Software for Wineries: Time-saving Technology Lifts Wineries to Higher Levels of Productivity

Credit: Vintrace

By: Cheryl Gray

Software applications are helping wineries worldwide manage day-to-day operations from vineyard to table, including that often elusive commodity: time. From tracking product inventory to monitoring grapes’ ripeness, time-saving winery software choices are available for virtually every business need. The question of what applications are on the market is immediately followed by where to find it.

  Process2Wine:  Leave it to the south of France to provide an answer by way of Process2Wine, a cloud-based SaaS vineyard and winery production management platform for desktop and mobile devices, developed by Ertus Group in Bordeaux, France. Created by a team of technicians, winemakers and oenologists, Process2Wine has been in use in wine regions of France, including Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and Languedoc, since 2013. To expand into the United States, Ertus Group acquired Wine Management Systems in 2018. Clement Chivite, an experienced winemaker turned business manager in California, spearheaded the adaptation of Process2Wine to fit the U.S. and Canadian markets.

  “With Process2Wine, you can record all operations from vine to bottle. The software helps winemakers and growers manage record keeping and allows them to monitor their production by creating reporting at every stage of the winemaking process. Comparing procedures, inputs, analyses and costs year-over-year helps viticulturists and winemakers make the right decisions and find efficiencies based on accurate data. Plus, it saves so much time to be able to generate a 5140 report or a pesticide use report at the click of a button.

  “The software is continuously being updated. Our R&D aims to help the industry respond to new challenges, such as climate change, using the internet of things and precision agriculture.”

  Process2Wine customer assistance includes training sessions, online support and direct contact with client account managers.

  Vintrace:  Arriving from Australia to the U.S. in 2008, vintrace is a cloud-based global competitor, serving wineries of all sizes in North and South America, Europe, New Zealand and its native Australia.  Heather Crawford, general manager for the company’s North American division, told The Grapevine Magazine why the word “trace” is part of the company’s name.

  “Starting in the vineyard with assessments for harvest planning, creating bookings, writing work orders for grape processing, labs and all movements, ending with the final packaging and tracking of inventory, vintrace enables every part of the winery. With accurate, real-time information, time is saved at critical moments, like harvest, and fewer mistakes are made as all tanks, all vessels and all wines are tracked.”

  Crawford added that using vintrace’s application programming interface makes it possible for clients to expand the software’s productivity.

“Increasingly, we are seeing wineries extract production information from vintrace to put alongside other data, such as planning and forecasting, in tools like Microsoft Power BI, to better measure their operations. Using vintrace APIs makes this completely self-service.”

  Clients have access to either self-help or hands-on technical support from the vintrace team. Crawford said the application increases scanning capabilities and is available on Android and iOS for mobile connectivity.

  TeraVina:  Oztera, based in Pleasanton, California, partnered with Microsoft to offer TeraVina, a winery software application built on the Microsoft Dynamics Business Central (NAV) platform. Oztera provides both cloud-based and computer-installed winery software. Michael Stallman is the company’s director of business development.

  “We took the base functionality and underlying technology from Microsoft and extended that solution to provide winery specific functionality. We were fortunate to work with some very prestigious wineries and seasoned industry veterans to really focus on winery requirements and automating common tasks. We continue to grow our solution to meet the needs of all our clients and push the buck on technology. It is important to note that we can move more quickly with changing technology trends because we have Microsoft behind us. We can extend their technologies to keep up with the larger market and not bootstrap wineries to specific technologies.”

  Oztera can also apply its toolset to integrate with external systems, allowing wineries to keep existing functions they like and improve the output of others, even if that application is an Oztera competitor.

  “A good example is a recent integration with Winemaker’s Database. We encountered a scenario where the winemaking team really liked where they were at with their winemaking systems, but the rest of the business needed help. While on the surface, WMDB is a competitor of ours, we were willing to work with them and provide a solution that helped our client achieve their goals.  We delivered a system that provided them with the gains they needed on other fronts while building a bridge to WMDB, making that part of their business more streamlined. “

  VinNOW:  Another choice for wineries with small budgets looking for big package solutions is VinNOW, the brainchild of Ted Starr. A software engineer, Starr put his 40 years in the industry to work by creating a software system that he said can handle just about anything. 

  “VinNOW was created in 1999 as a custom program for wineries with a need: telesales, customer records, inventory tracking, order discounting and invoicing. It has been growing ever since to include point of sale, robust wine club processing, QuickBooks integration, compliance and shipping integrations with multiple vendors, comprehensive reporting and time cards, to name a few. “

  Starr and his wife, Deanna, an experienced winemaker, use VinNOW in their Milano Family Winery, based in Hopland, California. He explained to The Grapevine Magazine how the software helps to save time. 

  “We utilize our integration with ShipCompliant to collect and submit various states’ compliance reporting for sales tax and excise taxes, saving countless valuable hours of time. Our extensive reporting capabilities allow us to get the information needed to complete various reporting requirements such as sales tax, wine sales by alcohol level, and shipments, inside and outside of our state. 

  In addition, we use our VinTracker bulk wine and custom crush billing module to track the wine’s containers, volume and work performed, as well as generating work orders for current work to be completed.”

  Starr said that VinNOW offers an alternative to cloud-based software systems, which can be a problem for wineries with poor internet connections.

  “As many wineries are in areas which experience this, that is a major challenge.  On a busy day, if you can’t use the solution, you lose sales. Using software that is on your computer ensures you are in charge of your data – it is located at your site. With cloud-based systems, if your internet is down or slows, it will hinder your ability to sell your products.”

  Starr added that product installation and data maintenance are intuitive and VinNow also comes with free unlimited live support and training. New features and functions are added continuously, including some adaptations to accommodate the demands that COVID-19 restrictions have placed upon wineries.

  “We have redesigned our point of sale to facilitate the sales process. We are also able to process credit card transactions away from the winery or tasting room.”

  InnoVint:  Ashley Leonard started her career as a winemaker nearly a decade ago.  Frustrated by winery software that didn’t quite fit her needs, Leonard founded InnoVint, a cloud-based, mobile software solution managing all aspects of the winery. Backed by a team of experienced winemakers and modern software engineers, Leonard said her company is the first to bring mobile-driven software to the wine industry.

  “The software goes beyond activity tracking as a digital workflow productivity tool, uniting winery teams both within production and with other departments such as finance and compliance. Daily activity is recorded in real-time, whether in the vineyard, the lab, the cellar or on-the-go. Production integrates seamlessly with compliance and costing, so the winery has confidence that their entire operation is running smoothly.”

  Leonard said that InnoVint puts the winery back in charge of time management, taking the head-scratching out of technology use.

  “Winemakers are not software gurus. They shouldn’t have to waste their time figuring out clunky, legacy databases to fit their unique processes. They deserve purpose-built software that caters directly to their specific vineyard and winery activities. InnoVint is designed by a team of winemakers with 75 harvests under our belt, and it shows in how catered our solution is for them.

  Whether the winery is a small boutique producer, large custom crush operator or bulk wine supplier, we save them hours of time per week by reducing communication friction, bringing relevant winemaking data to the surface and uniting production with the other departments at the winery through a single pane of glass.”

Pest & Disease Control:

Industry Specialists Help Vineyards Protect Their Most Valuable Commodities 

By: Cheryl Gray

In “The Wizard Of Oz,” Dorothy and her friends were afraid of lions and tigers and bears. For vineyards, danger lurks behind mealybug and nematodes and fungi. Oh my.

Insect pests and diseases can wreak havoc on vineyards, often causing irreparable and costly damage, destroying fruit, vines, even trunks – down to the root. That is why experts in managing these risk factors brandish prevention as their weapon of choice.

Atlas Vineyard Management

One such company is Atlas Vineyard Management, a Napa Valley, California, company founded in 2006. Its vineyard clients stretch from California to Oregon to Washington state. The company offers vineyard development, farming and viticulture services along with grape sales and marketing. AVM underscores what it describes as a successful track record of developing more than 2,000 acres of vineyards as proof that its pest and disease control methods are all built on best practices.

  Madeleine Rowan-Davis is Senior Viticulturist for AVM. With degrees from the University of California at Davis and Mount Holyoke College, she is a certified Pest Control Advisor with a Qualified Applicator’s License, both through the state of California. As a former researcher at UC Davis, Rowan-Davis’ education and experience focus on sustainable farming. She pointed to one of the most dangerous insect pests to vineyards.

  “The insect pest that incurs the highest costs per treated acre and poses a significant threat in the Northern California region, where we do a good amount of farming, is vine mealybug, which is arguably impossible to eradicate. Once it is present in a vineyard, it requires continued inputs to minimize spread into uninfected areas of the vineyard and prevent damage to the fruit.”

  Rowan-Davis told The Grapevine Magazine how vine mealybug triggers multiple problems, including disease. “Not only can it damage the fruit by producing copious amounts of honeydew that results in the fruit being covered in sooty mold, but they also vector multiple strains of grapevine leafroll virus, which reduces the ability of the grapevine to ripen its crop. The plant cannot be cured once it is infected, so this can result in a lot of expense – ripping out & replanting infected vines – as well as lost revenue since it takes several years for the replanted vines to produce a crop. Because this pest has multiple generations in a single season, it can be particularly bad in warm growing regions where populations can multiply more rapidly.”

  AVM offers its clients pest and disease scouting along with a customized management program.  The company deploys spray programs that involve Integrated Pest Management principles, which it says minimizes chemical use while maximizing the effectiveness of sprays required to eradicate a problem.

  “I would say that we advocate for management strategies to be well rounded,” said Rowan-Davis. “IPM guidelines are very helpful and allow us to minimize our reliance on chemical solutions while producing the highest quality wine grapes that a given site can produce. We use chemicals and management practices that are permitted in organic farming, even in our conventionally farmed properties.” 

  Like insect pests, there are diseases that affect some grape growing regions more than others, including leafroll and red blotch.

  “These diseases are both caused by viruses and can dramatically impact the quality of the fruit,” Rowan-Davis said. “Grapevine viruses are moved around with planting material if one doesn’t follow safe practices, and many can also be vectored from vine-to-vine by insects or other pests. Red blotch and leafroll are found in many growing regions, but the severity of the disease can differ depending upon varying environmental stresses.”

Advanced Viticulture, Inc.

  When it comes to fighting the diseases and insects that can destroy a vineyard, education, backed by experience, matters.

