Improving Yield and Fruit Quality with Precision Management Tools

By: Becky Garrison

At the United Wine Symposium Virtual Conference and Trade Show held online from January 26-29, 2021, Dr. Nick Dokoozlian, Vice President of Winegrowing Research at E&J Gallo Winery, Bob Thomas, Mesa Vineyard Management, and Dr. Lav Khot, Asso-ciate Professor of Precision Agriculture at Washington State University, offered their insights regarding precision management in vineyards. In their presentation, these ex-perts gave their perspectives regarding how growers seeking to thrive in this ever-changing market can produce high-quality fruit while reducing inputs through techno-logical inventions.

Addressing Yield Variability and Fruit Quality with Technology

  Dokoozlian described how E&J Gallo assesses the overall performance of their vine-yards. “Yield maps have been a vital and critical element to advancing precision prac-tices,” he said. They outfitted their mechanical harvester with yield monitors that pro-vide real-time monitoring of plant growth and canopy health, plant and soil water and nutrient status, pests and diseases. “We take that data and model it against other block data layers including soil type and plant available water content to better under-stand the causes of yield and fruit quality variability.”

  After a few years, Gallo developed a model that explained a good portion of their block yield variability. Not surprisingly, most of their vineyards showed significant variability, with up to 40% of the vines in a block producing below the mean block yield and 30% producing below the mean block fruit quality. The parameters driving this variability included plant available water, subsurface soil compaction, and soil texture.

  In Dokoozlian’s assessment, plant water availability in the soil is typically the most significant variable driving vineyard yield and fruit quality variability. Early season irrigation management is critical with low vigor vines, requiring irrigation more frequently and much earlier than high vigor vines. To determine those vines that need additional wa-ter, they began to understand the power of remote sensing. Through satellite images, they learned to spot those areas where the vines are stressed and need more water compared to other sites where the vines are not stressed and receive adequate water.

  Simply adding emitters to low vigor vines using a traditional drip system failed to pin-point these specific areas that need additional water. “When we flip the switch on our drip irrigation systems, we typically apply the exact same water to all vines in the block. We irrigate that block somewhere in the middle of those two ranges to hit the average. But the reality is we’re under watering or over watering many vines,” Dokoo-zlian said.

  Dokoozlian said precision irrigation (VRDI) is an effective tool to manage vineyard variability. VDRI can irrigate individual portions of the blocks independently from each other. After two months of using VRDI, they noticed improved canopy uniformity with yields increasing 10–15% and water use efficiency – tons produced per unit of applied water – increasing from 15-20%. Also, fruit and wine quality was maintained or im-proved.

  Despite these promising results, Dokoozlian points to the need for more research to optimize irrigation timings and amounts for desired vine response using VRDI and asess the impact of fruit quality uniformity on wine quality. At present, the cost and operational complexity of VRDI systems are the primary challenges for growers looking to adopt VRDI in their vineyards.

Variable Rate Fertilization

  In his presentation, Bob Thomas spoke to how variances in the soil due to different nutrients can be addressed by changing the methods used to fertilize the soil. The standard fertilization – adding nutrients through the drip system – works correctly in most instances. In this method, each vine receives the same nutrient addition with minimal application cost. Also, compost is usually applied by a spreader at a fixed rate.

  Through aerial imagery, Thomas illuminated how Mesa Vineyard Management could spot weaker growth in areas of lighter soil that they needed to address. “We looked at variable rate applications to apply different rates down the row,” he said.

  They started by putting the basic data on a bigger map to image the soil map. A prescription map featuring the flow rate was loaded into the platform to show the different zones along with the amount of compost they wanted to spread in each zone. This platform monitored tractor rotation in the field with compost applied at the prescribed rate.

  Calibrating the spreader is the most crucial step, according to Thomas. The compost was measured and adjusted to fit the desired rate of application. They set the spreader to apply the highest rate on their prescription map and slow the rate of discharge by closing the flow down to a lower rate. In Thomas’ analysis, this method can be used for pre-plant soil preparation to add soil. “A prescription map allows you to apply specifi-cally what is needed at the desired rate in the desired location.”

Benefits of Mechanical Pruning

  During Thomas’s talk, he noted that mechanical pruning works best when set up cor-rectly from the beginning rather than retrofitting later in the process. He briefly ad-dressed the pruning limitations on labor availability and how labor cost gave rise to mechanical pruning as an alternative. “If you track man-hours per acre, pruning can be one of the most labor intensive man-hours in the winery,” he said.

  Mesa Vineyard employed several methods to minimize the man-hours per acre, rang-ing from pre-printed coordinates to box pruning the entire cord using a variable rate pruning method. This method allows a technician to prune two rows simultaneously while adjusting the pruning blades’ location up and down or side to side as the blades move down the row.

  In Thomas’ estimation, “This method of pruning has the ability to leave a large number of growing plants, thus allowing for the potential of increased yields.” Also, hand cleanup after mechanical pruning is not necessary every season.

Use of Intelligent/Precision/Smart Sprayers

  Lav Khot addressed technological developments beneficial to growers when applying chemicals or pesticides. In particular, he pointed to the technological developments afforded by intelligent precision or smart sprayers. In addition to targeting the specific areas in the vineyard where these chemicals are needed, these sprayers also help cut down on any drift that can impact both the plant’s environment and the customer consuming the wine and grapes. “There’s a moral issue of reducing maximum residue limits or pesticide residues on the produce,” Khot said.

  Khot introduced the audience to the new laser-guided, variable rate intelligent sprayer. Khot briefly described the universal automatic control system that can be retrofitted on existing sprayers for those who wish to adapt an existing sprayer.

  He focused on how to make these sprayers both intelligent and effective. First, use a sensor that can read a canopy’s attributes, such as volume and density, and adjust the spray rate accordingly. “We’re already using what is called LIDAR (Light detection and ranging) to get the point cloud data of the canopies,” he said. One can also utilize remote sensing data to map the canopies using drones.

  A Pulse Width Modulation System can be employed to activate the nozzles on the back of the sprayer. This allows the sprayer to fine tune the individual nozzles by controlling the amount of liquid coming out of each nozzle. In this work, nozzle selection is critical to ensure accurate results. Once the base dosage – one ounce of liquid per cu-bic foot of canopy – is optimized for chosen crop and canopy architecture, this pro-cess reduces the need to estimate the dosage and application rates.

  In conclusion, Khot points to the necessity of educating those operating this equipment on how to utilize this technology best. “We need to have a service sector for growers to use this technology properly. In the next few years, we’ll see some of that happening as more growers try to use this technology,” he said.

Tow-Behind Equipment for the Vineyard

By: Alyssa L. Ochs

From sprayers to mulchers, mowers and cultivators, many pieces of large equipment are used in the modern vineyard. Most vineyard owners are already familiar with the types of machinery that work well for grape growing purposes. However, recent innovations have apparatuses that are towed behind powered vehicles and useful in a vineyard setting.

An Overview of Tow-Behind Equipment

  Sprayers are a common type of equipment towed behind tractors to disburse pesticides and fungicides. Multi-row sprayers serve to reduce labor and soil compaction with the ultimate goals of controlling pests, mildew, fungi and diseases.

  Mulchers are used in a vineyard to clear away vines, branches, grass and bushes to clean up the planting area. Specialized mulchers crush vine shoots and are attached to a tractor to chop up debris for later use or disposal. Mulchers are vital because they help improve soil fertility, control pests and weeds and produce useful organic material.

  Another towable piece of equipment is the mower, used in vineyards to cut tall weeds that impede grape growth. Vineyard owners can ensure proper growth of cover crops by shredding vines, tree prunings and leaf debris.

  The cultivator is effective in controlling weeds without the use of chemicals. Cultivators uproot weeds mechanically while creating zero emissions, waste or pollution when used for hoeing, weeding or soil aeration. Vineyard staff often use cultivators for hoeing vines after the heavy rains at the end of winter.

Features to Look for inTow-Behind Equipment

  When a vineyard is in the market for a new sprayer, they should look for equipment that offers complete coverage to wrap around vines and over and under leaves. Other beneficial features include width and height adjustment for rows, wind covers to keep spray from blowing away, the ability to maneuver well, lightweight construction and different tank size options.

  Based in Oliver, British Columbia, Canada, Munckhof Manufacturing offers various equipment for vineyards and orchards. These include sprayers, soil working machines, sweepers, mounting equipment, bin handling devices, pre-pruners, trimmers and hedgers. For sprayers, Munckhof sells high-density tower sprayers, conventional output sprayers, herbicide sprayers, skid/gun sprayers and vineyard tower sprayers that are lateral row configurations.

  Dennis van den Munckhof told The Grapevine Magazine, “Conventional radial output sprayers have been the catch-all standby for decades, but we build high-efficiency towers and output systems today that are simple and do a great job of directing the output and closing the drift distance between the sprayer and the target.”

  For mulchers, vineyard owners typically consider how finely machines chop up the crop residue, the vibration, and the power draw balance for performance and machine longevity. Another consideration is the different sizes available to suit the vineyard’s land. Mulchers can be attached to the front or the rear of a tractor and have adjustable collecting rakes to catch residue and break it down further into a fine mulch.

  A vineyard mower should efficiently cut through thick cover crops and tree and vine prunings. It should also be able to reach under overhanging branches and vines and cut overgrown areas without the need to clear material first.

  Cultivators move at the tractor’s speed, which is about four to seven miles per hour. When looking for a new cultivator, consider a model with an adjustable spring-loaded retraction system and a weeder head that spins around the vines.

