally a table grape of any varietal.

  Additionally, we offer a selection of national and craft beer, cider, seltzers, pop and sparkling options for non-wine drinkers. Whenever some of the local breweries get to the point of being able to can their products for distribution, we’ll certainly expand our local brew options.”

Having Fun While Working Hard

  “We are very much hands-on in the entire operation,” said Grohsmeyer.  “And although the work is demanding, both physically and timewise, we are out here still having fun.”

  Grohsmeyer started his winemaking journey at 50 years of age, which he says would probably have most people starting to think about a retirement plan. But he is proud to still be out there every day doing something in the vineyard or other related area. With his wife Donna, they run the Old Mill Vineyard operation from vineyard to tasting room to retail. Donna is in the tasting room every weekend. They have no immediate plans to slow down, as this is their retirement.

  “If you don’t have anything to do, you sit in the chair and gripe about the news or something,” said Grohsmeyer. “We’ll do it until we can’t. Even on days that I can’t get out into the vineyard due to the weather, I’ll still work in the winery or fix machinery. There really is always something to do. And when the vineyard is in your front and backyard, it’s hard to walk away from it.”

  Old Mill Vineyard wines are distributed in local stores, retail outlets and several places in nearby Peoria, about 25 minutes east of Metamora. Tastings also occur at retail liquor outlets, and some smaller customers may buy a case a month to sell to their patrons. Additionally, their wines are available in some local brewery taprooms.

  “You know, we don’t spend any money on advertising, and frankly, there’s probably people in our town that don’t even know we are here,” said Grohsmeyer. “We always believed that word of mouth would be enough, and we remain busy, even surprisingly so sometimes. Sometimes, we’re busier than we want, but we’re certainly not turning people away. That’s obviously what you want as a business. We’ve built up a great group of regulars and gain new ones all the time. One thing is for sure: it’s never the same. Even now, every weekend is a learning experience. And that’s just fine with us.”

  In addition to its inclusive wine line-up, Old Mill Vineyard offers a selection of crackers, cheeses and dips. Guests may also bring in their own food and snacks. Visitors are not allowed to bring outside alcohol onto the property.

  For more information on Old Mill Vineyard and its selection of wines, contact:

Old Mill Vineyard

700 Coon Creek Rd.

Metamora, Illinois 61548

(309) 258-9952

OldMillVineyard@msn.com

Planning to Purchase a Vineyard?

Important Plant Health Issues to Take into Consideration

grapevines on a fence

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

As many of you already know, I am a plant pathologist consultant specializing in the detection and control of grapevine diseases. The diseases work with are those that are graft transmitted but are also can spread in the vineyard.  Once the vines are planted, these diseases cannot be cured using chemical or other means.  It has happened too many times that I am called to determine what is wrong at a vineyard.  The story goes sometimes like this, “we purchased the vineyard in the winter, so we were unable to see any tell-tale signs of disease”, “we consulted with our county officer and s/he said things looked OK”; We really were not thinking about disease, we fell in love with the beautiful setting and the house”; “We did not know that red foliage is an indicator of virus infection”; the scenery in the fall season is an explosion of colors, so beautiful, so romantic”.  I can go on and on with more quotes buttthink that you understand the problem.  I wish these people would have called me before they purchased the vineyard.  Now it is a bit late.

  In this article, I will highlight issues that can become a problem after a vineyard purchase.  It is my hope to educate the reader and encourage them to contact me prior to signing the purchase contract to allow a thorough evaluation of the vineyard health status.

The Best Time to Inspect a Vineyard for Disease Presence

  As mentioned earlier I will only focus on graft transmitted diseases that cannot be cured once established in a vineyard.  Diseased grapevine plants may display different symptoms of infection  at different times of the year or seasons.  Early in the spring  and summer months it is easy to spot diseases caused by declining bacteria (i.e., Pierce’s disease, crown gall), fungi (Eutypa and Bot canker, black foot, etc.), and viruses (fanleaf and other nematode transmitted virus species).  In late summer or fall, viral diseases that cause leaf reddening and a variety of color schemes (leafroll, red blotch, Vitiviruses) can be observed.  To complicate matters, these diseases or their disease-causing agents can be found in all sorts of combinations.  Further, some of these diseases show almost exactly the same symptoms, in all cases a knowledgeable plant pathologist will be required to help identify the issue or recommend testing, especially when no symptoms are present due to seasonality.

  Below I describe some of the most important diseases likely present in vineyards:

Bacterial, Fungal and Viral Pathogens Best Detected in the Spring

Petri Disease, Young Vine Decline, Esca:  The disease in young vines, known as young vine decline, is caused by Cadophora, Phaeoacremonium, and Phaeomoniella species.  In older vines, the same fungal pathogens are associated with Esca disease.  The disease is chronic when vines express a gradual decline of symptoms over time, or acute when the vines decline and die within a few days.  These acute symptoms are known as the apoplectic stage of the disease. It is not uncommon during the apoplectic stage of the disease to see dead vines carrying mummified grape bunches.

Canker Diseases:  Various pathogens can cause canker symptoms, large discolored areas in trunk and canes, in the vineyard. Bot-canker or dead arm disease is caused by different species in the Botryosphaeriaceae family. Eutypa dieback is caused by different species in the Diatrypaceae family.  In my lab we characterized Seimatosporium species as a fungal pathogen that causes decline and cankers in grapevines, but within the same fungal group others have reported Pestalotoipsis and Truncatella to cause disease in grapevines. The canker symptoms observed in the sections of affected cordons or trunks in grapevines may appear to be similar but caused by unrelated fungal species.

Black Foot Disease:  Species of Campylocarpon, Cylindrocladiella, Dactylonectria, and Ilyonectria (previously known as Cylindrocarpon spp.) are the causal agents of this complex disease.   These fungi are soil-born and most active on compact soils with poor drainage.  Symptoms above ground can be indistinguishable from young vine/ Esca disease described above.  Additionally, the decline symptoms can be confused with Pierce’s disease (to be described below).

Grapevine Fanleaf and Other Nepoviruses

  Arabis mosaic (ArMV), Grapevine fanleaf (GFLV), Tobacco (TRSV) and Tomato ringspot (ToRSV) are viruses that cause decline in grapevine.  These are specifically transmitted in the vineyard by different nematodes in the Xiphinema species.  The symptoms caused by these viruses are very similar and include foliar deformation, vein banding, and most importantly uneven maturation and sparce production of berries.  Since this is a soilborne disease, it manifests in patches in the vineyard where the nematode vector is located.  The transmission, of course can happen through infected material, but not commonly as it is an easy virus to detect using various laboratory techniques.