  Mark Greenspan, Ph.D., President and Viticulturist of Advanced Viticulture, Inc., has 30 years in the field, earning his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, Master of Science in Viticulture and doctorate in Agricultural Engineering, all from the UC Davis. He is also a certified crop advisor, certified professional agronomist and a licensed pest control advisor with the state of California.

  Advanced Viticulture opened in 2005 as a technical consulting firm specializing in water and nutrient management, soil evaluations and vineyard design. Its vineyard clients are along  California’s north and central coasts, across the U.S. and internationally. In 2011, the company expanded into vineyard management, providing services that include farming grapes and developing vineyards, primarily in Sonoma and Napa counties. Greenspan gave The Grapevine Magazine an overview of the damage caused by a range of insect pests.

  “Spider mites can rapidly cause loss of leaf function and can retard fruit maturation as a result, if the infestation and damage become excessive. Nematodes weaken the vines overall and can eventually kill vines. The nematodes can spread in the soil and create weak and dead areas within a vineyard block,” he said. “All of these pests are found throughout grape growing regions of the U.S., but spider mites tend to thrive under hot, dusty conditions under periods of vine water stress. The West Coast experiences far fewer insect pests – and definitely diseases – than the East Coast and other grape growing regions of the U.S.”

  According to Greenspan, some common diseases inflict significant damage to vineyards. “Powdery mildew is the most common and most damaging. It is fairly easy to control with fungicides, but the rotation of materials, timeliness, spray intervals and spray coverage is important for its control. This is a common problem in all growing regions. Trunk diseases are also very common and very damaging, and they include Eutypa and Botryosphaeria fungi, as well as Esca types of fungi. These are common in all regions and can damage a vineyard by killing the permanent structure of the vine.”

  Choosing between either chemical or organic methods is about weighing outcomes. “We don’t advocate for either, but find that a mix of ‘chemical’ and organic materials is often the best approach,” Greenspan said. “Purely organic methods can be very difficult to make effective, especially for difficult pests like vine mealybug and spider mites. Fungal diseases are more readily treated using organic methods, but conventional materials are often more effective and require fewer passes through a vineyard to attain control. Also, it is not correct to label this ‘organic versus chemical.’ Organic products may be chemical as well but are derived from natural sources without extensive processing.”

Sym-Agro, Inc.

  Sym-Agro, Inc., based in California’s San Joaquin Valley, has developed new takes on what nature has to offer to combat insect pests and diseases plaguing vineyards. President and CEO Peter Bierma founded the company in 2012.

  “I started Sym-Agro based on the belief that nature has antigens for every problem and, if you balance control with biology, you can grow really good crops with very little conventional pesticides,” said Bierma. “Now, with technology to validate [the] efficacy of essential oils, beneficial bacteria, etc., and more pressure on synthetic pesticides, this segment is growing very fast.”

  Bierma, with three decades of industry and field experience, said Sym-Agro offers three specific products for grape crops: Cinnerate, Instill Copper and ProBlad Verde.

  “ProBlad Verde provides excellent control of powdery mildew and botrytis. It is one of the few fungicides which has direct activity on all life stages of disease and provides 10-14 day spray intervals. Secondly, it is excellent for powdery mildew knockdown, stopping disease within four to eight hours and then providing control for 10-14 days.”

  Cinnerate is a triple-action threat, Bierma said, acting as a miticide, fungicide and insecticide. Based on emulsified cinnamon oil, it is touted as a crop-safe but direct killer of all life stages of disease, including spores. Results come through either direct contact with the spray solution or through fuming activities. Used to reduce post-harvest rot through a pre-harvest application, Cinnerate is also a combatant against well-known insect pests, including mites, leafhoppers and mealybug.

  Phomopis, powdery mildew and botrytis are the primary targets of Instill Copper, a low dose, liquid copper fungicide. Bierma told The Grapevine Magazine that Instill Copper leaves no visual residue on treated grapes and is safe to use throughout the growing season.


  Suterra, a global leader for more than 30 years in pheromone insect pest control, creates products for use in six continents. In California alone, it provides services to an estimated 180,000 vineyard acres. Suterra is located in Bend, Oregon, where it houses research and development, pheromone synthesis, product engineering and manufacturing. Its parent company is The Wonderful Company, one of the world’s largest agricultural conglomerates and owner of wine brands that include Landmark, Justin and JNSQ.

  Suterra products are available in multiple forms, including proprietary aerosol emitters, sprayable formulations, membrane dispensers and specialized monitoring lures. Its chief innovations are CheckMate VMB-F and CheckMate VMB-XL, touted as groundbreaking in the market. Sara Goldman, Technical Support Manager for Suterra, explained why these synthetic replicas of the sexual reproduction pheromones of vine mealybug are so formidable.

  “By hanging VMB-XL dispensers or spraying VMB-F microcapsules, vineyard managers confuse flying male vine mealybugs so that they can’t find females to mate. This reduces the pest’s overall populations and is completely safe for all beneficial species and humans,” Goldman said. “CheckMate prevents damage and extends the lifespan of insecticides by mitigating resistance development. We also offer specialized lures to help Pest Control Advisors monitor for vine mealybug and grape mealybug.”

  Goldman told The Grapevine Magazine that CheckMate VMB-F is more commonly used by conventional growers. It works with any IPM tools, from beneficial parasites and predators to conventional insecticides. That flexibility and compatibility make it a popular choice for vineyards defending against vine mealybug. An infestation, she said, can happen to even the most careful growers. 

  “Although the adult male vine mealybug can fly, the females and immature vine mealybugs, also known as ‘crawlers,’ are wingless and unable to fly. It is these non-flying life stages that spread the infestation into and through a vineyard in several ways. The most direct way is at planting through infested nursery stock,” she said. “Another common transmission method is through farm equipment. Do not allow contaminated equipment, vines, grapes or winery waste near un-infested vineyards. Mealybug crawlers can even hitch a ride on field crews that have been working in an infested vineyard or with prunings and plant residue from the previous season. They can also be dispersed by birds and other wildlife, surprising even the most meticulous growers.”

  Once insect pests & diseases get out of control, both can create an uphill battle for vineyards. Experts say that for new vineyards, prevention starts with clean and disease-resistant plant materials. For mature vineyards, early detection and strategies developed by specialists who know best how to control and eradicate the threats can make the difference.

“Marietta Cellars: Spinning Magic in Sonoma County”

Scott Bilbro and his late father, Chris

By: Nan McCreary, Sr. Staff Writer, The Grapevine Magazine

Marietta Cellars owner and winemaker Scot Bilbro remembers growing up and watching his late father, Chris, perform magic in his winery in Sonoma County.  Not magic with cards or sleight of hand, but magic in transforming cardboard wine boxes into suits of armor for his boys or grilling sweet but spicy ribs and blending a fruity Zinfandel and a hearty Petite Sirah to make a perfect wine pairing for dinner.

  It is that same magic — the magic of creativity and possibility — that inspires Scot, second generation winemaker at the small family winery founded by Chris Bilbro in 1978.  “I’m building off what my father started,” Bilbro told The Grapevine Magazine, “and keeping a lot of his creeds and thoughts in my head and heart while also making it my own thing.”

  The hallmark of the elder Bilbro’s winemaking was a certain freedom of expression, his son explained, which inspired him to create unique blends of wines atypical of Sonoma County, and all of California for that matter. “Dad was just a pleasurable, comfortable gentleman who did things that made sense to him,” Bilbro remembered. “It wasn’t that he threw the rulebook out; it was just that he hadn’t been classically trained so he did things in a way that made sense to him.”  One such blend was his now-iconic Old Vine Red, a combination of Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Syrah and Carignan that Chris Bilbro created in the 1980s. The proprietary blend put Marietta Cellars on the map and earned a stable of dedicated followers that continues to this day. What makes this wine especially distinctive is that it’s a blend not just of varieties, but of vintages. “This is a delicious wine that has become a well-known table wine for people across the country,” Bilbro said.  “And yet it started as a little brainchild created by my father in a little cow barn in the hills above Dry Creek and Healdsburg.”

  Bilbro, with a winery as his childhood playground and a degree in Viticulture and Enology at U.C. Davis, has been continuing his father’s legacy since Chris retired in 2012.  While that legacy was well established — Chris’s success with OVR allowed Marietta to grow and purchase its own vineyards rather than continue to source fruit from friends and farmers — the younger Bilbro has access to Marietta’s 310 acres of estate-based vineyards in Alexander Valley in Sonoma and McDowell Valley and the Yorkville Highlands in Mendocino.  Marietta still chooses to source a small amount of grapes from a few select growers with whom they have significant history. 

  Marietta’s vineyards offer an ideal climate for grape growing, with hot days for ripening and cool nights for developing acidity to balance the flavors. All grapes are farmed organically, with no synthetic herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers.  “This means lots of hand labor,” Bilbro told The Grapevine Magazine, “but most of our vineyard crew has been with us for years — some for decades —and they know what needs to be done and when.”  Bilbro and his crew tend the vineyards year round, and when harvest time comes, they pick the grapes with care and precision.  In some years, they may harvest multiple times per block, depending on the ripeness of grapes in that block.  “All of this is time-consuming,” Bilbro acknowledged, “but there are no shortcuts in the vineyard, or in the winery.  Everything is determined by information we’re getting at the time rather than by going on autopilot.”

  In the winery, Bilbro is now spinning wine with his own magic, just like his father before him.  “My winemaking philosophy is an amalgam of my father and my education at UC Davis,” Bilbro explained. “We ferment in stainless steel tanks and age in neutral oak, because we want the grapes to preserve the properties of their terroir.” In any given harvest, the volume of a grape variety may exceed the room in the fermentation tank, so Bilbro and his team separate those grapes into individual tanks for fermentation and aging.  Typically, Marietta has 80 fermentations with each harvest, sometimes with two fermentations from one block, separated by ripeness.  Once the separate fermentation lots have matured in barrel, maybe as long as a year, they bring individual lots of wine together to create the final wine. “It’s much better to make sure the wine is balanced before wrapping the fermentations together rather than finding out a year later that the wine is not as balanced or complete as we like and having to resort to additives,” he said. “We want to make sure that everything that goes together deserves to go together.”