  According to Paul Licata from BDi Machinery Sales, Inc. in Macungie, Pennsylvania, the new Rinieri Bio-Dynamic product is ideal for fast inter-row mechanical weeding of vineyards, hemp, orchards and other cultivation applications. BDi Machinery offers various innovative specialty agricultural machinery, including sprayers, hedgers, leaf removers, shredders, cultivators, pruners, mowers, row mulchers and more. This company has been in the industry since 1996 and prides itself on being a partner to its direct customers and customers of its dealers to provide the latest technological advances in agricultural equipment.

  “The Bio-Dynamic product features a Bio-disc, a toothed disc that breaks the ground near the plants, a Bio-Star head and a patented rubber star, which is available in different sizes,” Licata told The Grapevine Magazine. “Through its rays, it performs the inter-row processing and eliminates weeds near the plants.”

A Look at New Technology and Innovations

  Although many features of sprayers, mulchers, mowers and cultivators have remained the same for decades, there have been some useful updates to these machines recently. For example, vineyard owners can now buy sprayers with more nozzles per head for improved efficiency and with better airflow designs. Other modern developments include electrostatic sprayers, GPS navigation and automatic sprayer controllers and monitors for precise application.

  There are new laser cutting and robotic welding technologies used today on modern mulchers. Mulchers are also being designed now with higher resistance to wear over time.

  For mowing, vineyards can invest in robotic mowers for more precise cutting between grapevines with a central computation system. Sensor data to plan paths and automate motors with GPS positioning can help new mowers get closer to plants without damaging them.

  Meanwhile, cultivator manufacturers create more powerful models that work better in difficult soil conditions.

  “The Rinieri BioDynamic has the Bio-Disc group that is a new technology and innovation,” said Licata. “Machines are equipped with two discs for vineyards and work for other applications too, such as hemp and blueberries, while the orchard version has three or four discs.”

  “Equally new and innovative is the Bio-Star that is available in three different sizes, with a diameter of 21, 27 and 37 inches,” Licata said. “It has rubber spokes of three different consistencies – soft, medium and hard – so you can choose according to the type of soil and culture.”

  However, integration of new technology does not necessarily mean the product is better or the best suited for the vineyard’s needs. Continued education about new technologies will help vineyard managers make wise purchasing decisions and not complicate operations with minimal benefit.

  “Be wary of overly complicated ‘new tech’ output systems,” said Munckhof. “If you want to integrate new tech into your operations, I would recommend looking to computer monitoring and metering to aid in decision making and compliment a proven design.”

Maintenance Considerations for Towable Equipment

  As with any piece of equipment used in a vineyard, sprayers, mulchers, mowers and cultivators will need to be maintained and repaired over the years. If possible, talk with other vineyard owners and operators about the machines they use and their ease of maintenance. With regular use, it will be necessary to check for debris stuck inside the equipment and to assess the sharpness of the cutting blades from year to year. These are things to discuss with the manufacturer or dealer before making any major purchase for the vineyard.

  When buying any new agricultural machinery, read the owner’s manual to learn proper machine operations and maintenance. Reduce wear and tear by lubricating cables and chains and pressure-washing the equipment to prevent mud build-up, rust and eroded enamel coatings. A little extra work in maintaining machinery can go a long way in avoiding future hassles and huge expenses.

Final Tips and Words of Advice

  Munckhof told The Grapevine Magazine, “The best advice I could give to prospective buyers is to keep it simple and look for a machine that is a match to the crop they are trying to protect.”

  He also said to consider the product’s serviceability and what kind of support you can expect to get in the years ahead. “We have been in business since ‘79 and still see equipment from the early ‘80s in commercial use. Credit due to the operator’s maintenance, but also because we offer parts and support and because the machines are designed to last.”

  Similarly, Licata said the most important thing for an operator of a vineyard is working with a trusted machinery distributor that provides service, parts and support. “Although machines are built to be durable, when issues happen in the field, the support to getting back up and running as quickly as possible is essential.”

Vineyard Diseases & Fungi:

Planning for the Season and Effective Control Strategies

By: Alyssa L. Ochs 

No vineyard is immune to diseases and fungi, and the effects can be devastating if these organisms aren’t controlled proactively and on an as-needed basis. Fortunately, there are many different ways that vineyards can protect themselves against these risks and set themselves up for success for the year. It is beneficial to understand the common diseases and fungi that affect vineyards and what to do to keep vines safe and healthy.

Types of Diseases and Fungi in Vineyards

  Vineyard owners encounter both viral and bacterial diseases on grapevines that affect the plants in various ways. Red blotch and leafroll are common viral diseases spread through infected cuttings that pose risks to wine grapes. Anna-Liisa Fabritius, Ph.D., Plant Pathologist, University of California-Riverside, told The Grapevine Magazine that both viruses affect berry chemistry and cause delays in ripening of the fruit and color, which translates to poor wine quality. In 2009, Dr. Fabritius and Lana Dubrovsky started AL&L Crop Solutions, a plant pathology laboratory that provides disease diagnostic services to the agricultural industry.

  Meanwhile, crown gall is a common bacterial disease that affects grapes. Dr. Fabritius said that at least two different Agrobacterium species are causal agents of crown gall – one affecting grapevines only, while the other causes crown gall in several other plant species. Ultimately, large galls strangle the vine and restrict the water and nutrient uptake, which leads to reduced vine vigor and yield.

  Dr. Fabritius said that, like viruses, the distribution of the bacteria throughout the plant could be erratic. Bacteria may also be present at very low levels. A bio-PCR method, where the pathogen is first amplified on laboratory media, is often needed to diagnose low bacteria levels. PCR analysis is necessary to distinguish the tumor-inducing strains from non-pathogenic strains.

  Fungi can move between vines along intermingled roots and spread due to human activity, vineyard tools, plant debris in soil and even water splashing from rain or irrigation. Fabritius said that the most common fungal diseases are canker diseases caused by Botryosphaeria and Eutypa.

  “They cause big economic losses in vineyards throughout the world,” she said. “Vine decline disease is best noticed in spring or early summer when the new growth picks up. The shoot growth in vines infected with these fungi is poor compared to healthy vines.”

  Garrett Gilcrease, agronomic service representative of Central California for Syngenta, told The Grapevine Magazine that the main pathogens on everyone’s minds are powdery mildew and botrytis. These two pathogens are the most widespread, cause the most economic damage and can take an entire crop out in what feels like an instant.

  “With powdery mildew, we have the advantage of scouting now and combining that with the pressure we had last year to get a gauge of how aggressive we need to get in 2021,” Gilcrease said. “While scouting now during the dormant time and early spring, a telltale sign of a previous infection would be dark-brown-to-reddish diffuse patches along the canes and dormant buds. The patches are leftover infections from the previous season and contain dormant reproductive bodies which are sources of inoculum for the upcoming season.”

  Gilcrease said that the main issue here is the buds covered in dormant infections. During budbreak and rapid shoot growth, those shoots emerging from those buds carry that inoculum with it as it emerges from the bud.

  “This spreads the inoculum out over a larger area that becomes a large reservoir for infection once conditions are right,” Gilcrease said.” It’s sort of like placing an army throughout an area, building numbers, and then they all attack in a very coordinated way. This is one of the ways infections ‘explode’ over a very short period of time and cover vast acreages.”

  Meanwhile, he said that botrytis isn’t something that leaves behind visible references in such numbers compared to powdery mildew.

  “Most don’t know that botrytis infections, both early season and later season, are linked to some degree,” Gilcrease said. “The early infections around budbreak and into bloom are early and need to be treated when conditions permit, but all of that bloom tissue and initial inoculum essentially go dormant soon after spring & into the summer.”

  He advised that conditions are not the best for infection during that time, but things change later in summer and into the early fall. At that time, there is a large canopy, increased humidity and grapes are beginning the senescence process with veraison occurring and sugars increasing.

Effective Methods for Disease and Fungi Control

  Among the many control methods used in vineyards are solarization, soil fumigation, dormant sprays, scheduled fungicide application, using protectants for early season control and pruning and burning to eliminated diseased plant parts. Dr. Fabritius said that for controlling canker diseases, such as Botryosphaeria and Eutypa, pruning wound protection is important.

  “Pruning cuts are open surfaces for fungal spores to land and enter the vine,” she said. “Canker disease control can be accomplished by avoiding pruning during rainy weather, and by application of protecting fungicides onto the wounds.”

She said that controlling viral diseases can be achieved by planting virus-free vines and frequent monitoring of the vineyard.

  “Virus-free planting stock is essential for good productivity of the vineyard,” Dr. Fabritius said. “If starting with the clean material, only the viruses that are spread by vectors, such as insects or nematodes, can change the health status of the vineyard. To avoid introducing viruses, it is recommended to test your budwood for viruses. Most of the nurseries require this to be done anyway since they do not want to accept virus-containing material into their production. Virus containing budwood may not be an issue on rooted vines, but most of the rootstock varieties are very sensitive to the viruses.”

  Dr. Fabritius told The Grapevine Magazine that control of bacterial diseases, such as Agrobacterium, requires starting with clean budwood and cultural control to keep the disease in check.

  “This includes removal of infected wood and prevention of cold injuries,” she said. “When grapes are acclimatized to the cold, they can be better protected, and gall-formation is prevented.”