Pathogens Best Detected in the Late Summer and Fall

Pierce’s and Crown Gall Disease:  Pierce’s disease is caused by Xylella fastidiosa, a bacteria transmitted by sharpshooter sucking insects.  The control of the disease is complicated as the bacteria infects many different plant species (i.e., has a broad host range).  The symptoms observed in early spring are vine decline and poor bud break, in the fall it is possible to observe typical “green islands” on the canes as well as the “match stick” symptoms.  Green islands are areas of the canes that do not mature evenly (uneven lignification), while match stick symptoms is a phenomenon in which the petioles remain attached to the canes while the leaf blade has fallen off.  Crown gall is caused by another bacteria: Agrobacterium vitis. The typical symptoms of crown gall disease are galling at the crown of the vine (hence its name), however galls can occur at the graft union or other areas of the vine. I have recently written about crown gall disease in grapevine and will not elaborate on this article. 

Fungal Pathogens and Mixed Infections:   The fungal pathogens and the crown gall bacteria mentioned above can be detected all year round and often occur in mixed infections with viruses and/or bacteria.  Some years ago, Central Valley growers in California reported a syndrome in which their vines collapse and die within a short period of time.  While working at STA (the laboratory I developed that specialized in grapevine diagnostics) we tested vines with similar symptoms, not just from California’s Central Valley but also from California’s Central Coast vineyards.  We detected a combination of fungal pathogens (not always the same usual suspects) and viruses, such as Grapevine leafroll associated -3 (GLRaV-3) and the Vitiviruses Grapevine virus A and F.

Grapevine Leafroll and Red Blotch:  Although the symptoms observed in vines infected with Grapevine leafroll and red blotch viruses are similar, these diseases are caused by different viral species.  The symptoms are observed in the late summer and fall and appear as a display of a palette of different colors.  Some species of leafroll are transmitted non-specifically by mealybugs while red blotch virus was reported to be transmitted by plant hoppers in the Membracidae family, In the next Grapevine Magazine issue I plan to write an article with more details on epidemiology and management of these diseases. Stay tuned!  

Conclusions

  The purchase of a vineyard is a huge investment and because of this It is important to take into consideration its plant health prior to purchase.  Because symptoms of disease vary along the different seasons, I recommend planning to test a representative sample for important diseases during the due diligence period. Be aware that certain viruses/pathogens are detected more readily in different seasons.  This is why it is so important to hire a knowledgeable professional that can walk you through the process. 

  My philosophy is always prevention, so my recommendation to buyers as well as sellers is to be aware of the infection status of planting material, this will avoid the presence of detrimental pathogens in the vineyard in the first place.

  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 also fluent in Spanish 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

Trouble Shooting Your Chiller System

man speaking in front of a wine chiller system

By: Tom Payette – Winemaking Consultant

This should be your first resource before contacting your refrigeration guy/gal or chiller supplier.  It is hoped this document will take you or your winemaking team through some thought processes to help diagnose your chiller problem and to help you know the answers to their questions if you do need to call.   Use common sense in all features of what you do when trouble shooting your chilling unit.  Make sure to employ all proper “Lock out Tag out” procedures and to use all safety procedures known …. plus, good common sense.

  Make sure to have your manual for the unit handy and try to be somewhat familiar with the chilling unit.  If you are not familiar – it’s not too late to start learning your system!  What should your propylene glycol temperature be and what is the unit set on?

Understanding the Unit

  At some point, while your refrigeration person is on the premise already, question him or her about some of the operations of your chilling unit.  You will want to know : where the compressor is; the condenser; the expansion valve; where the transfer of cooling from the refrigerant to the glycol solution is located; cooling fan coil; compressed Freon line; expanded Freon line; the glycol chilling loop, the glycol chilling reservoir, electrical contacts if any etc.  Understand the basics so you can help communicate to your refrigeration person what is happening with your unit once you know something is wrong. Your supplier is also your best first resource in trouble shooting the unit.

So, Your Chilling Unit is Down or not Chilling Properly

Power: May sound silly but check to make sure the unit is getting the proper power.  Perhaps turn the unit off, reset the breaker and turn the unit back on again.  If the unit is not hard wired be sure to check the plug and see if one leg of the power has become weak/loose/disconnected/broken.  Use a volt meter and start to trace the power from the supply to the unit.  Has a phased dropped out from the power company or transformer?   From experience -this is possible.  You will be surprised how many times a service tech comes out to winery and simply traces the power and voila – you are billed for a heavy service charge for the flip of a breaker or resetting the male end of the power supply.  Use a volt meter and be very very safe.

Contacts and other electrical notes: Are contacts (if still equipped) pulling in when they should to engage certain motors or functions?  Do you know how to test them?  Are simple fuses all intact or do they need replacing?  If you “trick” the unit into doing a certain function – does the unit respond?  Do motors function independently when you ask them to?  [More of an over-ride call for use].  Are there any flashing lights indicating a problem?   Your supplier should be able to talk you through much of this.

Amps: Do you have a volt meter and an amp meter?  Do you know how to use them to find out if you have power where you need to have power?  How many amps is the unit pulling?  How many amps should it pull?  Be careful.  These are electrical connection questions.

Sounds: Does the unit sound like it normally has and does?   You should listen for your chilling unit every time you enter and exit the building.   We can often hear our chilling unit from the crush pad.  Did you notice any odd sounds recently?  Did the unit cycle on and off frequently recently?  If equipped with belts – did you hear any belts squeal?

Smell: Has the unit given off any odd smells recently?  Does or did the unit smell hotter than typical.  Does the motor(s) feel the same as when the unit was working properly?  Are bearing areas hot?  “Singing bearings”?

Winery air temperature feel: With cellars and barrel rooms that use “Krack” style units to chill their tank room, barrel room and case goods area(s) one can often “feel” when something is not right with their chilling unit.   Often when visiting clients in the hotter summer months of July and August I can walk in their cellar and know that something is not operating properly.   Perhaps it is even as little as only one of the split units is not operating but it can be felt in humidity and temperature.  They are just limping along on one half of their system and they don’t know it.  This is all part of being keenly aware of your mechanical issues at a winery.

Expanded refrigerant and compressed refrigerant lines: Often the compressor will have a line that carries Freon (refrigerant) to and from the expansion coil.  Have you felt those lines when the unit is working properly?  (Be careful) Do they feel the same as when you felt them during normal operation?  Is one sweating and the other not?  Is one or both frozen?  When was the Freon last checked and charged?  Do you see the Freon sight gauges and do they look proper?  No bubbles, etc.  What are they showing and can you describe what you see to a technician?

Glycol strength: The chilling unit chills the glycol water mix that is pumped through supply and return lines connected to the tanks.  Is that heat transfer happening properly?  What temperature setting is the unit set to chill the glycol to?  Has this been changed as seasonally winemakers may do this?  Has the glycol strength been tested lately?  These are all questions you and your chilling technician will need to answer and explore.  Have solid answers for them when on the phone to help them before they arrive at your place.  It will save you $$.