  Marietta creates three series of wines: the OVR series, the Family Series and the Single Vineyard Series.  The OVR series includes wines made from old vines: the Old Vine Red; a Rose made from some of the oldest Grenache and Syrah in the state; and a Riesling sourced from the state’s second oldest Riesling vines. The Family Series features wines that Bilbro names after people in his life and business:  Román, a crisp, modern Zinfandel named after their cellarmaster of 34 years; Christo, his version of a Rhone-style red wine, honoring Chris Bilbro, or “Christo” as his beloved great aunt Marietta (for whom the winery is named) called him and a passionate lover of Syrah; and Armé, a Cabernet Sauvignon that balances New and Old World styles and is named for Marietta’s husband, Armé and Chris’ adventurous great uncle. The Single Vineyard Series highlights individual vineyards that deliver the purest expression of place: Angeli, a Zinfandel from Angeli Ranch in Alexander Valley, settled in 1886 and home to the Marietta Cellars winery; Game Trail, a cellar-worthy Cabernet Sauvignon from the Yorkville Highlands; and Gibson Block, a Syrah from the McDowell Valley, among the state’s oldest Syrah vines, dating back to the 1880s.

  While all of these wines are quality wines in their own right, it’s the historic OVR that’s the signature wine for Marietta Cellars.  The winery produces 50,000 cases of wine a year; 25,000 is OVR. While there’s no recipe for the wine, Bilbro said it’s always based on Zinfandel, with smaller components of Syrah, Petite Syrah and Carignan. “We have a massive barrel room, almost like a three-dimensional matrix with multiple varieties and multiple vintages,” he told The Grapevine Magazine.  “My dad and I would pick lots that we thought might be relevant to the next release, and we’d blindly taste through them and put them in different groupings, like groupings of wines with bright fruit, structure or wines with savory components.  Then we’d pick our favorites from each and blend them together to make the OVR.  We’d do all of this by feel, which is part of that freedom of expression.” The OVR is released in lots, two lots per year.  Marietta Cellars is now on lot #71.  “The blend is always different,” Bilbro noted. “I may add a half a percentage of Cabernet to bring up in some tannins, or a bit of Barbera to bring up the acidity. A percentage doesn’t seem like much, but it can make a difference.” Whatever the blend, the style of OVR is always the same: it’s an easy drinking, medium-bodied wine that’s full of flavor.

  As Marietta Cellars looks to the future, more exploration is in the cards.  Bilbro and his staff are especially excited about their vineyards in McDowell Valley in Mendocino, which is renowned for Rhone varieties and home to some of the oldest Syrah and Grenache Gris in California. “We want to play with historical varieties that are less articulated out there and rearticulate them,” Bilbro said.  “We also want to work these grapes into our existing blends to add some nuance.” These grapes, according to Bilbro, include Mourvedre, Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, Picpoul and Viognier, all grapes from the Rhone Valley that are becoming more popular among U.S. growers.

  Business-wise, Marietta Cellars recently entered a partnership with VINTUS, a wines and spirits importer and marketing agent to expand its presence in the market.  The company has been named a Wine & Spirits Importer of the Year five times (2015-2016-2017-2018-2019-2020) and in 2017 was named Wine Enthusiast Importer of the Year.  VINTUS’ portfolio today includes Chateau Montelena, Gary Farrell Winery, Ponzi Vineyards, Champagne Bollinger, E. Guigal, Chateau Minuty, Ornellaia, Masseto, Pétrus, Château La Fleur-Pétrus, Château Margaux, Masciarelli, Tommasi, Sandrone, Le Macchiole, Quinta do Noval, Dog Point Vineyard, Errazuriz Finca Decero and others totaling more than 40 leading global estates.

  Clearly, Marietta Cellars, a small family winery, has been doing big things since it was founded over 40 years ago.  But the goals remain the same as they were in the beginning: to create something special and share that with the world. “Ultimately, sharing what we do with our lives — rather than our jobs — is important to us,” Bilbro told The Grapevine Magazine.  “Our wine is not a commodity:  It’s something we are pouring our time and hearts and souls into.  When people drink our wines, we hope they think about our family and how much care and focus we put into what we do so they can actually feel what it’s like to make these wines and walk these vineyards. We want people to experience our wine, not just taste it.”

For more information on Marietta Cellars, visit

Defining the Best Single-Vineyards in the Niagara Peninsula

By: Alyssa Andres

The Niagara Peninsula is the largest viticultural area in Canada, with two regional appellations and ten sub-appellations. The peninsula sits between the Niagara Escarpment and Lake Ontario, creating a unique microclimate that is sheltered from prevailing winds and insulated by its proximity to the lake.  Many small rivers and streams in the area provide an excellent water source for vineyards through the long dry summers, and the soft aspect of the escarpment provides excellent drainage. Centuries of erosion have created a complex soil structure that varies from location to location within the regional appellations, from clay and silt to limestone and sand. The unique variations in soil are ideal for creating wines with distinct character and personality.

  These marked distinctions in terroir and climate mean that a Cabernet Franc will taste remarkably different from one vineyard to the next within the peninsula. Some winemakers believe there is definitive variation in grapes even from one end of a single-vineyard to the next. For this reason, some Niagara wineries are moving toward labeling their wines by single-vineyard and starting to define what the best vineyards are in the region.

  Just like the Grand Cru vineyards in France, certain vineyards in Niagara stand out as being supreme. Cave Spring is a vineyard that first rose to esteem as one of the finest in the region. Located in the Beamsville Bench sub-appellation of the Niagara Escarpment, it is owned by the winemaking family, the Pennachettis. The vineyard gets its name from the limestone caves and natural springs that surround it.

  Cave Spring Vineyard sits along the steep cliffs of the escarpment, planted on gently sloping hills that provide optimal drainage and retain ample moisture during the Mediterranean summers experienced in the region. The escarpment also captures the temperate lake effect breezes from Lake Ontario, which lengthen the growing season and allow for optimal flavor and ripeness in the grapes. Above, on the ridge of the escarpment, the vineyard is surrounded by hardwood forest. The forest retains plenty of moisture that slowly filters through layers of sedimentary rock, feeding mineral-rich water into the vineyard. The soil is a stony clay: a complex mixture of limestone, shale and sandstone that give Cave Spring’s wine a distinct minerality.

  Cave Spring focuses on Riesling and Chardonnay, which the Pennachetti family believes exhibit the ultimate expression of the vineyard’s terroir. They use only the top 5% of grapes from the best blocks and parcels in the vineyard for their CSV estate release. Some of their old vines date as far back as the mid-1970s. The wines are delicate and aromatic with notes of melon, lime, white blossom and a characteristic wet stone that comes from the vineyard’s terroir.

  Both the Riesling and Chardonnay are dry, with vibrant acidity and bright fruit flavors achieved from the vineyard’s ideal location. CSV wines are only produced in the best vintages when the growing season allows for it, but the Pennachettis say there are few years that conditions do not permit, due to the vineyard’s premium locale.

  Down the road from Cave Spring Vineyard, in the Twenty Mile Bench VQA sub-appellation, Tawse  

Winery is also making note of their ideal single-vineyard locations. Owner and founder Moray Tawse purchased his first vineyard in 2000 and now owns over 200 acres of prime grape-growing real estate in the Niagara Escarpment. All four of his vineyards are comprised of limestone clay loam, which gives Tawse wines a unique depth and character. Tawse is not only labeling his wines by single-vineyard, but he has also divided the vineyards into different blocks so he can further define the terroir within each plot. The Cherry Avenue Vineyard has three blocks, each named after his three children: Robyn, Carly and David. Each block is home to different grape varietals, from Riesling to Cab Franc, each thriving in the vineyard’s deep clay soil.

  Tawse winemakers practice organic and biodynamic farming as well as minimal intervention winemaking techniques to allow the resulting wines to display as much of the vineyard’s terroir as possible. The variation between each single-varietal estate bottle is surprising as each plot receives varying amounts of sunlight, precipitation and drainage. Having an array of different plots allows Tawse to pick and choose which of his grapes he uses for single-varietal each year, as growing conditions vary dramatically from season to season.

  For this reason, some winemakers in Niagara choose not to purchase the best land in the region, but instead, act as classic French “negotients” and buy the best grapes from a multitude of different growers and vineyards in the area. This allows them to pick and choose where they get their grapes instead of being tied down to a specific plot.

  One winemaker in Niagara working this way is Thomas Bachelder. He has made it one of his goals to define the best single-vineyard plots in the region. Originally from Quebec, Bachelder started his winemaking education in Burgundy, where he became extremely interested in terroir and its impact on wine. After producing wine in Burgundy and Oregon, Bachelder settled in Niagara, where he specializes in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. He labels his wines with the name of the single-vineyard, and his latest release goes as far as to define the different ends of these single-vineyards.

  In his most recent release, Bachelder produced three Chardonnays and four Pinot Noirs from five different vineyards in the Niagara Escarpment.

  Three of these vineyards are part of the Wismer Vineyards, a collection of eight farms in the Twenty Mile Bench that are becoming known within the region as some of the best for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Two of Bachelder’s 2018 Pinot Noirs are single-varietals from the Wismer-Parke vineyard, but one is made using only grapes from the vineyard’s west side. The 2018 Wismer-Parke “Wild West End” has a distinct iron, flesh and game note that the other sides of the vineyard do not offer.

  Therefore, Bachelder has taken the notion of single-vineyard and brought it one step further, defining the unique flavor profiles found from one end of a vineyard to the next. 

  One of Bachelder’s other favorite vineyards in the Niagara region is the Lowrey Vineyard. Two of his 2018 single-vineyard Pinot Noirs are made with grapes from Lowrey, one using only Pinot Noir from the oldest vines on the property, planted in 1984. Located in the St. David’s Bench sub-appellation, the vineyard is owned by the Lowrey family, who have farmed the land for five generations. The family turned from fruit farming to grape growing in 1984 when Howard Wesley Lowrey first planted five rows of Pinot Noir.

  Since then, the Lowreys have been supplying grapes to some of Canada’s most prestigious winemakers, including Ilya Senchuk from Leaning Post Wines and Kevin Panagapka from 2027 vineyards. However, the Lowrey’s keep a small percentage of the grapes from their 35 acres of farmland for their craft wine, Five Rows.

  Five Rows Craft Wine has become well-known in the region for producing beautiful, complex wines that sell out before anyone can get their hands on them. The family takes a minimal intervention approach to their winemaking, avoiding artificial pest control and fertilizers, with the intention of producing wines that are truly characteristic of their vineyard. They tend to the vines by hand and treat each vine as an individual to ensure optimal fruit quality. Their hands-on approach produces some of the most highly sought after grapes and wine in the Niagara region, from Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah to Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling.