Recent Innovations for Disease and Fungi Control

  Syngenta Crop Protection offers various products to address these issues, including Miravis Prime and Aprovia Top. Gilcrease predicts that these products will play a significant role in all grape types due to the spectrum and technology enhancements compared to current product offerings and the products’ FRAC group composition.

  Aprovia Top contains Solatenol, one of the two new Carboximide actives brought to grapes in 2020. Solatenol reflects a change in Carboximide chemistry research and brings exceptional activity on powdery mildew on its own. 

  “Aprovia Top should be looked at as a powdery mildew specialist product that can be positioned at the early-to-middle timing of mildew infection,” Gilcrease said. “This will provide a good anchor for your powdery mildew program and increase the ROI for the grower, all while being very export-friendly with a clean MRL profile.”

  Meanwhile, Miravis Prime contains a breakthrough with Carboximide research with the active ingredient Adepidyn.

  “We, oftentimes, have ingredients that are very good at some pests but not others, or have great efficacy but don’t last very long,” Gilcrease said. “In Adepidyn, we created a molecule that has a wide pest control range because it targets both powdery mildew and botrytis on its own, very long residual control and very high intrinsic activity, meaning we can control pests with fractional amounts of Adepidyn compared to others on the market.”

  “In positioning Miravis Prime, it can be used early when both powdery and botrytis are active in the spring, thus anchoring your mildew program mid-season in rotation with other chemistries or later in the summer when botrytis and mildew again are active,” Gilcrease said.

  While dormant applications of various fungicides are effective, many of them, such as lime sulfur, can be corrosive to equipment, hard on beneficials, tough to clean and hazardous. In response to this issue, BioSafe Systems has developed a broad-spectrum, foliar fungicide for application during dormancy. Taylor Vadon, technical sales representative for BioSafe Systems, told The Grapevine Magazine that is why BioSafe brought PerCarb to the market. This product is an ideal alternative to many fungicides applied during dormancy because of its broad spectrum and contact mode of action with five to seven days of residual.

  “PerCarb is a soluble granular that, when put into solution, releases 27% hydrogen peroxide by weight and can be applied at a rate of four pounds per 100 gallons of water,” Vadon said. “The high concentration of hydrogen peroxide is very effective at killing and reducing overwintering structures of Phomopsis, black rot, anthracnose and, most notably, powdery mildew, thus reducing the inoculum going into the growing season.”

  Vadon noted that as with any dormancy-applied fungicide, it is important to use enough water to get the solution into the crevasses of the bark of the canes, cordon and trunk to saturate the overwintering structures and effectively kill them. He said that application timing is critical because if temperatures are warm, the solution could dry out too fast, thereby not allowing the contact time needed to kill the overwintering structures.

Environmental Sustainability with Disease and Fungi Control

  Although diseases and pests must be dealt with quickly and effectively, many vineyards want to do so as eco-friendly as possible. BioSafe Systems creates environmentally sustainable products to protect crops, water and people.

  Vadon said part of sustainability is keeping effective pest management products viable for many years because fungicide resistance is an issue facing vineyards across the country. Ways to address this include rotating mode of actions in fungicide FRAC groups and using a broad-spectrum contact fungicide. For example, BioSafe’s OxiDate 5.0 utilizes peroxyacetic acid to oxidize a pathogens’ cell structures at all developmental stages. Killing the organism through oxidation on contact dramatically reduces the chances of developing mutational resistance.

  “OxiDate 5.0 can be tank-mixed with many organic and conventional fungicides that are susceptible to developing resistance,” Vadon said. “This tank mix with Oxidate 5.0, in every compatible spray, will not only help fight fungicide resistance but will also lower inoculum in the vineyard. OxiDate 5.0 leaves no harmful residues and breaks down into hydrogen and carbon, making it an environmentally sustainable chemistry.”

Tips and Advice for Preventing Diseases and Fungi

  Prevention is the best strategy for staying on top of plant diseases and fungi before they strike. Fabritius said vineyards should be visually monitored throughout the growing season for symptomatic vines. Lab testing could confirm a viruses’ presence, and then virus-infected vines should be moved.

  “Vector monitoring is essential for the diseases that are spread by insects,” Fabritius said. “These can include visual monitoring for the presence of mealybugs, ant populations and use of pheromone traps. It is also a good idea to test your soils for the presence of nematodes.”

  Gilcrease said lime sulfur treatment during the dormant period has been shown to help knock back and limit mildew pressure throughout the vineyard. He also said vineyards should use sulfur to the highest degree and begin early.

  “Sulfur is one of those products that isn’t flashy but works great to break things up rotation-wise,” he said. “There are some restrictions on when and how late in the season you can use them based on your buyer, so make sure you fall within those regulations before you pull the trigger.”

  Finally, vineyards must think about coverage, regardless of what crop protection material they choose.

  “I think of large acreage and wanting to cover a lot of ground at once makes many think of aerial application,” Gilcrease said. “In the early season, this is okay as the canopy is not very dense and penetration from above is much easier. But as the season goes on, canes begin to really get dense and create a sort of umbrella over the clusters. At this point, an aerial application is nearly useless no matter how many acres can be covered in a short period of time. Long story short, aerial apps should be used when they can but not looked at as solution to rapid need such as putting a mildew fire out.”

Don’t Get Caught Off Guard During Wildfire Season

By: Michael Harding, Senior Risk Solution Specialist, Markel Specialty

Weather conditions and natural disasters occasionally take a toll on vineyards and other agricultural production systems. Due to climate change and recurring droughts, some of which are severe, the frequency and severity of wildfires is expected to increase. These risks highlight the need for winegrowers and winery owners to be as prepared as possible to reduce risk.

Putting Your Plan Together

  Many wineries may have already revisited their evacuation plans and filed them with their respective state agencies. Staying current of wildfire season developments can help enhance your ongoing planning and preparedness. Technology can also support your wildland fire planning and response. Additional planning resources by the American Red Cross are available at:

Steps to Take Before a Wildland Fire Event

•    Take a close look at your winery’s communication protocol for evacuations. Everyone should have a clear understanding of any community alarms that signal when you need to evacuate. Assign specific accountabilities to staff so everyone works collectively to achieve a positive outcome of protecting lives and property.

•    Work with your regional Forest Service to better understand emergency evacuation procedures in your area.

•    Coordinate with the American Red Cross, FEMA, and other emergency agencies to give them the locations of your evacuation sites. Invite your local fire department out as part of a fire pre-incident plan. They should be provided a map of your property, highlighting planned evacuation routes. They can also offer technical assistance to support your plan.

•    Prepare and post route maps for each site, including alternate routes. With a large fire, you may need to use “Plan B.”

•    Consider forming a cooperative agreement with another site to share resources and serve as an evacuation site.

•    Identify key equipment to be evacuated, including computers and other vital records. As part of your business continuity planning, programs should already have information backed up and stored remotely. But, in case you don’t, practice removing this equipment as part of your practice response.

•    Stock an ample supply of water and easily-prepared foods until rescue arrives.

Controlling Wildland Fire Exposures

  Wildland fires are one of the most catastrophic threats to wineries.  Protecting your structures from ignition and fire damage is an important program objective second only to an evacuation plan. Taking precautions ahead of time can help reduce the exposure of a wildfire intrusion. There are a number of proactive measures a winery can take to mitigate the property damage a wildland fire can cause.

  To support a fire adaptive community philosophy, the local fire department or authority having jurisdiction for your winery should require you to develop a landscape plan for your property. It is wise to seek their advice and incorporate their recommendations as you develop a plan specific to your location. You can learn more about fire adaptive community planning at the Fire Adaptive Communities,

  According to the NFPA 1144 – Reducing Structure Ignition Hazards from Wildland Fires, fire protection plans should address four zones around a property.

What are the primary threats to property during a wildfire?

Research around property destruction vs. property survival in wildfires point to embers and small flames as the main way that the majority of properties ignite in wildfires. Embers are burning pieces of airborne wood and/or vegetation that can be carried more than a mile through the wind, they can cause spot fires and ignite structures, debris and other objects.

  There are methods for property owners to prepare their structures to withstand ember attacks and minimize the likelihood of flames or surface fire touching the structure or any attachments. Experiments, models and post-fire studies have shown structures ignite due to the condition of the structure and everything around it, up to 200’ from the foundation.  This is called the Structure Ignition Zone.

What is the Structure Ignition Zone?

  The concept of the structure ignition zone was developed by retired USDA Forest Service fire scientist Jack Cohen in the late 1990’s, following some breakthrough experimental research into how structures ignite due to the effects of radiant heat. 

The structure ignition zone is divided into three zones; immediate, intermediate and extended.

Immediate Zone

  The structure and the area 0-5’ from the furthest attached exterior point of the structure; defined as a non-combustible area. Science tells us this is the most important zone to take immediate action on as it is the most vulnerable to embers.

  START WITH THE STRUCTURES then move into the landscaping section of the Immediate Zone.

•    Clean roofs and gutters of dead leaves, debris and pine needles that could catch embers.

•    Replace or repair any loose or missing shingles or roof tiles to prevent ember penetration.

•    Reduce embers that could pass through vents in the eaves by installing 1/8” metal mesh screening.

•    Clean debris from exterior attic vents and install 1/8” metal mesh screening to reduce embers.

•    Repair or replace damaged or loose window screens and any broken windows. Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating.

•    Move any flammable material away from wall exteriors – wooden pallets, mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles – anything that can burn. Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches.

Intermediate Zone

  5-30’ from the furthest exterior point of the structure.  Landscaping/hardscaping – employing careful landscaping or creating breaks that can help influence and decrease fire behavior.