Simple glycol test: Take a small amount of glycol from the reservoir of the glycol tank.  Make sure it is a representative sample of the glycol in all the lines.  Take a calibrated standard refractometer and place several drops of glycol on the refractometer just as you would checking a brix of grape juice.  If the reading is at or near 27 brix then the glycol strength is about 35%.   If the reading is near 24 brix then the glycol is near 30% strength.   Please double check this quick test with your refrigeration expert to see if they agree.  Suppliers of glycol have been known to, free of charge, receive a 300 milliliter sample of your glycol water mix and with have their lab test it for strength, inhibitor function and several other tests that may or may not be meaningful to you or your technicians.  [ Note : Some units now come with their own dedicated glycol testing refractometer style measuring tools ]

Glycol dye: Many wineries find great application to adding a dye to their glycol system.  This can be blue, orange, red or any other color.  As many off us know water, glycol and white wine often look reasonably similar.  Sweating glycol lines and connections are often tough to distinguish between water or leaks in the glycol line.  If you see, for example, a liquid on the floor of your cellar or on a chilling pipe that is blue – you know this is glycol.

Pump (most likely centrifugal): Is the pump that pumps the glycol working properly?  Has it stopped running?  Is it pulling the amps that it should?  Does it feel hot or is it iced up at the pump head.  Does anything look abnormal?  Do you have pictures of what the pump head should look like when operating properly?   What is the pressure on this closed system loop?  Are you getting ample pressure to move the glycol through the lines, jackets of tanks and krack units?  Did someone open a valve that may have lowered the pressure mistakenly?  Look for the obvious and simple.

Fans: Are all the fans and compressors engaging as they should?  Turn the unit (glycol temperature) down and wait an appropriate time (5 minutes +/-).  Have extra fans kicked in to pull the extra heat load out?   A call for more cooling, while setting this temperature thermostat low, should have more fans that should kick on.  All of the compressors should be functioning and the unit should be trying its best to meet the needs of the thermostat.   Do you know what this full need looks like?  Have your chilling tech show at one of their less urgent visits.

Summary

  Get to know your chilling unit.  What a major part of what we do in winemaking.  Walk out there right now and listen to it while watching it run.  Take a video of it.  Do your best to trouble shoot and gather information your own chilling unit before calling your chilling tech.  It can save thousands of dollars.  Often, too, you will discover simple things that have gone wrong while getting to know your chilling unit even better. Often the same thing will go wrong, repeatedly, and lead toward a more final diagnoses of a smaller problem.  Perhaps terms like contacts, set limits, pressure limits switches and a whole host of other higher tech terms. Perhaps the repeated chilling problems will help encourage your winery to stock that part or item that repeatedly gives trouble.  Simply calling your refrigeration guy, in a continuous knowledge vacuum, can lead toward unwanted and unnecessary costs.  Even worse you will still know little about one of the most crucial pieces of equipment in the winery.  Inspect you unit most importantly during certain crunch periods of the year like an upcoming harvest.  Inform yourself and educate yourself about your specific chilling unit(s).  It’s fun and not really that complicated!

•   Know the basic operation of your chiller

•   Build a knowledge and vocabulary base

•   Use common sense and pay attention

•   Become less reliant in case of emergency

  A big thanks to Justin Thomas of G&D Chillers in Eugene Oregon for his assistance.

A Short and Quick Guide to Wine Importation Regulatory Process

row of Spanish wine bottles

By: Brad Berkman and Louis Terminello

Importing wine into the United State may initially seem like a daunting task. Licensing requirements and related matters appear to be complex with requirements at both the federal and state levels. With proper planning and guidance, the insurmountable becomes a manageable process. This article will act as a short guide to the initial licensing and regulatory concerns encountered by new importers.

Licensure At the Federal Level

  Importation of wine into the stream of commerce of the United States is regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Prior to importation, the potential importer must qualify to hold a TTB Basic Permit as an Importer. TTB examines the qualifications of the owners and officers through a personal questionnaire process that is executed under the penalty of perjury to ensure that the individual applicant is not impaired from holding the permit. Qualifications of applicants can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations. Printed below are the code sections showing the requirement for licensure and the required qualifications for licensure.

§ 1.20 Importers.

  No person, except pursuant to a basic permit issued under the Act, shall:

(a) Engage in the business of importing into the United States distilled spirits, wine, or malt beverages; or

(b) While so engaged, sell, offer or deliver for sale, contract to sell, or ship, in interstate or foreign commerce, directly or indirectly or through an affiliate, distilled spirits, wine, or malt beverages so imported.

§ 1.24 Qualifications of applicants.

  The application of any person shall be granted, and the permit issued by the appropriate TTB officer if the applicant proves to the satisfaction of the appropriate TTB officer that:

(a) Such person (or in case of a corporation, any of its officers, directors, or principal stockholders) has not, within 5 years prior to the date of application, been convicted of a felony under Federal or State law, and has not, within 3 years prior to date of application, been convicted of a misdemeanor under any Federal law relating to liquor, including the taxation thereof; and

(b) Such person, by reason of the person’s business experience, financial standing or trade connections, is likely to commence operations as a distiller, warehouseman and bottler, rectifier, wine producer, wine blender, importer, or wholesaler, as the case may be, within a reasonable period and to maintain such operations in conformity with Federal law; and

(c) The operations proposed to be conducted by such person are not in violation of the law of the State in which they are to be conducted.

  In conjunction with the personal questionnaire process, the applicant entity is disclosed including ownership structure. Among other things, certain signing authorization forms are prepared, and parties are assigned signing authority on TTB documents.

  In addition to the Importers Basic Permit, it is wise for the applicant to apply for a federal wholesaler’s permit. This permit will allow the licensee to ship alcoholic beverages in interstate commerce. The process for applying for this license is quite similar to the federal importers permit. For consistency purposes, below is a reprint of the code section establishing the requirement for this license.

§ 1.22 Wholesalers.

  No person, except pursuant to a basic permit issued under the Act, shall:

(a) Engage in the business of purchasing for resale at wholesale, distilled spirits, wine, or malt beverages; or,

(b) While so engaged, receive, sell, offer or deliver for sale, contract to sell, or ship in interstate or foreign commerce, directly or indirectly or through an affiliate, distilled spirits, wine, or malt beverages so purchased.

  Both federal permits, if the application process is managed properly and barring any unforeseen issues, should be issued within 45-60 days.

  It’s important to note that basic permits do not expire. They remain in effect until revoked, suspended, voluntarily surrendered or automatically terminated. Automatic termination can occur by operation of law when there is an unreported change in the licensed entity. In particular, change in ownership or stock transfers, among other things, must be reported to TTB on the appropriate forms within 30 days of the occurrence. If they are not reported, the basic permit will terminate by operation of law. It is essential that any contemplated change to the business be analyzed for its effect on the license and reported appropriately if required.

  As an additional note, the foreign winery/production facility must be registered with the FDA as a food facility. A registration number is assigned and must be available at the time of importation or the wine will not clear customs.