  All of their fruit comes from their vineyard, and only small quantities are produced. The extra love and attention given to the vines pay off. By focusing on quality over quantity, the Lowreys have defined their vineyard as one of the best in the region.

  By labeling single-vineyard locations, Niagara winemakers can clearly define why their wines are superior. Just like winemakers in Burgundy and Bordeaux, who are known for their specific Grand Cru sites, Niagara is in the process of developing a similar map.

  Now, consumers can learn what vineyards to look out for and start to understand the flavor profiles of different sites compared to others. The diversity in terroir, elevation and climate in the Niagara region means that flavors can vary dramatically from vineyard to vineyard. It is important to define extraordinary vineyards and understand why they are so special.

   As this burgeoning winemaking region continues to grow and businesses expand to accommodate the market, these are the areas that need to be protected. By defining the best single-vineyards and including them on the bottle, Niagara winemakers can display the complexities found in each of these sites and clearly exhibit the impact these locations have on the wine.

  The vineyards start to take on their own personalities, and consumers can begin to taste the characteristics of each one. It’s the next step in the future of Niagara wines.

Impact of the 2020 Wildfires on the Oregon Wine Industry

By: Becky Garrison

Dr. Gregory V. Jones, the Evenstad Director of Wine Education and a professor and research climatologist at Linfield University, describes in a telephone interview the weather conditions leading up to and causing the current wildfires in Oregon and the western US.

  “This unprecedented and likely a once in generation event resulted from a very large high-pressure area stretching from the desert SW to Alaska that brought extreme heat and very dry conditions to the western US. The dome of high pressure pushed the jet stream into northern Canada and forced cold air southward into the Rockies and the central US. This outflow of air brought strong winds from the east toward the west coast. These winds moved over numerous mountainous areas, warming, drying, and increasing in wind speed. The result was a dramatic drop in dew points, lowering relative humidity (to 8-20%) to desert-like conditions even to the coast. This same event brought cold air to the Rockies with temperatures dropping 60 degrees or more in one day and significant snow to the mountains and the front range.”

  Prior to Labor Day, the few fires in Oregon were starting to be brought into control. However, Jones charts how with the onslaught of the strong down sloping winds and drying conditions, small fires had the potential to become large very quickly.

  The result was catastrophic fire developments across the state with smoke covering much of the western part of Oregon and blanketing California. While most of the smoke in Oregon was at higher altitudes, over a few days the winds calmed, which helped the fire-fighting, but also allowed the smoke and ash to drop to lower altitudes in the Willamette Valley and elsewhere along the western valleys of Oregon and California and into Washington.

(As of this writing, the wildfires remain active with varying degrees of containment. An interactive map charting the wildfires is available here:

Impact of Wildfire Smoke on Wine

  In an email statement from Sally Murdoch, Communications Manager for the Oregon Wine Board (OWB), the OWB held an emergency session on September 21, 2020 where they approved tens of thousands of research dollars. These monies were in addition to what the Erath Family Foundation contributed for sampling and lab analytics at Oregon State University (OSU). This testing will start a file of data points on smoke in Oregon wine grapes and wines that will establish benchmarks from the vintage and the smoke effects on it. OSU will collect approximately 70 geographically-dispersed samples representing assorted varieties from vineyards across the state. After the grapes are tested, microfermentations from those samples will be analyzed to compile a total phenol profile for each wine sample. This is the first time fire or smoke drift pressure covered nearly every wine producing region in Oregon (effects were somewhat less problematic in the Gorge and The Rocks District).

  While much has been written in the media as simply fire + smoke + grapes = smoke tainted wine, Jones asserts, “A smoky wine is not a fire-smoky wine and not all smoke produces smoke impacted wines. What is clear is that the historical use of the term ‘smoky’ with wine has been tied to red wines that have spent some time aging in oak barrels which in turn imparts an aromatic characteristic of ‘smokiness’ to the wine,” he adds. 

  Jones points to how fires have occurred in and near wine regions such as Australia, Portugal, California, Washington, and Oregon with numerous reports of smoke ‘tainted’ or ‘impacted’ wines. “Aspects of how far the smoke travels, the smoke’s composition, the level in the air that the smoke is at, the timing during the vintage, and how long it lasts all play a role in whether any smoke impact might occur to the wines. The additional complication is that grapes may not have any direct flavor or aroma of smoke, but through the fermentation of the grapes a chemical transformation creates less desirably characteristics to the wine. However, 1+1 does not always equal 2 here, so I urge caution in how this conveyed.”

Effects of Wildfire Smoke on the 2020 Harvest

  Murdoch reports that some growers are experiencing smoke damage and are testing their fruit. “Smoke characteristics in wine this year are highly variable and site-specific.” Alex Fullerton, Winemaker for Fullerton Wines, agreed with this assessment in an email exchange. “Some vineyard sites have low to no smoke impact, and some were affected. We picked all our grapes, but made more rosé or white wine out of some of our red grapes that were most affected.”

  When asked about the impact of the wildfires on the 2020 harvest, Morgen McLaughlin, Executive Director, Willamette Valley Wineries Association, offered this statement via email.

  “As always, the story of the harvest is ever unfolding. Every year brings new opportunities and challenges. Every year the winemakers’ job is to navigate what Mother Nature brings, and impart knowledge gained from the past with new and innovative resources. Our industry is working closely with the scientific community and universities conducting research on the topic to continue to contribute to our shared understanding of this industry-wide issue and help to inform ongoing research on the topic of smoke-affected grapes. We are proud of the vintage diversity the Willamette Valley enjoys—every year is special, and with each challenge our talented winemakers rise to the occasion to make wines of place.”

  Scott Zapotocky, Director of Winegrowing, Eola Springs & Chehalem Mountain Vineyards, Sage Ridge Vineyard, and Geodesy Wines, pointed in a phone call to some challenges they’re facing with this year’s harvest. “It’s making the harvest more difficult for sure given the Covid-19 safety requirements we’ve had to implement this year with working socially distanced and wearing appropriate personal protective equipment. Then put on top of that the risk of the wildfires that may be around. It’s definitely added a level of stress.”

  Adding to this uncertainty is the delay of  lab testing analysis on this year’s grapes. According to Murdoch there’s a backlog of tests with 908 Oregon wineries eager to know what their wines’ smoke marker levels are. “The lab testing bottleneck is compounded by wildfire and smoke events in our neighboring states. We already knew there would be fewer wine grape tons harvested this vintage. September wildfires compounded that situation in some viticultural areas on the west coast.”

  Along those lines, Zapotocky adds that growers face the risk of rejected fruit from the wineries. “Then the grower has to try and find either a new home or figure out if they’re going to be able to take an insurance claim on the grapes. The ability to file a claim is continent on if they have insurance and what level of insurance coverage they have. 2020 is a very complicated harvest.”

Marketing Challenges for Oregon’s 2020 Vintages

  Dr. Damien Wilson, Professor at Sonoma State University, and inaugural Hamel Family Chair with the Wine Business Institute, stressed in a telephone interview the difficulty in predicting the future while still in the middle of an on-going challenge. In his estimation, smoke taint is only likely to become an issue if perceptions of its existence are coupled with press reports that it’s a problem. Most consumers lack awareness of it being an issue for wine, so “It’s essential to minimize references that contribute to a perception of any 2020 wine as ‘smokey’ or fire-affected.” Accordingly, practices aimed at preventing and/or minimizing smoke-taint in the cuvée will be essential.

  In addition to his view that doomsday predictions on smoke-taint are likely to be overblown, Wilson has increasing evidence that winery visitors during this year are providing influential testimonials on the perceived safety and intimacy of their tasting room experiences. He recommends that small producers can leverage such publicity to help expand their online presence instead of being too heavily reliant on local buyers. He states that “…[those] producers who don’t have web pages or use social media have had to pivot quickly. The ones who connected via virtual platforms have consistently been more successful in recovering, maintaining or growing sales.”

  In a statement released by the Oregon Wine Board, the leading variety in planted acreage and production in Oregon remains Pinot Noir which accounted for 59% of all planted acreage and 58% of wine grape production in 2019. Further analysis of these statistics reveals that statewide there are 41-42% of grape varieties who could take center stage as soon as next year. In this analysis, Wilson encourages winemakers to use their advantage that wine consumers are both comfortable and familiar with Oregon’s Pinot Noir. While consumers have begun to experiment with other varieties, during a crisis they tend to revert to those wines most familiar to them. Hence he encourages Oregon winemakers to remain cognizant of the value of their Pinot Noirs, and the potential to retain price premiums for those with established market awareness.

  According to McLaughlin, there less Pinot Noir may be produced this year from the Willamette Valley, wineries may shift and adapt programs to reflect the best of the vintage. “Winemakers are privy to a wide array of resources locally, regionally and internationally. And, we have to remember the region is vast and diverse. What is happening in one area of the region isn’t necessarily occurring in others. Individual producers are all handling the situation differently to produce the best wine possible in 2020.”

  Murdoch echoes this sentiment. “Although Pinot Noir is the leading grape in the state, our region continues to garner accolades for its Chardonnay, Syrah, Riesling and Sparkling wines.” Since many wineries harvested grapes for their sparkling wines prior to the fires, these wines will not be affected. In her estimation, wineries will instead be focusing on different varieties. “Uou will see more white wines from this vintage, as the grapes were inside and often had less smoke exposure statewide.”

  From a retail perspective Murdoch and Wilson do not foresee any major impact on consumer purchases, as long as messaging can be effectively managed. As Wilson observes, “While he industry will be talking about smoke taint and the memory of 2020, these issues are not likely to impact most wine consumers. There’s a premium attached to wine that comes out of Oregon. Consumers perceive these wines as being excellent quality and good value for the price.” Murdoch concurs, “Grape growers and winemakers are focused on building businesses over the long-term based on craftsmanship and value. Winemakers are aware of the reputational risk posed by releasing wines that might fall short of Oregon’s historically high-quality levels.”

How To Get The Most Out Of A Virtual Trade Show

By: Susan DeMatei

All indicators suggest we will continue our social distancing well in 2021, which means the late winter trade shows in North America will be chiefly virtual this year. The vast majority of us have never attended a virtual trade show, let alone hosted a booth in one. So, as we all venture into this new virtual age together, let’s discuss what to expect, how to prepare, and how to “walk through the virtual exhibition hall” to get the most out of this year’s upcoming events.