•    Clear vegetation from under large stationary propane tanks.

•    Create fuel breaks with driveways, walkways/paths, patios, and decks.

•    Keep lawns and native grasses mowed to a height of 4”.

•    Remove ladder fuels (vegetation under trees) so a surface fire cannot reach the crowns. Prune trees up to 6-10’ from the ground; for shorter trees do not exceed 1/3 of the overall tree height.

•    Space trees to have a minimum of 18’ between crowns with the distance increasing with the percentage of slope.

•    Tree placement should be planned to ensure the mature canopy is no closer than 10’ to the edge of the structure.

•    Tree and shrubs in this zone should be limited to small clusters of a few each to break up the continuity of the vegetation across the landscape.

Extended Zone

  30-100’, out to 200’. Landscaping – the goal here is not to eliminate fire but to interrupt fire’s path and keep flames smaller and on the ground.

•    Dispose of heavy accumulations of ground litter/debris.

•    Remove dead plant and tree material.

•    Remove small conifers growing between mature trees.

•    Remove vegetation adjacent to storage sheds or other outbuildings within this area.

•    Trees 30 to 60’ from the structure should have at least 12’ between canopy tops.

•    Trees 60 to 100’ from the structure should have at least 6’ between the canopy tops.

If an Evacuation Becomes Evident

•    If possible, identify the location and direction of the fire event. Remain cognizant that this can quickly change direction and speed.

•    Clearly explain your evacuation procedures to all that may be involved.

•    Identify special medical needs and gather emergency equipment and necessities, including trauma supplies for ready access.

•    Designate enough vehicles to evacuate everyone safely. Reinforce safe driving practices with all drivers.

•    Equip staff with emergency communications equipment (cell phones, walkie-talkies, whistles, flares, colored smoke canisters, etc.). Ask your local jurisdiction authority for suggestions.

•    Load key equipment, vital records, food, and water.

•    Ask qualified associates to disconnect and move LP gas tanks to a safer location, such as a gravel lot, or follow the manufacturer’s instructions to empty the tanks.

•    Warn firefighters of underground fuel storage or LP gas tanks before you leave.

  Making your facility fire resistant can help reduce property loss. However, keep in mind that these steps should be done only by assigned staff in conjunction with an evacuation and never require or allow staff to remain behind. Close and secure all doors and windows once combustible materials have been moved away from these openings.

•    Wet down buildings and roofs. There are commercial grade fire retardant products available that can help support your efforts to protect your property. But do your research ahead of time; and don’t let the application of these products reduce the priority of evacuating.

•    Have qualified personnel cut down trees in the fire path, bulldoze a firebreak, and cut field grass as short as possible.

•    Remove brush and dry vegetation near buildings.

Fire evacuation – What you need to know

  During wildfire season, you may be forced to evacuate in a hurry. People are your first priority; to include guests, staff and firefighters. Most fire evacuations provide at least a three-hour notice; but due to the scope of your operation, you may need to do it sooner. Take proactive steps before and during an evacuation to reduce anxiety and avoid injuries. Plan, prepare and practice.

Filing Claims

  In the event your area experiences a wildfire event, it is highly likely it will not only be monitored by your insurance agent, in addition to your insurance company. Pre-loss documentation, such as video recordings and pictures of buildings, business personal property inventories, should be up to date and included as part of your evacuation materials. Working with your agent is a great resource to understand what might be necessary to help with documentation, if you should need it.


•    NFPA 1144 – Reducing Structure Ignition Hazards from Wildland Fires, 2018 Edition. National Fire Protection Association. Quincy, MA 02169, 2018

•    Fire Adaptive Communities. Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network.

•    Wildfire Safety. © 2019 The American National Red Cross

  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 document can’t be assumed to contain every acceptable safety and compliance procedures or that additional procedures might not be appropriate under the circumstances.  Markel does not guarantee that this information is or can be relied on for compliance with any law or regulation, assurance against preventable losses, or freedom from legal liability.  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.   Furthermore, Markel does not assume any liability to any person or organization for loss of damage caused by or resulting from any reliance placed on that content.

Dawn’s Dream Winery:

Making Dreams Come True for Others

By: Nan McCreary

For as long as she can remember, winery owner Dawn Galante has had a passion for lending a hand to non-profit organizations, especially those dedicated to helping women and children.  So when she opened her boutique winery in Carmel, California, it was only natural that she would focus not just on producing excellent wines but also on creating a business model that would allow her the opportunity to give back to the community. With these two goals in mind, in 2011, Galante launched Dawn’s Dream Winery, which has not only earned recognition for its wines but has helped hundreds of beneficiaries create dreams of their own.

  As a winery, Dawn’s Dream’s roots can be traced to Galante’s move from Michigan to California. Like many others, she got the “wine bug” exploring Napa and Sonoma.  “Once you land in a wine region, it doesn’t take long,” she said, laughing. 

  In 1999, she met now-husband Jack Galante, owner of Galante Vineyards in the Carmel Valley Hills. With a strong background in finances, she joined Jack’s team as CFO and operations manager, a position she still holds today. “I knew a lot about business but nothing about the wine industry,” she said,” so I took all the job positions with Galante Vineyards to learn it all. I even went on the road to help distribute the wine when Jack was selling.”

  After years of sitting behind a computer looking at spreadsheets, Galante got the urge to expand her horizons. It was Jack who suggested she combine her passion for wine with her passion for giving and start her own wine label. Galante loved the idea.

  “One of the things that has always been a part of my life, even as a young woman, is volunteering,” she said. “Helping others comes naturally. Dawn’s Dream came about because I wanted to incorporate that love into my life. Instead of it being just part of my life, I wanted it to be a way of life, and opening a winery was a perfect opportunity.”

  Putting the pieces of this puzzle together was not easy. “It took me a while to figure out how to do the giving back, which means giving money, product or time. I wanted to become a responsible giver because you can burn out if you don’t have some kind of organized method,” she said.

  The other challenge was how to balance the work of running a business with a focus in the non-profit world — not just the business of Dawn’s Dream but also that of Galante Vineyards.

  For Galante, the solution was to hire a general manager to oversee all aspects of the wineries so she could be free to move around each of them. In 10 years, Galante’s “dream” has evolved — and continues to evolve — but it is no longer a dream. It’s a reality, and a successful one at that. “We did it, and we’re still going at it,” she said proudly.

  In her commitment to helping the community, each year Galante and her team select a non-profit to share a partnership that lasts throughout the year.  This year it’s AIM Youth Mental Health, an organization devoted to the mental health of youth. This partnership is advertised in Galante’s tasting room in Carmel-by-the-Sea with a large chalkboard on the wall that asks visitors to “Dream a Little Dream of Me” and support the non-profit. 

  “This allows our staff to really spend a whole year with eyes on this non-profit, whether we join in on a luncheon to raise money or a walk or whatever the non-profit’s superpower is to bring recognition to the work they’re doing,” Galante said.

  For the non-profit, the benefits are many. Right out of the gate, Dawn’s Dream donates 16 cases of wine for board member retreats or whatever needs the group has. Also, Galante offers her tasting room for meetings and presents a stay in the Galante apartment in Carmel as an auction item for fundraising events.  A highlight of the year is the Guest Bartender Event, where Galante hosts a big party in her tasting room that “stars” the non-profit’s celebrity bartender. The organization chooses the theme, and, as Galante said, the sky’s the limit.

  “It’s always popular,” she said, “because everyone knows about it and knows the bartender always gives generous pours.” Because of Covid-19, she had to cancel the event in 2020, but she is already making plans for the annual event later this year.

  For Galante, the year-long relationship with a non-profit partner adds a new dimension to charitable giving. “With the partnership, it’s a yearlong dance,” she said. “If you only see them one or two months during the year, you don’t get to see what they’re doing the rest of the time. You might miss something. Plus, since it’s interactive, we’re able to spend time brainstorming as we go along. We can look ahead and ask them about their current and future plans and how we can be a part of that. I love being involved this way.”

  In addition to the annual partnership, Dawn’s Dream regularly supports several charities, including Rising International, Voices for Children of Monterey County, Boys and Girls Club and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.  Support comes in many forms: event sponsorship, wine donations and cash contributions based on a portion of proceeds generated by wine sales. In turn, many of these non-profits offer presentations to the winery staff on updates, new research and upcoming events. Galante can then pass that information along to her wine club members. 

  “The more I can have the bullhorn to announce what’s going on, the more work I can do,” she said.

  Another commitment in her philanthropic calendar is to sponsor two families at Christmas, one from Dawn’s Dream Winery and another from Galante Vineyards.  This sponsorship provides a complete Christmas, including trees, gifts and meals for the selected families. “We’ve been doing this for many years,” Galante said. “It’s crazy how much need there is.”

  While Galante is passionate about her work with non-profits, she is equally committed to creating outstanding wines. From the beginning, her goal has been to produce “approachable wines of exceptional quality and elegance.”

  Dawn’s Dream Winery is known for its Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. Her current releases include two Chardonnays, four Pinot Noirs (three named after her daughters) and a Pinot-based Rosé, which has received the Carmel Golden Pine Cone Newspaper award for the best Rosé in Monterey County eight years in a row. In presenting the award, the newspaper stated, “This is a huge accolade in a county that grows and produces more Pinot Noir than anywhere else in the state.” Additionally, last year Wine Enthusiast gave over 90-point ratings to all of Dawn’s Dream wines.