Product Approval

  Prior to importation, certain wines may be required to go through a formula approval process conducted by the TTB laboratory, though most do not. Generally, if there are added ingredients including flavorings, formula approval process is required. However, most wines produced and containing only grapes should not require formula approval. Other alcoholic beverages such as spirits and malt must be analyzed separately, as those products tend to have a more stringent formula approval process.

Certificates of Label Approval (COLA’s)

  All imported wine labels must be submitted to the TTB prior to importation and approved. Approval results in the issuance of a Certificate of Label Approval, more commonly called a COLA, which is required to be presented to US Customs at the port of entry, along with other documents.  TTB will examine the label to ensure that all mandatory labeling requirements are met. The wine label approval process can be complex, particularly for a first-time submitter. Certain pieces of information need to be affixed and positioned according to the regulations or the label will be rejected by TTB until brought into compliance. It would be beneficial, especially for the first-time submitter, to consult an expert when commencing the COLA process.

State Licensing

  As noted, TTB regulates the importation of beverage alcohol in foreign and interstate commerce. Prior to brand introduction in any state, it is incumbent on the importer to determine which state licenses are required prior to selling the wine within the borders of that state. As a general rule, some sort of non-resident permit is required, and often times brand registration as well. This is not a one-size-fits-all model, and these writers stress that each state’s requirements be examined carefully, and the appropriate licenses must be obtained.

Getting Covered: How Cover Crops Can Work to Protect Vineyards

a field of flowers in and around a vineyard

By: Cheryl Gray

Knowing how to protect a vineyard from the havoc wreaked by unknown threats is an important part of any grape grower’s toolkit.

  One of those tools is a cover crop. Many experts agree that cover crops play a vital role in guarding vineyards because they have a major impact on vine health and the ecosystem that surrounds vineyards.

  According to researchers at Texas A&M University, growing a cover crop can help reduce the use of chemicals that can adversely affect the environment. Cover crops can also reduce the physical toll on a vineyard that comes with frequent use of heavy equipment on the precious vineyard soil upon which grape plants depend. 

  Scientists at Oregon State University cite three main goals of what cover crops should accomplish when it comes to managing vineyard floors between the vines, in the headlands, around vineyard blocks and in the vine rows. Those goals are weed control, soil conservation and managing soil water. Vineyard design, age of the vines, soil type and grape-growing region all contribute to the process.

  By definition, cover crops are any plants grown in vineyard middles and sometimes under vines. They are non-cash crops and are not harvested. Generally, cover crops are planted each year in the fall and spring. They are maintained on a perennial basis. Scientists advise that using cover crops requires a thoughtful approach to reap the benefits of this organic tool.

  According to the United States Department of Agriculture, many types of cover crops are recommended specifically for vineyards. These recommendations come on the heels of field studies compiled by the USDA and its research partners.

  The list includes grasses and cereals, such as barley, annual rye grass, winter cereal rye and winter wheat. The choices for cover crops also include legumes, such as fava beans, garbanzo beans, crimson clover, hairy vetch and Austrian winter pea. There are also brassicas and cruciferous vegetables that include mustard, rape, forage radish and oilseed radish.

  Annual plants are the most frequent pick for vineyards. A major reason annual plants are chosen over perennials is to allow the cover crops an opportunity to grow and to provide seasonal soil conservation during winter. In the summer, the cover crop is tilled over, another benefit to the vineyard soil.

  Cover crops are rated according to their ability to provide either slow or fast carbon. How they produce nitrogen is also key. Cover crops that are rich in substances such as cellulose and lignin are defined as so-called slow carbon sources. Fast carbon options include grasses and brassicas that contain easily biodegradable sugars. Legumes are cover crops that provide a good source of nitrogen.

  Agriculture experts recommend using a cover crop strategy that creates a balanced mix of slow and fast carbon-producing plants and those that generate nitrogen. In this way, microorganisms can successfully degrade organic matter without choking off vital nitrogen that vineyard soil needs. The so-called “combo” meal of legume and grass provides the ideal blend because the two complement each other, providing fibrous and tsp root systems while also kicking in nitrogen for the vines.   However, in cases where a single plant species has a proven track record, experts say go with it, but keep in mind that single species plantings need to be rotated in order to fight potential buildup of insects, bacteria, viruses, fungi and other pathogens that can harm vineyard plants.

  There are other benefits to using cover crops. In addition to improving soil structure, they also help with water infiltration with their roots. Some of those roots can loosen soil up to five feet, reducing soil compaction and improving the penetration of water and air. Cover crops improve mineral fertility by helping the soil to better retain important minerals that vineyard plants need, including acting as a guard against minerals leaching. Cover crops can store vital minerals during winter months. They also provide aesthetic value to vineyards and traction for equipment and workers.

  Another benefit that cover crops provide is that as they grow, they work to improve the biological activity and organic matter in vineyard soil. Once their leaves and other plant materials begin to decompose, they kick-start the benefits of this organic process by boosting organic matter within the vineyard soil. 

  Erosion and runoff are enemies of vineyards. Cover crops combat these problems by preventing the damage that rain can cause when it dislodges soil. They help block the growth of weeds by preventing them from germinating in the first place. They also provide a welcome habitat for vineyard-friendly insects and predators. 

  Nematodes are also harmful to vineyards. Among the worst of these parasites are root-knot nematodes that stay in one place on the plant and lesion nematodes that travel around. Cover crops can help curb some of this threat.

  Cover crops also influence the growth of grapevines by forcing them to compete for water and nutrients in the soil. The additional nitrogen provided by cover crops also promotes the growth process.

  Managing cover crops is a process that begins with making sure that the soil is properly cultivated for good germination. Many growers opt for using a shallow tiller to get the job done. Moistening and leveling the soil follows. Then comes the seeding, which is done according to the climate of each grape-growing region. Experts say that a no-till drilling method for seeding cover crops helps conserve the texture of the soil, provides uniformity in placing seeds and helps better establish the cover crop in the vineyard. After seeding, the seed bed soil should be lightly packed with proper irrigation setup to promote germination and establish the cover crop.

  Cover crops need to be fertilized. Grasses and brassicas might need additional nitrogen for optimal growth. However, experts warn that this is where caution should be exercised because legume and grass mixtures promote increased nitrogen, which could result in too much nitrogen, resulting in too much of a good thing. Soil tests will likely be required to check the impact of any cover crops in play.

  While the benefits are many, there are drawbacks to using cover crops. Their presence may increase water use, create a frost hazard and may result in competition with the vineyard plants for soil moisture and vital nutrients. Pest problems can also result when a cover crop isn’t kept at a reasonable height. Finally, there is the chance that the use of cover crops might result increased management and cost.

  To combat the frost issue, many growers opt to mow down their cover crops in early spring, essentially using what is left for frost protection. Those cover crops are then allowed to pick up growth again before finally going to seed. Once the seed matures, the cover crop is mowed and either left on the surface or mixed into the soil with a shallow tiller.