  Try The Software:  Your virtual conference will use an online tool you may not have downloaded or used before. Nothing is more frustrating than missing the first 10 minutes because you had to download and install an application. Don’t wait until the morning of the conference to download the software; check that it works on your computer and that you have sufficient bandwidth and a working camera and microphone.

  Ideally, during the weeks before the conference, take a quick tour of features and set up your profile name and company name so you can present your best self to the other attendees. If you already have the software on your computer, review the settings. This is not the time to be logged in as your spouse or child. If you have a profile section, fill it out, and upload a picture of yourself. Remember, this is your “face” to your industry colleagues.

  Plan Your Calendar:  Just because you’re not traveling physically, that doesn’t mean you mentally get to check out. People attend trade shows to participate in live sessions, make appointments, network, and look for new potential partners on the trade show floor. Make sure you block out time for each of these goals. Tell your co-workers and family that you are unavailable during these times.

  When you build your schedule, pay attention to live versus recorded sessions. If your day gets full, save the recorded segments for later times and dates.

  Virtual conferences aren’t just for learning – networking is possible even through a computer. Set up appointments before the event with colleagues. Attend happy hours or breakout sessions with other attendees. And don’t forget to give yourself some open time to browse content other attendees bring.

  Build-in Breaks:  One thing you would do naturally is sit down and have a cup of coffee or grab lunch when you’re attending a trade show. Don’t forget to build these in for your virtual tradeshow. These are your responsibility to include and are essential to allow you your brain to change pace to context shift from one activity to another. To keep yourself energized, try to vary activities – so schedule networking or “virtual coffee appointments” in between sessions where you’re listening for long periods.

  Consider attending with colleagues to boost your social engagement during the conference. You can accomplish this by communicating with each other between sessions or schedule a meeting afterward to share key takeaways and discuss how what you’ve learned might impact your work. You can also chat with people with Microsoft Teams or Slack during presentations. But be careful you don’t have too many channels going simultaneously, which will distract rather than focus your attention.


  Accessing Booths and Exhibits:  When you register, you’ll create an account with a secure username and password. At a later date, the conference should send you an invitation email containing a unique link to the virtual trade show. When the time comes for the event to begin, click the link and sign in.

  The conference should greet you with a welcome page, which may appear like you entered an actual lobby with people conversing and meeting. It should guide you into the exhibition hall, where you will find dozens of booths. Click on each booth to see what their services are, chat with an associate from that business, see a brief demo, and ask any kinds of questions you might have. You can also book a video chat appointment, or a booth might invite you to book a 1-1 time later that day. If you do schedule an appointment, the conference tool should track that and notify you via email. You can click on the various parts of the screen to access the exhibit hall, auditorium, or info desk.

  If you need help, there will be a technical help desk where you can speak with an event organizer directly or have questions answered about policies, terms, or the event in general.

  Attending Keynotes and Presentations:  Like any trade show, the conference will provide you with a booth map, a session schedule, and speaker bios. The difference here is this information will be accessible in the main navigation of the website versus on a printed program.

  If you have decided to attend speaker sessions, make sure you know the link/location for the talk and be there on time. Live notifications will appear on your screen with reminders about upcoming panels or keynote sessions so that you don’t miss them.

Overall Tips For Attendance:

1.  Participate: It may be tempting to remain an anonymous voyeur, but you’ll get so much more out of the session if you reach out to others:

•    Introduce yourself in session chats.

•    Contribute to discussions and ask questions.

•    There’s usually a networking lounge to connect with other attendees per session where you can talk through group or individual chats.

•    Participate with hashtags to continue the conversation on social media channels such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and Twitter.

2.  Pause: Zoom exhaustion is real when you are staring at a screen watching video presentations for too long without taking any breaks. You can get very tired, so a good recommendation is to periodically take a short break, stand up, walk around and get some food or something to drink. That way, you’ll get the most out of the event with those brief, regular breaks throughout the day.

3.  Focus: You’ll have to work a little harder than you would if you were physically there to be present.

•    Take written notes. The act of writing allows your brain another way of remembering than just auditory or visual cues. It also makes you take your fingers off the keyboard, which signals your brain to focus on the screen.

•    Take screengrabs of interesting charts or items to refer to later.

•    Watch in full screen, and turn off all alerts, so you don’t get pulled into an update on social media or an email.

4.  Stretch: Did we mention breaks? We will suggest it again. It is essential to get up and move every hour to give your brain a quick recharge.


  Most people plan on watching some of the on-demand sessions, but they rarely do. If you have recordings on your plan, schedule time to watch them within a week to keep the context and connections fresh. Also, reach out to your new contacts and review any downloaded videos or PDFs from vendors that first week after the conference.

  Above all, adjust your expectation that you’ll be passively watching other people online in your PJs at home. If you actively include yourself in virtual conferences and are committed to focused participation, you’ll be surprised by all the rewards you’ll find.

Susan DeMatei is the President of  WineGlass Marketing, a full-service direct marketing firm working within the wine industry in Napa, California.

Viral Diseases in the Fall:

Grapevine Leafroll and Red Blotch

By: Judit Monis, Ph.D.

As the fall season progresses, symptoms of virus infection become more pronounced in the vineyards.  Arguably, leafroll and red blotch are the most notorious and important viral diseases that manifest in the fall season.  Often, it is difficult to distinguish leafroll from red blotch disease symptoms in the vineyard.  This is especially true on red-fruited grapevine varieties.  In this article I will summarize and update information on the biology, symptoms, and transmission of the viruses responsible for these important diseases.  

The Viruses responsible forLeafroll and Red blotch Diseases

There are four different virus species associated with grapevine leafroll disease.   The viruses belong to one taxonomic family (Closteroviridae) and are named Grapevine leafroll associated virus followed by a number (GLRaV-1 to -4).  Because it has not been possible – to date – to complete Koch’s postulates with GLRaVs, the word “associated” is added to the virus name.  Koch’s postulates have not been completed with most of the viruses that cause disease in grapevines.   The postulates state that a pathogen must be isolated in pure form from a diseased plant, later the pathogen (virus in this case) is introduced to a healthy plant, and the newly infected plant must show the same symptoms as the original infected one.  Clearly Koch’s postulates are important because they could prove the cause and effect of a pathogen causing disease. 

  As I will describe below, researchers can tweak the definition of Koch’s postulates to prove that a virus causes a specific disease and drop the word “associated” from the virus name.   Within the Closteroviridae family, species of GLRaV are classified in three genera, Ampelovirus, Closterovirus, and Velarivirus. Grapevine leafroll associated virus -1, GLRaV-3, and GLRaV-4 belong to the Ampelovirus genus.  Grapevine leafroll associated virus -2 is a Closterovirus and GLRaV-7 is a member of the Velarivirus genus.  Some researchers claim that GLRaV-7 should not be considered a leafroll virus because it only produces mild symptoms in grapevines.   Further, recent research has shown that GLRaV-7 was isolated from a mixed leafroll infected vine and symptoms were due to the other leafroll virus present at the time.  When found alone GLRaV-7 does not appear to show typical leafroll symptoms.

  Grapevine red blotch virus (GRBV) is the second virus species discovered in grapevines that carries DNA instead of RNA as its genetic material.  Both its molecular and structural characterization has placed GRBV in a new genus, named Grablovirus, within the Geminiviridae family.   As stated above, it has been difficult to demonstrate Koch’s postulates, with grapevine-infecting viruses. There are many reasons for this.  Firstly, there are no alternative hosts that are susceptible to most grapevine infecting viruses (some exceptions exists). 

  Secondly and most important, grapevine viruses cannot be mechanically transmitted onto grapevines.  These viruses need to be introduced to a vine via grafting (graft-transmission) and/or need a biological vector for successful transmission.   Dr. Marc Fuchs team at Cornell University was able to demonstrate that GRBV genetic material is responsible for red blotch foliar symptoms in red fruited grapevine varieties.  The work was done using sophisticated recombinant DNA molecular techniques to introduce the virus genetic material into tissue cultured grapevine plants.   Time will tell, after the plants grow, if the infected vines also display the detrimental effect of the virus in organoleptic qualities of the fruit (i.e., reduction of sugar).

Viral Symptoms are Remarkably Similar

  Vines infected with leafroll viruses produce smaller grape clusters that ripen unevenly with lower sugar content. Foliar symptoms include downward rolling, reddening or yellowing of leaves depending on the grapevine variety. Other foliar colors associated with leafroll virus infection include pink, purple, and orange speckles. The leaf veins may remain green or take many other colors (yellow, purple, or red).  Grapevine red blotch virus infection may display different red leaf discoloration which usually appear spotty or blotchy. 

  However, these symptoms are indistinguishable from leafroll, especially when rolling of leaves are absent in GLRaV- infected vines.  In some cases, GRBV infected vines may display red veins, but red veins have also been observed in non-infected vines, and many red-blotch infected vines do not display red veins.  

  In my opinion, red vein symptoms cannot be used as a diagnostic tool.   In white-fruited varieties red blotch disease displays yellow blotchy discoloration in leaves. While the symptoms of leafroll and red blotch can be confused, these diseases are caused by different types of viruses that can often be found in mixed infections, complicating the visual diagnosis.  Although, the change in colors of the leaves in the fall is a tale-tell of virus infection, the most important negative effect of both GLRaV and GRBV infection is the reduction of sugar in fruit resulting in reduced Brix values and delayed fruit maturity.

  Some GLRaVs and their strains are more aggressive than others.  Researchers have described the Alfie (Australia and New Zealand), BD (Italy), and Red Globe (U.S.A) strains of GLRaV-2. These strains are molecularly similar and have been associated with graft incompatibility, vine decline and death.  Some researchers report that GLRaV-1 and -3 induce more severe symptoms than GLRaV-4. 

  However, symptoms vary depending on the grape variety, rootstock, and climatic conditions.  At the moment, two different clades of GRBV have been reported but no differences in their biology or effect on symptoms in the vineyards have been observed so far.  Just as seen with leafroll, the symptom expression of GRBV infected vines is affected by climatic conditions and the author has noted differences in the effect on sugar reduction in sunnier and warmer areas (i.e., California coastal areas with more fog and lower sunshine yield fruit with lower sugar concentration than the same grape varieties grown inland with more sun exposure).