  One key to her success, Galante said, is the availability of quality fruit in her region. Galante sources her grapes from the coastal areas of Monterey County, the hills of Carmel Valley and the Santa Lucia Highlands. “We have so many Pinots in this area,” Galante said, “and this gives me an opportunity to show the expression of different clones and different microclimates. How they come together — with their structure and their flavor components — is really a work of art. This is the fun part.”

  To create these wines, Galante works closely with her winemaker, Greg Vita, a fifth-generation Californian who has been a vineyard and winemaking consultant to wineries in the Napa Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey County for the last 17 years. He is also the winemaker at Galante Vineyards. The Galantes and Vita share a philosophy that winemaking starts in the vineyard. They select the finest terroirs and let the grapes naturally express themselves with little human contact and minimal intervention.

  “We’re a small boutique winery, and we really honor our grapes,” Galante said. “We let them do what they’re supposed to do: they sit, they rest and they develop. We hand-pick when they tell us they’re ready. It’s like delivering a baby.”

  While Galante is certainly serious about her wines and her commitment to non-profits, she has a playful side, which she expresses in her wine labels that feature a woman’s silhouette in a bathtub. 

  “My label design idea was developed from an original picture taken of Jack and me many years back on the ranch,” she said. “In this picture, I am sitting in a rustic bathtub that our cattle drank from, and we have our horse Dee there as well. Jack had a poster made using this image that says, ‘Honey, draw me a bath,’ and the bottom of the poster says ‘Red or White?’ I love the idea of sharing a glass of wine while relaxing with friends or in the tub!”

  Just for fun, a replica of the bathtub graces the tasting room and has become a popular spot for customer photo ops.

  As Galante looks to the future, she plans to release two new wines:  a Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia highlands that has undergone malolactic fermentation and a Syrah from Carmel Valley. These will be named for her granddaughters, Eliza Jane and Frances Jane. Galante would also like to produce a Zinfandel and a Riesling and is currently searching for grapes’ availability.

  Her goals remain twofold, just like they did when she started Dawn’s Dream: “I want to continue to reach as many people as I can about the importance of humanity and of giving back while continuing to incorporate the best wine in the portfolio that I can.  I want to innovate, listen and keep the mission of Dawn’s Dream going.”

  While Galante’s winery is small — she produces 3500 cases annually — her dreams remain big. Thanks to Dawn’s Dream Winery, the world is a better place for wine lovers and those less fortunate.

For more information on Dawn’s Dream Winery, visit

The Okanagan Valley:

Where Business Meets Pleasure

Agribusiness and technology are key drivers of Canada’s economy, often overlapping while each injecting robust earnings to the national GDP.

  Agribusiness generates over $112 billion annually – or 5.8 percent of total GDP – and regularly attracts local and global events related to agricultural production, innovation, and technology.

  Agriculture and Agri-food Canada Research Centres manages 20 research centres across the country, aiming to find better agricultural practices and market opportunities through research and innovation while FoodTech Canada is a network of leading innovation and commercialization centres committed to turning research and development into innovated products for the food and bioproducts industry.

  The technology sector contributes $89.4 billion to the national economy, accounting for 4.8 percent of total GDP. More than 41,500 technology companies make their home in Canada, spanning sub-sectors like artificial intelligence, digital media and interactive entertainment, and cybersecurity.

  The Okanagan Valley in British Columbia holds the unique distinction as a major player in both industries, with agribusiness and technology not only existing harmoniously, but often integrating and inspiring the other.

  Over the past few years, the Okanagan has become a magnet for entrepreneurs and start-ups ready to scale,  as well as a world class destination for agribusiness and technology business events, welcoming conferences seeking direct access to industry expertise and influencers.  A notable example is the invitation only Metabridge Retreat, a high-level networking experience that facilitates connections between Canadian tech CEOs and North American business influencers. The event has been hosted for the past several years in Kelowna, where technology is the fastest-growing economy thanks to an influx of gaming development, animation, medical technology, agricultural technology, and software as a service (SAAS) studios and companies. Indeed, the city has seen year-over-year growth of 15 percent over the past eight years.

  Situated in the heart of wine region, Kelowna is key to the Okanagan’s technology and agribusiness success. Home to thousands of tech, animation and digital media professionals who gravitate to the city’s stunning mountain, lake and vineyard surroundings, the city made waves with the opening of the $35-million Innovation Centre, which unites startups, innovation firms and technology providers with an eye towards building Canada’s most entrepreneurial technology community. Kelowna is likewise an agricultural oasis, housing 794 agri-food businesses, 185 licensed wineries and a cluster of agriculturally focused research facilities like the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan Campus, Summerland Research Centre and the newly opened BC Technical Access Centre for fermented beverages. These institutions, working with industry associations like the BC Tree Fruits, BC Cherry Growers and Certified Organic Associations of BC, have positioned the region as a leader in areas as diverse as tree fruit and wine research, pest management, and precision technologies tracking crop growth and nutraceuticals.

  “While many visitors are aware of the dynamic culinary scene, sweeping landscapes and world-class wineries in the Central Okanagan, they may not be aware of the region’s entrepreneurs and thought leaders who are changing the face of agribusiness and technology,” says   Krista Mallory, manager of the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission. “From winemakers leading the charge in regenerative viticulture to cutting-edge research through the University of British Columbia that improves sustainability in agriculture, the region is driving innovation across the country and the continent.”

  While agribusiness and technology are major pillars of the Okanagan Valley, viticulture is particularly prevalent. Sprawled over 155 miles (250 kilometres), the acclaimed wine region – which boasts 84 percent of BC’s vineyard acreage – stretches across a multitude of ecosystems, each with distinct soil and climate conditions suited to growing varietals ranging from sun-ripened reds to crisp whites (indeed, the Okanagan Valley is warmer and more arid than Napa Valley, soaked with nearly two hours more sunlight per day during peak growing season).

  The Okanagan is home to over 182 licensed wineries, as well as 72 beverage companies manufacturing kombucha, mead, spirits and cider, which collectively contribute $2.8 billion to the provincial economy. The majority of these businesses embrace sustainable, biodynamic and innovative winemaking, with spectacular settings adding to the area’s allure for business and leisure travellers alike.

  One example is Tinhorn Creek in Oliver, Canada’s first carbon-neutral winery and one of the first Salmon-Safe certified vineyards in BC. Part of its carbon-neutral efforts includes running winery trucks and tractors on biodiesel, and using organic leftovers from the winemaking process and onsite restaurant Miradoro to fertilize the vines. 

  Another is Frind Estate Winery in West Kelowna, owned by Plenty of Fish founder Markus Frind. Eager to combine his passions of technology and agriculture – and with 500   years of family farming history – Frind leverages cutting-edge technology to craft truly distinctive wines. The first beachfront winery in the world, Fritz Estate Winery regularly stages showstopping events, including festive brunches or high teas in translucent domes that overlook Lake Okanagan.

  Alongside production, wine tourism is becoming increasingly popular, with many wineries offering exceptional dining opportunities, farm tours and tasting adventures for groups of all sizes.

  One of these is Indigenous World Winery, the brainchild of Robert and Bernice Louie, descendants of the Syilx First Nations. Located near Okanagan Lake, the winery is an ideal spot for meetings and events with 2.5 scenic acres showcasing fruit from the land that has supported the Syilx people for 10,000 years.

  Prior to opening the vineyard in 2011, Robert and Bernice joined forces with notable winemaker Jason Parkes to craft wines that could compete at a world level. “The goal was a big award winner,” says Ryan Widdup, sales manager of Indigenous World Winery. “They wanted to open the doors with showpiece red wines.”

  And so they did: in 2015, Indigenous World Winery’s small-batch Simo red won two medals and the first Double Gold Medal. Since then, the awards have kept coming: the 2014 Simo received Double Gold in the 2019 All Canadian Wine Championship, beating out 1,378 entries, and the winery’s elixirs regularly earn gold at international competitions in the US and Europe. In 2020, Robert and Bernie launched an Indigenous Spirits craft alcohol line that incorporates locally sourced botanicals and ingredients with a medicinal history in the Syilx culture.

  Close by, Summerhill Pyramid Winery is a leader in organic wine, incorporating practices such as biodynamic agriculture, permaculture and organic viticulture that have inspired fellow agribusinesses across the region. Owner Ezra Cipes is part of the winery’s second generation; his father arrived to the Okanagan in 1986, where he found the perfect conditions to produce intensely flavoured small grapes – the ideal base for sparkling wine. After entering the organic certification program in 1988, Cipes Senior produced his first vintage in 1991, and the winery received Demeter Biodynamic certification in 2012.

  “My parents helped build the modern wine industry in BC, and were founding members of the BC Vintners Quality Alliance and the BC Wine institute,” said Ezra. “Today, we’re a mid-sized winery, though we have a large team, mostly because of the extensive hospitality we offer.  Event organizers love us, because we have a beautiful restaurant and banquet room, both overlooking the vineyard, lake, and mountains.”

  Summerhill’s event offerings extend beyond farm-to-table catering and tantalizing wine pairings to fully equipped meeting venues, helicopter access and a professional team with extensive experience running large-scale events.

  Whether winery, hotel or dedicated conference venue, Kelowna boasts 110,000 square feet of meeting space, as well as 4,500 total guest rooms. After long days in he boardroom, delegates benefit from a myriad of after-hours pleasure, including five distinct wine trails, three ski resorts and the longest golf season in Canada. The region is ideally suited to meetings with a focus in viticulture, agriculture, technology or manufacturing. Planners also benefit from alluring team building opportunities, robust options for pre- and post-meeting activities, and venues and natural surroundings certain to boost attendance.