  There is a wide range of research available documenting the results of cover crop use throughout the grape-growing regions of the United States and beyond. In addition to the USDA, many colleges and universities with curriculums that focus on viticulture have useful resources for grape growers in their regional areas. Much of the research is performed in the field through partnerships with vineyards that not only want information but are willing to share it for the benefit of other grape growers who want to know more about the pros and cons of cover crops.

Will Crop Insurance Cover Losses to My Vines?

man on cell phone inspecting grapes in vineyard

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

Does crop insurance cover losses to my vines? What can I do about vine loss or damage?  Half of my vineyard got burned due to wildfires.  I have major freeze damage on half my vineyard.  What can you do?  Crop insurance only covers losses to your grape crop not your vines.  Is there any vine coverage or assistance for that?

  Yes there is! I get a lot of questions on this so thought to address it in this article.

  Grapevine crop insurance coverage is available for the 2025 crop year. The sign-up deadline is November 1st in all states where it is available.

  The states where you can obtain this coverage are: California, Idaho, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington.  It is not available in all counties though.  The counties that are listed in the actuarial documents are not the same as the Grape crop insurance program.  This  program is available for grafted grapevines only.

  What is covered with this insurance product?  The Causes of Loss that are listed in the Grapevine Crop Provisions are below:

11. Causes of Loss

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

(1) Freeze;

(2) Hail;

(3) Flood;

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

(5) Insects, diseases, and other pathogens if allowed in the Special Provisions; and

(6) Failure of the irrigation water supply if caused by an unavoidable, naturally occurring event that occurs during the insurance period.

(b) In addition to the causes of loss excluded in section 12 of the Basic Provisions, we will not insure against damage other than actual damage to the vine from an insurable cause specified in this section

  The vine needs to be completely destroyed, or is damaged to the extent that it will not recover in the 12-month insurance period from November 30th.

  Any damage other than damage to the grapevine from an insured cause is not covered.  For example, chemical drift, terrorism etc. are not covered.  Failure to follow good farming practices or the breakdown of irrigation equipment are also not covered.

  For the grapevines to be insurable they must be adapted to the area they are being grown in.  They must be being grown and sold for fruit, wine or juice for human consumption.  The vines must be grafted to be insurable as well.  The Crop Year begins December 1 and extends through to November 30 of the following year. You must have a minimum of 600 vines per acre to be insurable also.

  Vines are classified into 3 stages of growth for the policy.  Here are the exact definitions:

(a) Stage I, from when the vines are set out through 12 months after set out;

(b) Stage II, vines that are 13 through 48 months old after set out; and

(c) Stage III, vines that are more than 48 months old after set out.

  Values are determined by the Stage (age) of the vine and the county they are located in.  Obviously Stage III vines are worth more than Stage I vines.  These prices are set by the USDA Risk Management Agency.

  You can choose coverage levels for your Grapevine insurance from CAT (Catastrophic) to 75%.  CAT insurance is 50% coverage but you only get 55% of that 50% value per vine. Coverage increments are 5%, so you have 50%, 55%, 60%, 65%, 70% and 75%.   There is a sort of a double deductible with Grapevine insurance.  You have a damage deductible and a value/price deductible.  For example, if you choose 75% coverage you would have a 25% damage deductible.  That means that the first 25% of damage is not payable.  So, if you had 30% of your vines killed because of a freeze you would have a payable claim of 5% (30% minus 25% deductible).  There is also a value deductible as well. Again, if you have 75% coverage you would have a grapevine value deductible of 25%. For example, if the grapevine is Stage III in California in Napa County it would be worth $39.  At the 75% coverage level the dollar amount for that vine would be $29.25.

  There is an optional endorsement that changes the damage deductible.  This endorsement does cost a little more but is worth it, in my opinion.  This is called the Occurrence Loss Option or OLO for short.  It changes the damage deductible to a 5% damage trigger.  If your loss is 5% or more of the total value of the vines in a unit you would have a payable loss.  Plus, you are paid on the full value percentage of the loss.  So, if you had a 30% loss, you would get paid on the full 30%.  This does not change the value percentage of the coverage level, if you choose 50% you get that amount.  You cannot exceed the total insured value, Liability, of the vines in any case. 

  Once you sign up and complete all the forms with your agent, they are then submitted to the underwriter.  The underwriter will open an inspection and an adjuster will come and take a look at your vineyard.  The adjuster will determine if the grapevines in your vineyard are insurable.  The vines could be uninsurable for any of the following reasons.  The vines are unsound, diseased or in someway unhealthy.  They could have been grafted within a 12-month period before the beginning of the insurance period. Or they could have been damaged prior to the beginning of the insurance period.  Once the adjuster has completed the inspection, it is sent to the underwriter and then on to the USDA Risk Management Agency for final approval. 

  If you have damage from an insured Cause of Loss, you should contact your agent to get a claim opened.  It is always best to get a claim opened up sooner rather than later.  48 – 72 hours after discovering damage is best.  I know that a lot of growers want to wait and see how much damage there is before they do anything.  It is always better to get a claim opened up rather than wait and see.  If there is not enough damage, then you just let the adjuster know.  After you open up a claim an adjuster should be out within 10 days to inspect the vineyard.  Do not remove any damaged vines until it has been inspected!   In my opinion this is a good program, and it will provide protection to vineyards.  It will help to mitigate losses from Freeze, Hail, Flood, Fire et

The Growth of Baco Noir Grapes in Oregon’s Umpqua Valley

clusters of Baco Noir grapes

By: Becky Garrison

The origins of Baco Noir grapes can be traced back to the 1890s when phylloxera decimated Europe’s vineyards by eating away at the roots of the vines. As these native grapes (Vitas vinifera) possessed no inborn resistance to this microscopic louse, they began dying.

  Conversely, grapevines planted in North America proved to be resistant to phylloxera. So, researchers began to experiment with cross-pollinating American grape varieties with European Vitas vinifera to see if they could produce phylloxera-resistant vines that would grow in Europe.

  These experiments bore fruit in 1902 when botanist François Baco (1865-1947) released a hybrid grapevine called Baco 1 (also called Baco Noir) that he produced by crossing a Folle Blanche, a French white grape used for brandies from the districts Armagnac and Cognac, with a Vitis riparia species indigenous to North America. The result was an early budding grape with small- to medium-size bunches producing high yields that were low in tannin and high in acid. This early budding made the grapes susceptible to spring frosts and resistant to powdery and downy mildews. Also, these grapes did not have the foxy characteristics that many other 50 percent of vinifera hybrids express.