Transmission and Spread of the Viruses

  Ampeloviruses (GLRaV-1, -3 and -4) are transmitted by sap-sucking insects (mealybugs and soft scale insects) in a non-specific manner.  This means, different mealybug and soft scale insect species can transmit any leafroll virus.  Research has shown that the citrus (Planococcus citri), grape (Pseudococcus maritimus), long-tailed (Pseudococcus longispinus), obscure (Pseudococcus viburni) and vine (Planococcus ficus) mealybugs as well as the soft scale insects Pulvinaria vitis and Ceroplastes rusci are able to transmit GLRaVs. Mealybugs and soft scale insects feed on the vine’s sap by inserting their sucking mouthparts into the plant’s vascular system (phloem). The honeydew excreted during the feeding process attracts ants that nurse and aid mealybugs to be transported to different positions of the vine or a different vine in the row. 

  Mealybugs may be difficult to observe as they can hide beneath the bark.  In these cases, ant activity and the growth of a black fungus (sooty mold) are good indicators of the presence of mealybug vectors in the vineyard.  No insects able to transmit GLRaV-2 or GLRaV -7 have been reported to date and their propagation (just like all other GLRaVs) is performed by humans who produce and distribute cuttings from infected vines.  

  Work by researchers at Cornell University and the University of California reported that the three cornered alfalfa hopper (Spissistilus festinus) can transmit the GRBV in greenhouse and laboratory conditions.  Although, the three cornered alfalfa hopper has been found in vineyard blocks where red blotch disease has spread, transmission experiments in the field have not been completed to date.   It is interesting that grapevine is not the preferred host for Spissistilus festinus that prefers to feed on legumes, grasses, and shrubs.  While research continues to determine if other vectors are capable of transmitting GRBV it is clear that the rapid expansion of this virus in vineyards was due to propagation and grafting of cuttings from infected vines.  This also explains the arrival of GRBV to many countries in Asia, Europe, and South America where GRBV had not been previously reported.   In summary, both, GLRaVs and GRBV are graft transmissible and predominantly propagated by producing cuttings of infected rootstock and scion material. 

Diagnosis and Status of Foundation Plant Material

  The distribution and concentration (titer) of leafroll and red blotch viruses is different in infected plant material.  While leafroll detection appears to be seasonal (best detected late in the growing season), detection of red blotch virus can be performed any time of the year.   Further, work performed in my lab showed that red blotch virus can be detected in high titers in any part of the vine.  The work showed that red blotch virus can be detected in any tissue tested, new or mature leaves, petioles, green or lignified canes, as well as cordons and trunks.  In contrast, leafroll viruses are generally found in low concentrations and are best detected in mature leaves, canes, cordon, and trunk.  If a vine has been infected through cuttings, the older the plant material is, the easier it is to detect GLRaVs. 

  Keeping both leafroll and red blotch viruses out of the productive vineyards relies on clean planting stock programs.  Sadly, a few years ago the University of California at Davis Foundation Plant Services (FPS) scientists announced the finding of a few vines infected with GRBV in the Russell Ranch foundation block. The block was planted with vines produced with a tissue culture technique that is capable of eliminating potential harmful viruses.  The block was tested using the “Protocol 2010” that includes a list of viruses that are harmful to grapevines.  Initially, four vines were found to be infected with GRBV in 2017, in 2018 the number increased to 24 vines,in 2019 the positive results were over 300 vines, while this year results showed that 788 are infected with GRBV. Until last year, the block was the source of California Registration and Certification Program (CDFA R&C) material to nurseries registered in the program. Because of the GRBV positive status FPS suspended the sale of vines from the Russell Ranch block.  To learn more about GRBV epidemiology, the GRBV-infected Russell Ranch block will be used as a research block to study the transmission and spread of the virus.   

  The block was tested using the “Protocol 2010” that includes a list of viruses that are harmful to grapevines.  Initially, four vines were found to be infected with GRBV in 2017, in 2018 the number increased to 24 vines, and in 2019 the positive results increased to over 300 vines infected with GRBV. Until last year, the block was the source of California Registration and Certification Program (CDFA R&C) material to nurseries registered in the program. Because of the GRBV positive status FPS suspended the sale of vines from the Russell Ranch block.  To learn more about GRBV epidemiology, the GRBV-infected Russell Ranch block will be used as a research block to study the transmission and spread of the virus.  


  This author is involved in applied research with the goal to determine the ideal process to protect clean planting grapevine stock and newly planted vineyards from infection of viruses and fungal pathogens.  Presently, information on what is the distance needed at the foundation and nursery blocks to avoid infection from diseased blocks is lacking. The results of the research will develop the best strategy to isolate and monitor clean planting stock.

  Until we have this information my recommendation is that nurseries and growers determine the health status of grapevine stock prior to planting to avoid the propagation and/or introduction diseased vines to the vineyard.  Yet, it is very important to isolate and monitor newly planted vineyards to avoid the introduction of disease via insect vectors.  It is important to remember that lack of symptoms does not always correlate with a healthy diagnostic result (rootstock varieties as well as non-grafted vines are usually asymptomatic), so it is best to test a statistical sample of the nursery propagated material to be sure of its health status.

  Judit Monis, Ph.D. provides specialized services to help growers, vineyard managers, and nursery personnel avoid the propagation and transmission of disease caused by bacteria, fungi, and viruses in their vineyard blocks.   Judit (based in California) is fluent in Spanish and is available to consult in all wine grape growing regions of the word.  Due to COVID 19 Pandemic, Judit is available to perform virtual vineyard visits.  Please visit for information or contact to request a consulting session.

Fining Agents

By: Thomas J. Payette, Winemaking Consultant

Next to sound ripe fruit, great winemaking control during the harvest and excellent blending – finings trials are a next great resource to possibly “fine tune” your successful hard work.  This task is often overlooked or under performed due to time and the skill limits of the winemaker.  Fining agents must be used as a delicate tool to refine a wine or juice and one should not seek to make a flawed wine desirably drinkable with the wave of a “magic fining wand”.

  Before attempting to refine a wine with fining agents make sure the wine is aromatically sound and at optimum by doing a quick copper sulfate aroma trial.  This may be the simple action needed to bring in the aromatics desired and reduce or negate the need for a fining.  Always perform the fining trials and use a large spectrum of fining agents since not all wines and fining agents work/react as predicted.  We, as winemakers, are often surprised at unexpected findings.

  The most difficult portion of fining trials is to have an understanding of working with the limited and small volumes of juices or wines and how to apply the small scale lab trials to the larger tank volumes.  Once one has a clear understanding and methodology the tasks become easier.  It may take several fining trials under ones belt before it becomes second nature and the task becomes “a piece of cake.”

Equipment Needed for Fining Trials

  Most winery labs have the basics and one should be able to acquire additional items needed with little financial outlay.  Here is a list of basics.

1.   375 milliliter screw cap wine bottles (splits) – may reuse these.

2.   Accurate scales

3.   500 ml  beakers

4.   500 ml Erlenmeyer flasks

5.   Stir plate with magnetic stir bars

6.   Distilled water or winery tap water used for mixing fining agents.

7.   Graduated cylinders: 50 mil, 100 mil, 250 mil

8.   Pipettes:  1 and 10 milliliter serological pipettes

9.   Wine glasses – never forget the wine glass!

Some Common Fining Agents

and Their Projected Uses

  Casein:  This is the principal protein found in milk and milk is approved by the TTB ( Tax and Trade Bureau) to be added to wine.  Casein is positively charged and is used mostly as a fining agent in whites wines that have been in the cellar for an extended time – perhaps over two years.  The action of casein tends to clean up some color issues as well as remove some of the aged qualities including off contributing color compounds.  Each wine reacts differently to casein so trials must be performed in the lab, on a small scale, to understand how your particular wine will react.  Either follow the suppliers recommended rates or if using milk you may use up to 7.5 liters of whole or skim milk per 1000 gallons since that is the TTB limit. 

  Egg Whites:  (Albumin):  A very proven effective and soft approach used for a very gentle fining mostly on red wines in barrel.  Only the whites of the egg are used, mixed with a “pinch” of potassium chloride salt and a small amount of water.  Stir the egg white mix gently into the barrel and allow the wine to settle for 30-45 days.  For larger wineries that want to do a trial in the cellar one could use:  One egg white in one barrel, two egg whites in another, three in another and so on up to a typical maximum of 6 egg whites per barrel.  Make sure to do this on the same wine in barrels, of nearly the same age, for a good comparison tasting.  This would be an excellent way to do a cellar trial in the winery with very controlled results if you find fining trials difficult in the lab.  Dilution schemes of egg whites in the lab are difficult but do the best you can.

  Gelatin:  Gelatin is a great fining agent typically used early on in the juice or wine.  It is known for being aggressive and potentially “stripping” the wine is more likely with gelatin.  That said suppliers have rapidly introduced what I call “target specific gelatins” that can enhance or mute certain aromas, and modify specific areas of the palate.  These are much more refined products than say 20 years ago when “bloom and mesh” was the only real differentiation between different grades of Gelatin.  Gelatin is made from collagen in animals and typically binds with larger molecular weight [tannins / catechins etc] and removing more phenolic compounds from the wine.  So if a wine is heavy in tannins and phenolics a review of a gelatin fining trial may be in order.  Gelatin does absorb and remove color so use with caution.  As always – do trials in the lab first.  Because different products have different recommended rates I am steering clear of making any blanket recommended ranges to try and will refer you to the supplier of the specific product you care to experiment with.

  Isinglass:   An amazing agent because it is fish collagen or sturgeon bladders ( buoyancy bladder ) I am told.  Who in the world thought of adding this to wine?  This is a gentle protein fining agent used mainly on white wines to help elevate / improve the aromatics and improve clarity with improved lees compaction if used with bentonite.  Most likely used 30-60 days prior to bottling and while “finishing the wine out”.  A very gentle fining agent and worth trying in the ranges of 1/16 – 1/3 pound per 1000 gallons.   A very nice, soft fining agent and even try it with red wines – you may be surprised at the results in your trial and decide to use it on your reds.  Some colleagues in the Napa Valley have seen great results with Isinglass on their reds.

  PVP:  (Polyvinylpolypyrolidone)  This is a synthetic material that binds mostly to athocyanins (color) and catechins (smaller phenolic compounds).  Often used to remove browning in wines and pre-cursers to browning or brighten up a pink wine.  This agent also helps remove bitterness in some wines.  Most often used on wines but some also fine juices with PVPP especially on compromised or moldy grapes.  Range of use is between 0.5 and 5 pounds per 1000 gallons and wines must be filtered prior to bottling.