  “When organizations choose to meet in the Okanagan, they get to experience more than our dynamic culinary and wine scene and area attractions. They also gain access to local industry thought-leaders and innovators shaping what we eat, and where and how it’s grown,” says Mallory. “There’s a real buzz to the region. We’re looking to the future, and we know that no one wants to miss out on what’s happening in the Okanagan.”

  In Canada, agribusiness leaders will find support from federal, provincial and municipal governments, as well as academia and innovation investors. Further simplifying the business process is the pool of destination and sector experts provided by Destination Canada’s Business Events team.

  The team’s specific knowledge of this vast land makes Destination Canada Business Events team an organizer’s first stop for tailoring the right package for their event, whatever the size.

To learn more please visit…

Lake Erie Northshore:

Ontario’s Lesser-Known VQA Appellation

By: Alyssa Andres

While Ontario wine from the Niagara region continues to grow in popularity on the international market, a lesser-known appellation in the province with an equally rich history of winemaking is going virtually unnoticed. Lake Erie Northshore is a VQA appellation in the southern-most part of Ontario that boasts a unique microclimate, diverse terroir and some of Canada’s oldest vines. Winemakers here produce bold and expressive wines that sell for an incredibly reasonable price point compared to their Niagara counterparts. The appellation is even the home of Canada’s first commercial winery, yet the region is relatively unknown.

  Lake Erie Northshore is quite a small operation compared to the booming wine industry in the Niagara Peninsula. There are currently only 16 wineries in this burgeoning wine region, with an annual production of 19,218/9L cases, according to VQA Ontario. These wineries are producing both red and white wine, as well as sparkling offerings. Riesling is known to thrive here and is made in both sweet and dry styles. With approximately 1,500 acres of vineyard in the appellation, most wineries use estate-grown grapes. Small batch, family-run businesses are common, and there is a lot of experimentation with different grape varietals. Many wineries have a longstanding history in the region, despite being relatively unknown.

  Although currently inconspicuous, early winemakers did not have trouble pinning the Lake Erie Northshore region as an opportune location to produce wine. The first winemakers to travel north and make wine in Canada settled off Lake Erie’s coast in the early 1860s, on an island known today as Pelee Island. The 10,000-acre island, with sprawling forest and a diverse ecosystem of flora and fauna, was an idyllic location to start a winery. The three Kentucky farmers planted 25 acres of vineyards in 1866, establishing “Vin Villa” as the country’s first commercial winery. The original building still stands for tourists to visit today, but the island has evolved dramatically.

  Today, Pelee Island is home to Lake Erie Northshore’s only sub-appellation, South Islands VQA. It features the most extensive planting of European vinifera in the country – all owned and operated by a single winery. Pelee Island Winery established themselves in 1979, and, in 1980, over 100 years after the original vines were planted, they replanted the vineyards with premium Vitis vinifera. The terroir on the island is well developed and fertile, with highly calcareous soils and intense biological activity. Today, the winery has over 700 acres of vineyard growing an array of white and black varietals, including unexpected, late-ripening grapes such as Tempranillo and Chambourcin. The winery also grows Zweigelt, Lemberger and Tocai Friulano (Sauvignon Vert), to name just a few of the 18+ varietals on the island. Their expansive vineyards make Pelee Island Winery Canada’s largest private estate winery, with an annual production of 8,278/9L cases.

  Pelee’s Island’s best vineyards sit at its center, where the soil is deepest. President and Head winemaker, Walter Schmoranz, practices sustainable winemaking using 100% island grown natural fertilizer made from sorghum grass. He is known as one of the Canadian wine industry’s pioneers, hailing from Ruedesheim, one of Germany’s finest winemaking regions, and joining Pelee Island Winery in 1986. Since taking on the head winemaker role, Pelee Island Winery has won hundreds of national and international awards for their wine, including the Citadelle de France Gold Medal for their 2002 Cabernet Franc Icewine. Their award-winning Vinedresser series is a spectacular example of great value wine at only $19.95 a bottle.

  Pelee Island is located 32 kilometers south of the mainland and is the most southerly point in Canada, similar in latitude to Madrid and the French Riviera (N41°45’). The island has the longest growing season of any other viticultural region in the country. For this reason, it is the best location in Canada for late-ripening varietals. The island is extremely flat, with the highest elevation only 12 meters above the lake, allowing for even ripening of all the grapes. Lake Erie, the shallowest of all the Great Lakes, warms the vineyards early in the spring and throughout harvest, extending the growing season by more than 30 days in certain vintages compared to vineyards on the shoreline. The soil is sandy loam and clay over limestone bedrock, similar to the mainland.

  The mainland of Lake Erie Northshore appellation is a bow-shaped peninsula, surrounded by Lake Erie, the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair. Glacial lakes that used to reside in the area caused large amounts of stone matter to deposit along the shoreline. While water levels retreated in most areas of the Great Lakes, levels in Lake Erie remained high, and the continuous washing of waves over the rocks created large amounts of sediment that now make up the terroir along the shores. This means the soil here is quite complex, with sandy loam, gravel and small stony ridges that overlay shale limestone bedrock. A large ridge, known as Colchester Ridge, formed along the peninsula as the ice age passed through the region.

  Many of the region’s best wineries have set up their businesses along the ridge of the peninsula where higher than average winds reduce the risk of disease, and the soil is well-drained.  Elevations here vary from 172 to 196 meters above sea level, with a maritime climate that sees lots of sun. Lake Erie Northshore has the highest number of heat units of all Ontario VQA regions due to its southerly location and the lake’s insulating effect. Harvest can start as early as August in some vintages, and late harvest varietals are usually at their peak by the end of October. Limited frost and lake-effect snow help protect the vines through the winter months.

  In 1980, Colio Estate Wines became one of the original wineries to establish themselves on the north shore and take advantage of these prime growing conditions. Late winemaker, Carlo Negri, was a leader in the region from the start and extremely confident of its potential. Today, the 200-acre winery is known internationally, with over 400 awards for its wines. Negri won Ontario Winemaker of the Year in 2005 before passing away in 2014.

  While Colio Estate and Pelee Island Winery are both examples of thriving large-scale producers in Lake Erie Northshore, most of the wineries there are small-scale, family-run businesses producing small-batch wine. Many of them also experiment with innovative techniques and unique varietals.

  An exciting example of this is the Hounds of Erie Winery, located in Lake Erie Northshore, just 2.5 kilometers from the shoreline. Here, husband and wife duo Mat and Melissa Vaughan have started a boutique, dog-friendly winery that offers unique French vinifera plantings. In 2012, the couple started with a small test vineyard but have since expanded their operation, specializing in modern hybrid grapes including Frontenac Blanc, Marquette, Petite Pearl and L’Acadie Blanc. Since opening their winery, the couple has continued to experiment and expand, testing new trellis systems and adding more French vinifera to their 23-acre farm. In 2019, the couple started a test vineyard of Crimson Pearl, and 2020 brought even further vineyard expansion with the addition of Petite Louise to the Hounds of Erie portfolio. The Vaughans also grow a selection of heritage apples used for their lineup of hard ciders.

  As Ontario wine continues to gain popularity and more wine lovers and connoisseurs take notice of VQA wine, it is the hope that Lake Erie Northshore will start to gain more notability and popularity in the world of wine. The combination of location, topography, and terroir, alongside the passion of the winemakers who reside here, results in rich and robust wine. Old vines, lots of sun and a long growing season produce bold and intense flavors with complex aromas and a lasting finish. With such a rich history of winemaking in this part of Canada, there is no doubt that Lake Erie Northshore will continue to grow and develop a name for itself. For now, this lesser-known appellation remains a hidden gem in Ontario VQA.

Vineyard Bacterial and Fungal Trunk Diseases Prevention and Control

Crown Gall symptoms caused by A. vitis

By: Judit Monis, Ph.D., Vineyard Health Consultant

Grapevine trunk diseases occur worldwide and can be caused by bacterial or fungal pathogens, and sometimes a combination of both. Pathogenic bacterial and fungal pathogens can be found colonizing the vineyard soil.  It is important to note that important trunk disease fungal pathogens not only affect grapevines, but also cause disease in landscape and fruit trees. Grapevine stock can be infected with important pathogens which makes it important to screen nursery material for their presence prior to planting.

  Below I describe the most common grapevine trunk diseases caused by bacteria and fungi.  As with viruses, bacterial and fungal pathogens can be found in mixed infections (even viruses can be present), exacerbating the problem in a vineyard.

Crown Gall

  The disease is caused by the tumor-producing bacterial species, Agrobacterium vitis.  The bacteria penetrate the vines through mechanical injuries caused physical damage caused during vineyard operations or by freezing temperatures.  The galls are generally visible at the crown area of the plant but can also be found in the upper portion of the vines and at the graft union of nursery produced vines.  The bacterial-induced galls cause a reduction of the flow of water and nutrients that eventually cause vine decline and death.  Although the disease occurs more frequently in the Eastern and Mid-Western United States vineyards, I have observed vineyards severely affected by A. vitis in Californian vineyards.  The best practice to avoid the infection of this bacteria is to plant material from vineyards free of A. vitis.  There are diagnostic tools for the detection of pathogenic (tumor-inducing) strains of A. vitis.  However, often times the tests may yield false negative results. 