  In The Wine Bible, Karen McNeil notes how this grape was cultivated in Burgundy and the Loire Valley until France officially barred all hybrids from being grown in French vineyards. Since this grape was not included in the French register of authorized varieties, its area diminished to just 28 acres, as reported in 2008 by Jancis Robinson. However, this French-American hybrid was transported to North America in the 1950s, when it became popular in cooler climates where traditional vinifera varieties tend not to thrive. Among the more popular regions where one Baco Noir is grown include Upstate New York, Michigan, Oregon, Colorado, Ontario, Canada New York State, Canada, the Midwest and more recently, Oregon, with a particular focus on the state’s Umpqua Valley.

The Birth of Baco Noir in the Umpqua Valley

  According to winemaker Marc Girardet, in 1969, his parents, Philippe and Bonnie Girardet, took off in their VW bus from Northern California, heading northward in search of a place where they could live off the land and raise a family. Upon discovering Oregon’s Umpqua Valley, they purchased 54 acres of old sheep pasture and built a cabin.

  Over a bottle of wine in 1971, this Swissman-turned-Oregonian and his wife decided it would be fun to plant a vineyard. As there wasn’t much vineyard rootstock available in Oregon, they decided to search far and wide. Somehow, they made connections on the East Coast and discovered the Geneva, New York experimental hybrid grapes, along with the French-developed hybrid grapes such as Baco Noir and Marechal Foch.

  Philippe quickly seized onto these hybrid grapes because they could be grown naturally without the need for mildew or mold sprays. After a few road trips back east, they returned with a plethora of hybrid grapes, which would quickly become the largest collection of their kind on the West Coast. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, they grew these grapes in the family vineyard, along with some wild varieties like Landot Noir, DeChaunac and Chancellor.

  Initially, these varieties were mostly blended until 1990 when Philippe noticed Baco Noir grapes had more of a spicy, juicy, yet smooth flavor that stood out above the other hybrid grapes. So, he bottled this grape on its own. Marc recalls helping him sell the first bottles at several wine festivals in the mid-1990s. As he recounts, “The sales pitch was half  ‘Hey, look at this cool wine we made with grapes that aren’t sprayed with any chemicals’ and half ‘try this great wine, and see how amazing it tastes!'”

Baco Noir Grapes Pioneering Natural Wine Movement

  In Marc’s estimation, his father was quite a bit ahead of the curve with the natural wine angle because it didn’t really seem like anyone was aware or cared about natural wine back then. “This wine became a sensation based more on its smooth flavor profile than anything else,” he reflects.

  From the beginning, they chose to farm naturally without any pesticides and using locally sourced horse manure compost. They also chose to practice dry farming, as that practice maintains a small berry size while developing a deep root system. Post-harvest, the grapes are hand-sorted and then de-stemmed into open-topped vats. Next, Girardet hand-punches the grapes to produce a wine that is lightly pressed and racked to barrel for aging.

  The fruits of their labor can be seen in their 2007 Girardet Baco Noir, a vintage recognized by Matt Kramer in The Oregonian as one of Oregon’s best wines (May 31, 2009). He described Girardet Baco Noir ‘Southern Oregon’ 2007 as “a superb red wine: supple, smooth-textured, and with an uncommon refinement that makes it ideal for all sorts of red meats, salami or even just a good liverwurst sandwich.” Following this review, Girdet’s Baco Noirs continue to sell out.

  In Marc’s estimation, “There may be increased interest in Baco Noir (and some other hybrid grapes) because there is more awareness of the dangers of pesticides that traditional vinifera grapes are usually sprayed with. So maybe current knowledge has finally caught up with where Dad was in the 1990s.”

Growth of Baco Noir in Umpqua Valley

  Tyler Bradley, winemaker at Bradley Vineyards in Elkton, credits Philippe for the growing interest in Baco Noir in the Umpqua Valley. Phillip convinced Bradley’s father to plant these grapevines, citing this region’s cold climate as an ideal location to produce these bold reds. So, his father planted one acre, proving Philippe’s prediction was on target. Also, this grape proved very easy to grow once the vines were established, as it requires very little to thrive aside from some basic nutrients.

  Typically, Baco Noir grapes do not express the distinctive foxy aromas and flavors of other Vitis riparia varieties. Instead, they possess rich fruit tones, such as blueberry and plum. That said, Marc opines that even Baco Noir tends to be a little foxy. “This comes from the Vitis riparia in the genetics but is also the reason it is naturally mildew resistant. The foxiness can be appropriately minimized if the vines are grown on sunny, dry site that controls the vigor and if the wine is aged on some good oak for long enough.”

  Baco Noir tends to be constantly a few brix higher than Pinot Noir, a difference Bradley views as crucial to achieving the jamminess his customers prefer. As wine’s acidity remains very high until about 26-27 brix, this wine needs yeast with high alcohol tolerance to ferment to dry.

  Following Girardet and Bradley’s success with Baco Noir, Mike Landt of River’s Edge Winery in Elkton released a 2013 River’s Edge Baco Noir. The grapes for this wine came from the block of River’s Edge Baco Noir, which used to be a horse pasture and contained soil rich in nitrogen. This resulted in more vigorous vines that produced wines with more meaty and savory qualities.

  During this time, Melrose Vineyards (Roseburg, Oregon) began producing Baco Noir and was the first to explore making a fortified wine using the Baco Noir grape. Select winemakers also produce a Baco Noir rosé and use it in creating full-bodied red blends.

  Also, Stephen Williams, owner of Trella Vineyards (Roseburg, Oregon), paired Giradet’s Baco Noir with pizza for many years before he made Trella’s 2022 Pugilist Baco Noir using fruit sourced from two vineyards located in Elkton: Anindor and Elk Valley. He chose the term “pugilist” as it is a dated word for a fighter in a boxing match, which speaks to how Baco Noir is a “punchy” red wine. In addition to pizza, Baco Noir pairs very well with barbecued meats and other hearty fare.

Innovations and Trends in Winery Caps, Corks and Closures

cork person helping another cork person off a cork screw

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

Sealing up a bottle of wine with a cork or cap is one of the last things a wine producer does to prepare a finished product for consumers to enjoy. However, caps, corks and other types of closures should be much more than a final afterthought.

  The closure you choose for your wine preserves your precious creation and adds a sense of familiarity and distinction to your brand. The right closures prevent spoilage and oxidation, contribute to the desired aging process and enhance the design of your label. Even wineries that have been using the same closures since their first harvests may be interested to learn about innovations and trends in this industry, as well as sustainability initiatives that complement an eco-minded approach to winemaking.

  Here’s an update on what’s happening in the wine cap, cork, and closure industry to inspire your next bottling process.

Types of Wine Closures

  Natural cork is the most common and traditional type of wine closure, which gives bottles a classic and elegant look while adding subtle flavors to aging wine. Synthetic cork looks like natural cork but is made from plastic, which poses little or no risk of a potentially undesirable corky smell from trichloroanisole (TCA). Champagne and sparkling wine corks have elastic discs at the bottom and a mushroom shape. Agglomerate corks are made with granulates from natural cork production and can store wine for short periods of time in an affordable way. Meanwhile, capped corks combine natural and plastic materials to allow for the best of both worlds – limited oxygen interaction with the wine and an effective seal.