  Bentonite:  This is a widely used fining agent to achieve protein or heat stability in white, blush and light Rose wines.  Bentonite is a clay mined in areas of the world that contain high quality pockets of these materials.  Some bentonite is sodium based and other are calcium based bentonites.  Calcium bentonite is used often in sparkling wines as a riddling aid but most wineries use the sodium based bentonites in there typical winemaking regimes.  Trials with bentonite may be used to determine the amount needed to achieve heat stability.  Using bentonite up to 5 pounds per 1000 gallons shows minimal stripping and some varietals of wine may need upwards of 10.0 pound per 1000 gallons.  Conversely some wines may not need any bentonite although some winemakers see improved attributes to their wines with a small 1.0 pound per 1000 gallons even if no bentonite is needed for heat stability.  Heat stability is very important for your wines so consumers are not turned off by your label if your wine should throw a protein haze.  Give serious consideration and test all of your white and light red wines for heat stability.

  Sparkloid:   This agent “fell out of fashion” about two decades ago but it is back strong.  Try trials with this agent to get that extra sparkle in the clarity for your wine.  Technically a Polysaccharide and it is extracted from the cell wall of brown algae.  This agent is soft on color removal but enhances clarity and filtration.  Most winemakers use this agent in the 0.5 to 4 pounds per 1000 gallons and staying in the lower ranges.

  The above are not by any means the only fining agents used in the wine business but they are perhaps the most commonly used.  Many winemakers are starting to move away from fining agents, agents that remove things, to adding agents and building their wines.  With better fruit maturity winemakers report not needing to “remove to improve” but dialing in with items such as pictured here.  This is an ever expansive group of items with new items being added quickly.  Keeping in mind they are new we don’t know all of the long term ramifications of their use.

  Bottom line whether looking to fine or add – trials in the laboratory are essential and waiting to taste and test those trials can be beneficial so the wine and agents can “marry” and then allow the wine glass to show better what the results are and will be.

Other Helpful Tips with Fning Agents

  Make sure the wines or juices are low in Carbon Dioxide gas since the bubbles may attach to the fining agents preventing them from settling in the tank or lab beaker.

  All fining agents should be fresh and free of off or undesirable aromas and flavors.  Use cellar batches so results match.

  PH affects the rate of settling – lower pH wines settle faster in almost all cases of fining.

  The ultimate goal of a fining trial is to use the least amount of fining agent possible to achieve a desired improvement to a wine or a desired stability, such as protein and heat stability, needed prior to bottling.


  After reading this article, if your winery does not currently seek improved wines through fining trials, sit down for about one hour and start to develop a plan with a calculator.  Think of how you can perform fining trials in your lab and set aside future time to work with your plan.  You will be amazed at how much refining can be done to wine and how easy it really is.  Make this a part of your work improvement program this year!  Give it a shot!

  If you would like more information, please contact me (Tom Payette) at 540-672-0387.


Have You Fortified Your Workers’ Compensation Program?

Even though there may be many aspects that are similar, the safety programs for every winery will in all likelihood look very different. Like any other effort to manage your risks, your plan will need to identify the risks you face and in turn determine how they will be managed.

There are many hazardous activities carried out in the wine industry that can result in a serious injury or even death if not managed properly. Your risks may include things such as:

•   The physical work environment

•   Occupational hazards(i.e. slips and falls, chemicals, cuts/lacerations)

•   Machinery, processing and substances used

•   Work practices and systems of work

•   Special events involving live music, weddings, special tastings, etc.

  A commitment to managing these safety and health risks is a great way for your winery to protect your greatest resource – your people. Spending time on health and safety can help create a better work environment and improve your worker morale. Winery accidents on the other hand, due to a lack of this kind of commitment, can have an immense impact on your injured workers, their co-workers and on their families in terms of pain, suffering, disability, stress and loss or change of employment. Your winery can incur direct costs that may include claims costs, increased insurance premiums, and fines. There are also indirect costs, which may include damage to property, the cost of finding and training temporary employees, and production or service interruption leading to loss of customers.  The total cost of an accident can be significant.

  At first, managing workers’ compensation for your winery may seem like a daunting task. You want to protect your employees while still keeping your premiums as low as possible.  There are many challenges to address. Avoiding accidents is a sure way to not only protect your employees but also keep your premium costs down. Where do you start? What should you focus on? A good way for you to begin is to identify areas that warrant your initial safety efforts by asking a few basic questions:

•    How frequently do safety incidents arise?

•    How will our management deal with them?

•    Who is responsible for mitigation efforts?

•    What costs are associated with each event?

•    What costs are associated with initiatives to mitigate them?

•    What safety and legal regulations are applicable to our organization?

•    What are the training and recordkeeping requirements?

  You might also ask your insurance agent to help you answer some of the questions above so you can determine your safety risks and in turn start putting together a safety program to specifically address your winery’s risks. In OSHA’s “Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines”, they suggest the following core elements be included in a Safety and Health Program to aid in managing workplace risks:

•    Management Leadership

      a) Top management demonstrates its commitment to continuous improvement in safety and health, communicates that commitment to workers, and sets program expectations and responsibilities.

      b) Managers at all levels make safety and health a core organizational value, establish safety and health goals and objectives, provide adequate resources and support for the program, and set a good example.

•    Worker Participation

      a) Workers and their representatives are involved in all aspects of the program—including setting goals, identifying and reporting hazards, investigating incidents, and tracking progress.

      b) All workers, including contractors and temporary workers, understand their roles and responsibilities under the program and what they need to do to effectively carry them out.

      oWorkers are encouraged and have a means to communicate openly with management and to report safety and health concerns without fear of retaliation.

      c) Any potential barriers or obstacles to worker participation in the program (for example, language, lack of information, or disincentives) are removed or addressed.

•    Hazard Identification and Assessment

      a) Procedures are put in place to continually identify workplace hazards and evaluate risks.

      oAn initial assessment of existing hazards and control measures is followed by periodic inspections and reassessments to identify new hazards.

•    Hazard Prevention and Control

      a) Employers and workers cooperate to identify and select options for eliminating, preventing, or controlling workplace hazards.

      b) A plan is developed that ensures controls are implemented, interim protection is provided, progress is tracked, and the effectiveness of controls is verified.

•    Education and Training

      a) All workers are trained to understand how the program works and how to carry out the responsibilities assigned to them under the program.

      b) All workers are trained to recognize workplace hazards and to understand the control measures that have been implemented.

•    Program Evaluation and Improvement

      a) Control measures are periodically evaluated for effectiveness.

      b) Processes are established to monitor program performance,  verify program implementation, identify program deficiencies and opportunities for improvement, and take actions necessary to improve the program and overall safety and health performance.

•    Coordination and Communication on Multiemployer Worksites

      a) The host employer and all contract employers coordinate on work planning and scheduling to identify and resolve any conflicts that could impact safety or health.

      b) Workers from both the host and contract employer are informed about the hazards present at the worksite and the hazards that work of the contract employer may create on site.

  By having an organized and integrated approach to the safety and health program for your winery, you can be well on your way to better managing the welfare of your employees and avoiding accidents and their associated costs.

Understanding Workers’ Compensation Basics

  Workers’ compensation was one of the first insurance programs adopted broadly throughout the United States.   It is designed to provide a satisfactory way to address the medical and economic aspects of employment related injuries.

  With this insurance, your workers’ are provided benefits for certain conditions sustained in the course of employment such as injury, disability, and death.  These benefits are paid without regard to fault in exchange for the worker giving up their right to sue  their employer.

  Most states have compulsory workers’ compensation laws requiring  employers to accept and comply with all provisions of the law. The purpose of these workers’ compensation laws is to provide benefits for any of your employees who suffer an occupational injury or disease. 

Important Wording Within These Laws Include:

•    A definition of “occupational injury” that appears in many state workers’ compensation laws is an injury “arising out of and in the course of employment.” 

•    “Arising out of employment” is generally interpreted to mean that the injury must arise out of a risk which is reasonably related to the employment. 

•    “In the course of employment” is generally interpreted to mean that for an injury to be compensable, it must occur when the worker is at work, during the hours in which they are expected to be there, and while they are engaged in the work that they are employed to do.  In other words it has to do with the time, place, and circumstances of the injury.

  While early workers’ compensation laws had no provisions for occupational disease, each state has now either incorporated occupational disease coverage into workers’ compensation  law or passed separate disease legislation.

  All workers’ compensation laws incorporate four types of benefits: Medical, Disability, Rehabilitation, and Survivor also known as death benefits.

•    Medical benefits provide payment for the medical treatment of an injured worker.  

•    Disability benefits compensate workers who are unable to work as a result of a work-related injury.

•    Most states have laws addressing workers’ compensation rehabilitation benefits and every state accepts the provisions of the Federal Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973. 

•    Survivor also called “Death Benefits” attempt to compensate a surviving spouse, children or other relatives of a worker whose death results from an on-the-job injury.

  The most common funding method to pay for these benefits is a workers’ compensation insurance policy from a private insurance company.  Under this method you, as an employer transfer all compensation obligations to your insurance company, which then pays worker benefits to your employees and handles other details required by law. 

Fundamentals of Managing Workers’ Compensation Safety Program

  Reducing the frequency and severity of claims is the best way you can contain your total cost of workers’ compensation.  Written safety programs that address the hazards your employees are exposed,  along with top management support and effective employee training not only help reduce direct claims expense, but eliminate the indirect or “hidden” costs of workers’ compensation claims.  These programs can produce substantial savings for your winery over time, since related expenses such as: loss of services, cost of training a new worker, temporary help, and administrative expense are often multiples of the direct claims costs incurred.

Claim Investigation

  Your supervisors and managers will play a key role in preventing claims and must understand the importance of thoroughly investigating the causes of injuries and taking appropriate corrective action to eliminate unsafe conditions and practices that produce claims.   It is frequently your supervisors who play a pivotal role in the opportunity for, and success of return-to-work programs including: modified duty and transitional work programs.

  Actions taken by your supervisors immediately after an injury occurs can have a major impact on the ultimate disposition of your claims.  These individuals are critical since they are frequently the first to know of claims and have the initial opportunity to investigate, direct and manage events.