Petri Disease, Young Vine Decline, Esca

  The disease caused by Cadophora,

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

Bot Canker, Eutypa, Phomopsis Die Back, and Other Cankers

  Various pathogens can cause canker diseases in the vineyard. Bot-canker or dead arm disease is caused by different species in the Botryosphaeriaceae family.   The most severe Bot-canker species is Lasidiplodia theobromae, while weaker symptoms are caused by Diplodia spp.   Eutypa dieback is caused by different species in the Diatrypaceae family.  The best characterized and known species is Eutypa lata, but species of Criptovalsa, Diatrypella, and Eutypella can also cause canker disease in grapevines.  In my lab we characterized Seimatosporium species as a fungal pathogen that causes decline and cankers in grapevines, but within the same fungal group others have reported Pestalotoipsis and Truncatella to cause disease in grapevines.  Another canker pathogen includes Diaporthe (also known as Phomopsis).  The canker symptoms observed in the sections of affected cordons or trunks in grapevines may appear to be similar but caused by unrelated fungal species, however, the life cycles and mode of infection may be different.

Black Foot

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

Sudden Vine Collapse (previously known as Mystery collapse)

  A couple years ago, Lodi growers in California reported a syndrome in which their vines collapse and die within a short period of time.  In 2011, while working at STA, we tested vines with similar symptoms, not just from Lodi, but from California’s Central Valley, and Central Coast vineyards.  We detected a combination of fungal pathogens (not always the same usual suspects) and viruses, namely Grapevine leafroll associated -3 (GLRaV-3) and the Vitivirus Grapevine virus F (GVF).  Last year, researchers at the University of California at Davis with fungal expertise (Dr. Akif Eskalen) and viral expertise (Dr. Maher Al Rwahnih) analyzed symptomatic vines with this syndrome.  The samples were subjected to high throughput sequencing for the discovery of novel viruses and to fungal culture diagnostics.  The results were similar to those found in my laboratory: various fungal pathogens (not consistent in every sample), GLRaV-3, and Vitiviruses were detected in the collapsed vines.

Other Diseases

  Species of Armillaria mellea (Oak root fungus), Phytophthora, and Verticillium are soil-born fungal species capable of causing decline and rots in the vineyard.  Just as described above for black foot disease, these pathogens strive in compact soils with poor drainage.

Disease Management and Control

  The best disease management and control measure I recommend is to prevent the introduction of pathogens in the vineyard.  None of the US-certification programs exclude trunk disease pathogens.  Therefore, propagation material is most likely infected with A. vitis and various fungal pathogens.  It is encouraging to learn that work at Marc Fuchs laboratory at Cornell University has shown that it is possible to eliminate A. vitis from vines using the standard meristem tissue culture technique. 

  The availability of clean planting material (tested to be free of A. vitis) are most important in areas that are prone to freezing such as the North East and Mid-Western United States vineyards. 

  The implementation of appropriate sanitation measures at the nursery is most needed to produce high quality planting grapevine material.  It is known that one infected vine can produce between 100 -200 vines each year, potentially producing a significant number of infected grafted plants.  The use of hot water treatment (HWT) for 30 minutes at 50C (122F) at the nursery has shown a reduction of fungal pathogens in propagated vines.  However, there are mix reports on the effect of the HWT on bud mortality.  Reports in warmer winegrowing regions (e.g., Spain) have shown a lower effect on bud mortality compared to HWT in cool climate regions (e.g., Australia).   Because fungal pathogens cannot be eliminated in the vineyard once introduced, it is important to learn and apply the best management practices available. 

  When planting a new vineyard, it is important to inspect the quality of the planting material (graft union integrity, lack of galling, streaking or pitting) and plant in well prepared and drained soil, at the correct season.  The best practices in the vineyard must be applied (i.e., enough water, nutrients, etc.) as many of the fungal pathogens are endophytic (can live in the vine without causing damage) but can become pathogenic during stress situations.

  It is known that the effect of grapevine fungal pathogens increases as the vineyard ages (the fungal pathogen population build up over time).  Therefore, growers must adopt management and control measurements as soon as the vines are planted in order to prevent and minimize the propagation and dispersal of fungal pathogens.

  Management at the vineyard should include expertly trained personnel for pruning activities.  In California where the rainy season coincides with the pruning season it is recommended to prune as late as possible.  If the vineyards are large, the double pruning method can be applied. This consists in the mechanical pre-pruning of vines, leaving canes of 1-2 feet long.  In the spring or late winter, the pruning is completed by leaving the desired final number of buds per spur. In all cases, after pruning, the pruning waste must be removed from the vineyard as soon as possible. The freshly produced wounds should be protected using fungicides or SafeCoat VitiSeal. 

  The recommendation of pruning as late in the season as possible is related to the healing of the wounds.  Since the vine is more active in the spring, it is expected that healing will occur faster.  Another reason is that most fungal trunk disease pathogens release spores during the rainy season. 

  Therefore, by the end of the winter or early spring, the proportion of spores is expected to have been reduced to a minimum (in areas with predominantly winter precipitations). 

  However, wound protection will still be required because fresh wounds are more susceptible to infection and can remain susceptible for long periods of time.   Things to avoid during pruning are: producing large wounds, cutting near the trunk, pruning after long periods of rain, and leaving vine residues in the vineyard floor.  It is also important to respect the flow of sap, which is accomplished by cutting always on the same side of the vine.

  Economic studies performed by Dr. Kendra Baumgartner and colleagues (USDA in UC Davis, California) has shown that preventative methods (late pruning, double pruning, and pruning wound protectants) are sustainable only if applied before symptoms appear in the vineyard.  Adopting these methods in vines that are 10 years old or older will not recover the cost of investment.

  A more drastic disease management practice includes vine re-training also known as remedial surgery.  The procedure consists of training a new shoot from the base of the trunk to replace the old decayed vine trunk or cordons.  The technique can help gain some years of production but will not cure the vines from the disease as likely the pathogens are systemically established in the vine.  In areas with winter freezing temperatures, it is recommended to grow more than one trunk per vine. 

  If one of the trunks is compromised by disease, others are available to continue with the vine’s productive life.  Keep in mind that the pathogenic fungi are systemic in the vine, and as mentioned earlier this method can buy some time before the vine declines and dies. 

  When replacing vines, the grower must understand that the A. vitis and fungal pathogens are able to survive in dead portions of the roots, therefore new vines that are planted (even if free of bacterial or fungal pathogens) can become infected over time if vine roots are not completely removed from the vineyard.

  Other methods that have been reported for the management of fungal diseases include planting mustard (Sinapsis alba) plants as cover crops that act as a biofumigant and biological control agents such as Trichoderma species, and mycorrhizal fungi. In areas prone to crown gall infection, I have observed growers produce soil mounds to protect the trunk from freezing. 

  New and more sensitive pathogen detection methods that apply next generation sequencing (also known as high throughput sequencing) are now available commercially for the detection at the species level of microorganisms in plants and soil.  It is my hope that in the near future, these methods will help reduce the infection levels of planting material and consequently translate into healthier vineyards.

  Judit Monis, Ph.D. is a California-based plant health consultant, 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 is fluent in Spanish and is available to consult in other important 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.

Are You Seeing the “Low Hanging Grapes?”

(What if OSHA Came Knocking at Your Door?)

Frequent Winery OSHA Violations – Are You in Compliance?

By: Michael Harding, Senior Risk Solution Specialist, Markel Specialty

If you’ve been doing this for a while, no one needs to tell you that operating a winery is NOT a simple business. There are many things to pay attention to in order to run your winery efficiently. You have to contend with regulatory approval, deal with all of the aspects of making your wine, obtain the right equipment, staffing, marketing & sales as well as sanitation and waste management – just to mention a few. Oh yea, don’t forget safety and OSHA compliance! Is that also on your list of things to manage?

  You might think that safety is just common sense and that your employees will always  work safely while on the job. This is not always the case. Each year thousands of employees die from work-related deaths and thousands more are injured on the job, many of which require numerous days away from work. This not only causes pain and stress for the employee and family but also costs employers (such as you) billions of dollars each year.

  The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA, commonly called the OSH Act)was enacted in 1970 to “to assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions to preserve our human resources”. This OSH Act consists of a number of safety and health regulations that employers are required to follow. The OSH Act also allows states to enact their own safety and health laws as long as they are at least as strict (meaning some states regulate more than others) as the federal standards. As a winery, you are required to comply with these standards (either federal or your state’s program). So how do you think you doing?

  If you’ve never experienced an OSHA inspection, the National Safety Council has an excellent article, “What to expect when OSHA is inspecting” that can provide you with valuable insight regarding OSHA inspections. This article also highlights a list of programs that require records and proof documents that you may need to be maintaining.

  For this article, we’ll highlight frequently cited federal OSHA regulations for wineries (within NAICS Code of 312130) during the past year as well as violations cited in California (with one of the larger state OSHA programs and a large number of wineries).  We hope you and your winery find this information useful. We suggest you use this information to develop a checklist that you can use to help improve your safety program, where needed, and perform inspections to help you “see the low hanging grapes” regarding OSHA compliance. Of course, there may be  other safety regulations that may also apply to your winery so you’ll want to consider seeking out professional advice regarding any additional standards that may apply.

  Should you need help with any of these regulations, you can contact your local state OSHA office; most of them have a free voluntary compliance division that can offer free advice and assistance. They can also provide you with the specifics of each of the regulations governing your state.

Frequent Winery Violations

  Below you will find some of the frequently cited OSHA regulations within the winery industry. If you click on the heading of each, it will take you directly to the federal OSHA regulation.