  Aside from corks, many wineries use caps to seal their wine bottles. Screw caps allow for easy opening and resealing while eliminating the risk of cork taint. You’ll often find wine bottles sealed with crown caps that are similar to the ones used on beer bottles. Crown caps are best for early consumption and most common with sparkling wines.

  A zork is a plastic, resealable wine closure with a top that peels off. It provides unique access to the wine and a good seal, but it’s best for wines that will be consumed promptly. A helix is a twist-off closure made from glass, offering a sense of elegance to premium wines. The company Vinolok offers glass closures with an original all-glass version, a duet of glass and wood, and collections of glass closures that come in creative, modern and playful shapes. Wine bottles can also be sealed with hermetic corks with a hinge and silicon enclosure. Hermetic corks are reusable and most commonly used after a bottle is opened so the remainder can be saved for later consumption.

Innovations in Wine Closures

  While screw caps used to be generally frowned upon in the upscale wine industry, they have been gaining popularity as viable alternatives to traditional cork. Screw caps provide reliable seals and consistent wine quality, and they do not present the risk of cork taint. Producers are getting creative with their screw caps by using attractive colors, designs and company logos.

  Similarly, significant improvements have recently been made in synthetic wine corks to help them more closely mimic the look and feel of natural corks. However, compared to natural cork, synthetic materials often allow for more consistent oxygen control and reduce the risk of wine tasting like the cardboard, wet newspaper, mold, or earthiness associated with cork taint. Although cork taint only affects a small percentage of bottles closed with natural cork, it is still a major concern in the industry.

  Another innovation in the industry is using nitrogen or argon gas preservation systems to help bottles stay fresh after opening. This innovation complements good wine closures to ensure freshness. Wineries can extend the life of bottles opened in their tasting rooms, and consumers can use them at home so they don’t feel obligated to finish entire bottles. You can now buy single-can, private wine preservers that deliver about 120 uses for about $10 to $20. The spray cans use inert nitrogen, argon and carbon dioxide to displace the oxygen that ruins wines to protect the freshness and flavor for days, months or even years.

Green Initiatives for Sustainability 

  However, some of the most exciting developments in wine closures make bottles eco-friendlier and more attractive to sustainability-minded consumers. One company, Vinventions, has been in business since 1999 and leads the way in innovative bottle closures. All Vinventions closures are manufactured with sustainability in mind and to help winemakers maintain control over the oxygen ingress after bottling.

  The company’s Green Line offers the first-ever certified zero-carbon footprint closure, with fully recyclable materials derived from sugarcane-based products. Its Blue Line products are recyclable and made with 50 percent raw materials from plastic recycling. Vinventions’ SÜBR closure is a polyurethane-free and taint-free micro-natural closure, and its Vintop screwcaps have multi-feature designs and liners for premium wines.

  Wineries may request samples of the closures on the Vinventions website to test them for their wines. The company aims to ensure that all of its closures are 100 percent recyclable, renewable or biodegradable by 2030, and it continues to invest in research and technology to improve product performance in the wine, spirits and olive oil industries.

Pros and Cons of Caps, Corks and Closures

  To help you make the best decision for your winery, here are the pros and cons of the most popular closure types to discuss with your team:

Natural Cork

Pros: • Adds subtle flavors to wine

• Recyclable, renewable and biodegradable

• Best for aging up to 10 to 25 years

• Traditional, ceremonial and romantic

Cons: • The potential of cork taint

• Variation in the consistency of corks

• Often cost more than screw caps

Synthetic Cork

Pros: • No cork taint risk like natural cork

• Durable with quality that has been improving recently.

• Affordable and cost-effective

Cons: • Public perception of them being for low-quality wines.

• Wine should be consumed within the first couple of years.

• Generally less effective seal than natural cork.

Composite Corks

Pros: • Consistent quality so the wine doesn’t taste moldy or musty.

• Adds elegance to high-end wines

• Cost-effective and affordable

• Made from renewable resources

Cons: • Costly for producers

• Not ideal for long-term aging

• Prone to breaking and crumbling

Screw Caps

Pros: • No risk of cork taint

• Easy opening and resealing

Cons: • It is not ideal for aging wine

• Best for early consumption

Crown Caps

Pros: • Easy to open

• Consistent and reliable seal

• Great for freshness and wine quality

Cons: • An unexpected closure among consumers

• Not ideal for all types of wine

• Limited aging potential

Glass Stoppers

Pros: • Attractive for luxury wines

• Distinguish your brand from competitors

• Reusable with an excellent seal

Cons: • More expensive than traditional closures

• It can be difficult to open

• It can allow in too much oxygen, damaging wine.

Zorks

Pros: • Easy and convenient to open

• Elegant appearance

• Becomes a reusable tasting cork once opened.

Cons: • Not ideal for long-term aging

   • It fits most, but not all, standard wine bottles.

   • More expensive than other closures

Industry Trends to Consider

  With all these variations, innovations and sustainability initiatives in mind, you might wonder how most wineries are handling their closures these days.

  There is a growing interest in sustainability initiatives and eco-friendly closures that don’t deplete the Earth’s resources or end up in landfills. This trend is perhaps the most notable in the industry right now. Wineries are showing their preferences for biodegradable corks and traditional cork alternatives in their packaging solutions. Cork technology is also being developed to ensure excellent wine preservation capabilities and sealing efficiency.

  Wineries are also becoming more creative and open-minded about their closures as closure manufacturers develop new ideas. Now is a great time to explore the aesthetic appeal of wine closures that go beyond purely functional purposes to stand out among the competition and attract new consumers. There is a growing demand for premium wines, which is where glass and other alternative closures can emerge and make a real impact.

  In the Wine Bottle Closures Market report for 2024-2031, researchers found that the global wine bottle closures market was worth $3,885.36 million in 2022 and will likely reach $5,459.4 million in 2028. Major manufacturers in this industry are Vinventions, Inspiral, Astro, Waterloo Container Company, Cork Supply and Orora. Other industry leaders to watch include Amorim, Interpack, Labrenta, Precision Elite, AMCOR, Federfin Tech, DIAM, MASilva, Guala Closures Group and Bericap.

  The market is growing steadily, with cork, screwcap and plastic closures most prevalent. It has bounced back since the COVID-19 pandemic and has seen rising demand levels and more interest in experimentation and innovation. Geography also plays a role in wine closure preferences, with traditional corks still dominating Europe, where traditions run strong, yet there is more variance in other parts of the world.

  Will this be the year your winery switches up your bottle closures and tries something new? The leading industry players mentioned above might be worth contacting and exploring further to see if their latest products and closure strategies could fit within your current operations and future winemaking goals.