Claim Reporting

  Prompt reporting of insurance claims should be encouraged and is considered a best practice in workers’ compensation.  There are significant benefits for promptly reporting all of your employee injuries.  This includes:

•    Most states have reporting requirements for insureds to report claims on a timely basis and may impose monetary fines as a penalty for failing to report claims.

•    Prompt reporting allows the claim adjuster to complete a timely investigation of the loss to determine compensability and to determine an appropriate plan of action for resolving the claim.

•    “Red flag indicators” of fraud are able to be detected and this allows the carrier to determine whether a case should be referred for surveillance or if there is an opportunity to pursue subrogation against a negligent third party.

•    The prompt reporting of injuries allows medical treatment to occur within specialized occupational medical clinics familiar with treating workers’ compensation injuries with a focus on facilitating an early return-to-work to promote quicker healing.

•    In some states, workers’ compensation benefits may be reduced (or altogether denied) if there is confirmed evidence of alcohol or a prohibited drug on a post incident drug test.

Medical Control/Provider Selection and Management

  Proper selection of workers’ compensation medical providers, combined with effective referral procedures and ongoing provider communication programs can significantly reduce your claims expense. Medical providers must understand your winery operations and human resources philosophies, should specialize in occupational medicine, and be willing to work closely with your insurer.


  It is well established that returning injured employees to the workforce in a timely manner substantially decreases both direct and indirect costs.  Programs that focus on managing temporary disability, permanent disability and early return-to-work will have the greatest impact on reducing claims expense and increasing employee satisfaction and productivity.

  There are many approaches to establishing return-to-work programs, based on your winery’s culture and individual needs. They range from simple “modified duty” plans to fully integrated “total absence management” programs seeking to use the same practices and protocols to manage all time off work – both occupational and non-occupational injury and illness. In addition to reducing workers’ compensation expense, these programs can decrease your exposure under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other similar federal and state laws.

Know your Experience Rating or Experience Modification

  An experience rating or modification provides a financial incentive to reduce workplace accidents.  The rating does not apply to all employers.  Most small employers are not eligible.  Visit with your insurance agent to determine if or when you may qualify for an experience modification.

  An experience modification compares your winery’s loss or claims history to all other companies in the same industry that are similar in size.  A modification of less than 1.00 reflects better than average losses while over 1.00 reflects worse than average losses.  The modification increases or decreases the cost of your winery’s workers’ compensation insurance premium.  It must be applied to your policy regardless of the insurer.


  There are many things to consider as you attempt to “fortify” your workers’ compensation” exposures. Not only do you need to have controls in place to manage the safety and health risks inherent to your winery you also need to have systems in place to manage a claim should it occur. Having an integrated management system such as this can greatly help your winery in addressing these risks.

  This document is intended for general information purposes only, and should not be construed as advice or opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. The content of this document is made available on an “as is” basis, without warranty of any kind. This publication is not intended to be legal, underwriting, or any other type of professional advice.  Persons requiring advice should consult an independent adviser.  Markel does not guarantee any particular outcome and makes no commitment to update any information herein, or remove any items that are no longer accurate or complete.  

© 2020 Markel Service, Incorporated.  All rights reserved. 


Lodi’s Hidden Gem

By: Nan McCreary

When wine aficionados think of Lodi, California, Zinfandel comes to mind. Yet, in this sea of red, is Acquiesce Winery, a hidden gem that makes nothing but white Rhône wines.

  When Rodney and Susan Tipton purchased an 18-acre plot of land near Lodi with a hundred-year-old barn and 12 acres of Zinfandel, grape growing was the last thing on their minds. They named the property “Acquiesce” after a k.d. lang song with the same name, which reminds one to acquiesce, or surrender to nature and enjoy the quiet. This was in 2000, and Lodi was buzzing with vineyards and wineries. Inevitably, the Tiptons developed an interest in the local wine trade. 

  “We started making wine as home winemakers and, at the time, I just happened to taste a Grenache Blanc from Châteauneuf-du-Pape and thought it was the best wine I’d ever had,” Susan Tipton said. “I tried to buy two cases, but the store owner said, ‘You are holding the last bottle in California.’ This is where we began our journey.”

Susan, who managed various enterprises while she and Rodney raised three boys, describes herself as a worker-bee, so she set out to learn all she could about white Rhône grapes. She discovered that only 6% of grapes in Châteauneuf-du-Pape are white, and most don‘t make it to the U.S. When they do, they are usually oaked and expensive.

  Winemakers in Lodi discouraged her from making white wines, saying she’d need red wines to stay in business, but Susan remained undaunted. “I fell in love with the Rhône wines, especially the whites in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape grouping,” Tipton said.  “I always thought white wine was treated as a second class citizen—you never see a 100-point white wine—so I wanted to do white wines, and I wanted to do them right.”

  Research on the Lodi terroir encouraged Susan to pursue her passion. The climate was similar to the Southern Rhône, with warm, sunny days to ripen the grapes and the delta breeze from the Pacific Ocean to cool the grapes at night. Plus, the sandy soil on their property was perfect for nourishing the grapes. She was convinced they could grow Rhône grapes, and grow them well. 

  In 2005, with Susan as the winemaker and Rodney as operations manager, the two planted their first grapes–clones of Grenache Blanc from Tablas Creek Vineyards’ cuttings, which originated from the famed Château de Beaucastel in southern Rhône. The success of these wines led the Tiptons to plant Roussanne, Viognier, Picpoul Blanc and more Grenache Blanc in 2009.

  “At the time, we were making so much wine that we had more than we could give to friends,” she said, “so we decided to open a tasting room in the old barn. We started a wine club too, and when it developed a significant waitlist, our members encouraged us to plant more grapes.”

  In 2015, the Tiptons planted more Picpoul Blanc, Roussanne and Grenache Noir, along with new varietal Clairette Blanche. In 2016, Acquiesce Winery was the first vineyard in the U.S. to plant Bourboulenc. All Acquiesce vines are cuttings from Château de Beaucastel.

  Early in this journey, Tipton hired winemaker Heather Pyle Lucas, one of the founding winemakers at Opus One Winery, to guide her through the winemaking process. Lucas, with 30 years in the industry and owner and winemaker at Lucas Winery in Lodi, assured Tipton that she could make world-class wines.

  “I was super excited about this,” Tipton said. “I was always the winemaker, but she worked with us for over 10 years as a little bird on my shoulder who was giving me helpful hints and instruction as we went along. She really helped us to create our vision.”

  That vision has come to fruition. Today, Acquiesce is truly a jewel in the crown of Lodi, the largest grape region in the world. As a one-of-a-kind vineyard, creating white wines exclusively, Acquiesce wines sell out every year, and its wine club is the hot ticket in town. The winery is also introducing people to the white wines of the Southern Rhône, which are extremely rare in the U.S. According to Tipton, their signature wine is the Grenache Blanc, the grape that “sold” her on Rhône wines.

  “Grenache Blanc is a one-off of red Grenache and has a big mid-palate like a red wine,” Tipton said. “People who think they don’t like white wines come to our tasting room and try the wine and say, ‘Wow, I’ve never had a wine like this before.’”

  Tipton attributes their success to a passion for the grapes and strict attention to detail. Grapes are estate-grown, hand-picked, whole-cluster pressed and fermented in stainless steel – no oak. “Our whole goal is to bring what’s in the vineyard into the bottle without interference.”

  The Tiptons farm their grapes according to the area’s “Lodi Rules”: over 120 farming standard practices that help farmers manage their vineyards sustainably. The rules are divided into six categories: ecosystem management, water management, soil management, pest management, business management and human resources. “Our vineyard manager certifies us every year,” Tipton said. “We live on the property, so it behooves us to make sure we’re doing what’s best for us and our customers.”

  In the cellar, Tipton carefully “babysits” the grapes during fermentation. “I’d made big reds—Zinfandels—on the property and thought it was pretty easy, but making white wines and rosés is very challenging,” she said. “I’ve talked to people in France who’ve said the same thing. It’s all a timing issue. I have to make sure the wine maintains a certain temperature during fermentation, I limit its exposure to oxygen, and I take care to fine and filter it properly. During this process, if you do one little thing incorrectly, the whole batch can turn out wrong.” 

  Rosés, she said, are particularly sensitive if the temperature and yeast are not quite right. Acquiesce produces a Provence-style rosé from Grenache, using the direct press method. According to Tipton, the grapes for direct press are picked at lower brix and higher acids than grapes harvested for the saignée method. This keeps the alcohol levels down and brings up the acidity, resulting in grapes with more perfumed aromatics and delicate flavors.

  Acquiesce wines are all of premium quality and single variety, with the exception of two blends: Belle Blanc, a blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Viognier; and Ingénue, a unique blend of Grenache Blanc, Clairette Blanche, Bourboulenc and Picpoul Blanc. The winery also produces a méthode champenoise Grenache Blanc that Tipton describes as “mineral-driven and crisp, a lush and elegant representation of Lodi’s terroir that pairs well with everything.” Tipton believes she makes the only méthode champenoise sparkling Grenache Blanc in the world, and she knows of only two other wineries in the U.S. making Clairette Blanche.

  Many of Acquiesce’s wines have won multiple national and international awards, with numerous Double Gold, Gold and Best of Class awards. In 2016, Tipton’s Viognier was awarded Best in the State at the California State Fair.

  While the Acquiesce tasting room is temporarily closed because of the coronavirus, the winery, like many others, is “pivoting” by offering virtual tasting experiences that include food pairings specially matched for each wine. These experiences are similar to what Tipton offers when the tasting room is open to customers.

  “We up our game and try to have conversations– whether live or online–about why these wines are special,” Tipton said. “When you pair them with the right foods, it can be life-changing.” Wines for the tastings can be ordered online at discounted shipping rates or picked up at the winery.

  As the Tiptons look to the future, they are content to stay where they are, producing 4,000 cases a year and selling their wines only out of the tasting room. Since they sell out of their annual production, they close the tasting room four months out of the year.

  “It’s basically just my husband and me, and we have two guys who help us during pressing, so we have no interest in growing,” Tipton told The Grapevine Magazine. “We called our property Acquiesce because we really wanted to surrender, but, in fact, we haven’t really acquiesced because we’ve been working so hard. But it’s been fun, and we have acquiesced to the grapes. That is our mantra: to submit to nature, to yield to the vineyard, to acquiesce to the grapes, so they present their own true character.”

For more information on Acquiesce Winery and their virtual tastings, visit their website at