The Refined Palette of Investment

Exploring Wine as a Strategic Asset

wine bottle laying on blue silk

By: Shana Orczyk Sissel – Founder, President & Chief Executive Officer of Banríon Capital Management

In a time period marked by the unpredictable swings of traditional markets, many investors are turning their attention to more tangible assets that provide not only financial returns but also offer a personal and luxurious experience. Among these alternatives, fine wine is becoming increasingly appealing. As a long-time observer and participant in the alternative investment space, I have seen a significant uptick in wine investment interest, particularly among investors aiming to diversify their portfolios while adding a uniquely personal touch.

Why Wine?

  The appeal of investing in wine is layered and robust. Historically, fine wine has shown remarkable resilience in the face of economic downturns, often outperforming traditional stocks and bonds during inflation and market instability. This resilience is largely due to wine’s status as a luxury item, with its value driven by limited supply and increasing global demand. The finite production of certain vintage wines means that as bottles are consumed, the remaining ones become rarer and potentially more valuable. This positions wine not just as a hedge against inflation but as a compelling means for capital preservation.

Wine Fundamentals for Investors

  For those new to wine investing, understanding the fundamentals is crucial. Key factors to consider include the reputation of the vineyard, the quality and rarity of the vintage, and proper storage conditions to preserve the wine’s value. Investing in wine requires a strategy for buying, storing, and eventually selling:

●     Selection: Focus on well-known regions like Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Napa Valley, which historically produce wines that appreciate in value.

●     Storage: Proper storage is critical and should be in a climate-controlled environment to protect the wine’s quality and longevity.

●     Insurance: Like any valuable asset, wine collections should be insured, especially as their market value increases.

●     Exit Strategy: Knowing when and how to sell is as important as knowing what to buy. Most fine wines reach a peak market value at a certain point of maturity.

Personalization at Its Best

  Investing in wine is a deeply personal experience. Each bottle has its own story, tied to its origin, vintage, and the subtleties of its taste. This personal dimension allows financial advisors to engage with their clients on a deeper level. Offering wine as dividends, for instance, instead of traditional cash payouts, forges a more meaningful connection between investors and their investments. Imagine the moment of pride an investor feels when uncorking a bottle from “their” vineyard’s wine while entertaining at home.

Strengthening Relationships

  For advisors, the wine industry offers a distinctive way to deepen client relationships. Discussing wines, sharing tastings, and exploring vineyards can be powerful relationship-building experiences. These interactions allow advisors to connect with clients in settings that extend beyond conventional business environments, fostering a sense of camaraderie and shared interest.

  In the same vein, effectively marketing a vineyard or winery to financial advisors can enhance these relationships further. Invite advisors to your property for tours, tastings, and in-depth discussions about your production process and business philosophy. When advisors are familiar with a vineyard’s story, its commitment to quality, and its unique offerings, they are better positioned to recommend these investments confidently to their clients.

Diversification Through Wine

  Wine offers substantial diversification benefits. Its low correlation with conventional financial assets like stocks and bonds means it can help smooth out portfolio volatility, providing steadier returns over time. Incorporating wine into an investment portfolio can act as a buffer against market swings, appealing to those seeking more stability in their investment journey.

Avenues for Investing in Wine

  There are several options when it comes to investing in wine, each offering unique benefits and risks. Direct ownership of bottles or cases is the most traditional method, providing control over selection and requiring knowledge of wine regions and proper storage. Alternatively, wine funds offer ease through professional management, though they lack liquidity and involve fees. Those preferring a more traditional market approach might consider wine stocks, which involve investing in publicly traded companies related to the wine industry. Wine futures, or “en primeur,” allow investors to buy wine before it is bottled, potentially at lower prices, but this comes with its own set of risks related to market and production quality.

  Emerging trends like wine exchange platforms and crowdfunding are modernizing wine investment. Exchange platforms provide transparency and liquidity, enabling the trading of wine much like stocks. Crowdfunding platforms let investors buy shares in vineyards or wine projects, reducing the barrier to entry and allowing participation in potential profits from wine production without substantial upfront investment. We work closely with advisors to help them tailor and better understand the investment options that work best for individual clients.

Seizing Opportunities in the Regulatory Landscape

  Recent shifts in regulatory frameworks have opened new avenues for winemakers and investors. With the ability to raise capital from the public more freely than before, vineyards and wineries can now explore new ways of funding their operations and expansions. However, despite the high demand, there are surprisingly few wine funds available, offering a niche yet potentially lucrative investment opportunity. A thorough understanding of the market and regulatory environment will ensure investors can identify and capitalize on the best offerings.

Targeting a Broader Investor Base

  The demographic of wine investors is expanding, with women in particular drawn to the combination of cultural appreciation, luxury, and investment potential that fine wine offers. Wineries have a significant opportunity to cater to this demographic, especially at tastings, which predominantly attract couples and women. Additionally, social media has introduced new marketing channels that are not only more cost-effective compared to traditional advertising channels like television, but also resonate strongly with the female market. Influencers can provide a personal touch and create authentic connections with products, while “mom memes” underscore wine’s cultural integration.

Global Market Trends

  The global wine market is experiencing significant shifts, influenced by changing consumer behaviors and economic conditions. According to Spherical Insights, the global wine market size is projected to reach $583 billion by 2032 with a compound annual growth rate of 5.7%. Emerging markets, especially in Asia and parts of Africa, are developing a robust appetite for luxury wines driven by increasing wealth and a growing middle class. As a result, demand is likely to keep rising, potentially pushing prices higher in well-established and emerging wine markets alike.

  In Europe and North America, consumption patterns are stabilizing, but the interest in high-quality, sustainable, and boutique wines is growing. This shift towards premium products supports higher price points and can enhance investment returns.

The Future of Wine Investing

  The future looks promising for the wine sector. As awareness of its benefits grows, more investors are likely to explore how wine can complement their portfolios. For newcomers, starting with a reputable wine fund can provide a secure and enlightening entry into the market, combining financial benefits with the pleasure of ownership.

The Last Sip

  Wine investing extends beyond simple asset acquisition; it’s about embracing a lifestyle and crafting a portfolio that mirrors personal tastes and passions. For those eager to incorporate sophistication and personalization into their investment strategy, wine offers an enticing path. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or new to the world of wine, the right investment strategy can transform every sip into not just a taste of exquisite craftsmanship but also a toast to financial prosperity.

As Founder, President & Chief Executive Officer of Banríon Capital Management Shana Orczyk Sissel helps independent advisors navigate the complex world of alternative investing, bridging the gap between public and private alternative investment opportunities. Additionally, she assists clients with investment platform development, alternatives in portfolio construction and developing best practice in alternative investment due diligence. In this role, Ms. Sissel assisted in the launch of Armada ETF Advisors, and served as a key advisor in the firm’s recent launch of its first ETF product, the Home Appreciation U.S. REIT ETF (HAUS).