  General Duty Clause: OSHA requires that each employer “furnish to each of its employees a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to its employees.”

  With this you’re expected to identify and correct any health or safety hazards present in your work environment. This is a “high level” standard and a serious responsibility that you as an employer must address to reduce the chances of one of your employees being injured or harmed. OSHA provides guidance on what elements should be included in an effective occupational safety and health program.

  Some states (such as California) even require that employers develop a written “Injury and Illness Prevention Program” (IIPP) which is a basic safety program tailored to your winery operations. As part of an IIPP you are required to identify the hazards within your workplace and how you can eliminate or reduce them.

  Hazard Communication:  This standard requires that you must provide your employees information about the hazardous substances to which they might be exposed. This needs to be a written program that outlines your winery’s policies and procedures. You must use Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), appropriate labels and other forms of warning, along with training to make sure your employees understand the substances and how to protect themselves.

  Permit-Required Confined Spaces:  Generally speaking a confined space is a space not intended for continuous occupancy and has limited means for entry or exit. These have the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere and other potential safety or health hazards. Fermentation tanks, silos and sumps are examples and must be evaluated to determine if they meet the definition of “permit required.” In turn you must prepare the space before entry and test the atmosphere with a calibrated direct-reading testing device. This standard also requires a written program that outlines how your winery will comply with the regulations governing confined space entry.

  Respiratory Protection:  Wherever needed, this regulation requires a written program that governs how your winery will select and use all respirator types ranging anywhere from disposable dust masks all the way up to a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). With this you must develop written worksite- specific procedures.

  Medical Services and First Aid:  As an employer, you need to ensure that medical advice and consultation on matters of winery health are readily available. Since most wineries are not in close proximity to a medical facility, you need to have a person or persons adequately trained to provide first aid AND have adequate first aid supplies readily available. If you have any corrosive chemicals that your employees could be exposed to, then you need to have quick drenching or flushing capabilities provided in your work area for immediate emergency use.

  Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment:  The most common citation from this regulation is the lack of or insufficiency of an emergency eye wash. You must have an emergency eye wash whenever the eyes of one of your employees might come in contact with a substance that can cause corrosion, permanent tissue damage or severe irritation to their eyes, such as a fork truck lead battery charging station. Eye wash stations must meet certain criteria as defined in ANSI Z358.1-2014 and either be plumbed or have a self-contained reservoir capable of providing at least a 15 minute hands-free flow of continuous water.

  Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):  This is OSHA’s standard for governing personal protective equipment. As an employer, you must provide and employees must wear appropriate PPE whenever they could become injured or sick by not wearing it. This standard, linked above, places the responsibility of determining the where, what, when, how along with proper storage and care on each winery.

  Flexible Cords & other Assorted Electrical Hazards:  This is a common violation among wineries. Flexible extensions cords are frequently cited for misuse and abuse. Generally speaking you cannot use flexible cords to provide electricity to a piece of equipment when you should have installed an electric outlet. Also, you can’t connect one extension cord to another and then to another (also referred to as a “daisy chain”); you cannot extend cords through walls, windows or doors. You should have someone knowledgeable in this standard review your facility to identify any electrical concerns so that they can be quickly remedied.

  Moving Parts of Machinery or Equipment:  You can be cited for a machine guarding violation when moving parts of your equipment are not properly protecting the operator and other employees. Just think about an area where an employee could get part of their body injured by moving portions of your machinery or equipment. Crushing areas, bottling lines and conveyors are but a few examples that should be evaluated to make sure that they are adequately guarded. Your maintenance shop also should be regularly inspected to make sure that tools such as grinders and saws and the like have proper guards in place. Bottom line – if someone can get any part of their body into a moving part while it’s in operation, it probably should be guarded.

  Guardrails and Elevated Work Locations:  Your winery can be cited for not installing guardrails on the open sides of work areas that are more than 30 inches above the floor, ground, or surrounding working areas. Examples that might require guarding include platforms or other elevated locations which are accessed for maintenance or storage.

  A standard guardrail consists of a top rail, midrail, and posts. You must also install a toe board if falling tools or materials would be a hazard to employees working below. The vertical height of the guardrail must be 42 to 45 inches measured from the upper surface of the top rail. The guardrails must support 20 pounds per linear foot applied either horizontally or vertically downward on the rail.


  The intent of this article is to ensure that safety and health regulatory compliance is both “on your radar” and a recurring part of your business focus. By inspecting these and other safety and health matters in and around your winery, you can be in a better position to address the “low hanging grapes” and enhance the overall safety and well-being of your employees.

  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 document can’t be assumed to contain every acceptable safety and compliance procedures or that additional procedures might not be appropriate under the circumstances.  Markel does not guarantee that this information is or can be relied on for compliance with any law or regulation, assurance against preventable losses, or freedom from legal liability.  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.   Furthermore, Markel does not assume any liability to any person or organization for loss of damage caused by or resulting from any reliance placed on that content.

  *Markel Specialty is a business division of Markel Service, Incorporated, the underwriting manager for the Markel affiliated insurance companies.

The Results Are In! The Annual Email Benchmark Report

By: Susan DeMatei

Each December, WineGlass Marketing releases email benchmarks for the wine industry. We do this because having a bar to evaluate email performance has always been a challenge within the wine ecosystem. Benchmarks are widely available for broad categories such as “Retail” or “Food and Grocery,” but finding something to compare a Wine Club email to is historically as accurate as predicting what would happen next in 2020.

  2020 will forever have an asterisk next to it, noting numerous external forces outside of our control which affected our marketing and response rates. When looking at the calendar, there are many force majeure events worth noticing that likely prevented our customers from responding typically:

•    We had an initial Shelter-in-Place order closing tasting rooms and restaurants in mid-March. The government asked us to work at home and limit our time outside, so eCommerce delivery options filled the void. Our media consumption changed as we searched for connections, and we became glued to CNN and obsessed with Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok. Business suffered, and by the end of Spring, our unemployment rate was in the double digits.

•    Tensions rose with the temperatures as several racial injustices made headline news culminating in the death of George Floyd on May 25. This horrible tragedy unleashed weeks of riots and demonstrations throughout the summer months. Some states relaxed their grip on the Shelter-In-Place orders, albeit cautiously, which resulted in a flurry of changing rules. Forced to interpret the rules, wineries tried to convince customers to visit again.

•    And then came the fires. Not one but two waves in August and September devastated western states, including California. The fires destroyed a few wineries but caused extensive smoke taint damage to the 2020 vintage for a larger group. The media descended, and reporters were everywhere convincing consumers to stay away from a Northern California that was in flames, leaving wineries the practical duty of reporting the actual impact to their mailing lists.

•    The fire of different views on how to handle the virus and inequality in our country was fanned brighter in the fall with a very contentious national election. September and October saw media ads and email boxes jammed packed, so there was very little else on anyone’s mind.

•    Finally, in Q4, there was no letting up with another wave of Coronavirus underway with several states considering going back to strict stay-at-home guidelines. Some expect the most significant online holiday shopping season yet, but that will uncover itself in time.

  Throughout all of this year, our customers have endured. They have accepted their club shipments and opened our emails, and God bless them, they have ordered wine.

  A lot of wine, actually. Early in the year, Wine Intelligence reported initial growth in wine consumption frequency due to the shift to at-home occasions more than compensated for the loss of on-premise occasions. Thus, making our emails more critical than ever.

  However, did this trend continue? Hubspot says no. The marketing juggernaut released a report at the end of October this year asserting that after initial explosions of emails and subsequent consumer mass consumption, the responses to emails, and sales, are dwindling.

  With the outrageous context of 2020 in mind, we widened our scope for this year’s benchmarks and leaned into the data. We pulled statistics for the past year on 222 wineries with over 9,000 campaigns and just shy of 46 million emails, and what we found was interesting.


  We all increased our email campaigns. The average number of campaigns sent per winery in our 2018-2019 report was 1.88 per month, equating to a little less than 23 emails a year or a frequency of one email every 2-3 weeks for sales, events, or wine club communications.

  The average number of campaigns sent per winery in 2020 is double this at 3.63 per month, which means that on average, we sent one email a week to communicate with our customers this year. It seems that we followed suit with other industries who jumped on email as the logical replacement for in-person customer care, sales, and support. And why not? Email is relatively inexpensive, and it does not require staff to be present in the office or consumers to be in a particular location either. It is, actually, the perfect COVID marketing platform.

  However, did these emails work?

Open Rates Fell

  Initially, we look to open rates to gauge if customers are receptive to our messages. An open rate is how many people, expressed as a percentage, opened an email and is largely a factor of three things:

•    The sending address or who the email is from.

•    The subject line.

•    The teaser text that appears in browsers to

      provide a summary of the email.

  However, environmental factors that contend for attention can trump all of these rules. The data exposes that after an initial spike in March during the initial COVID Shelter-In-Place orders, there has been a steady decline in Open Rates in 2020. Moreover, although this study ended on 9/30 – we can also assume we will experience lower rates in November and December with the election and the standard holiday email burnout.

Bounce Rates Increased

  Bounces fall into two classes. A soft bounce is when the receiving server recognizes the email recipient, but the address is blocked at the moment: such as an out of the office response. A hard bounce means the address is no longer on the server.

  With office closures and unemployment hitting the double digits mid-year, we can confidently assume that many email addresses changed this year.

  This hypothesis played out in the data as we saw bounce rates jump by 20% from pre-COVID to post-COVID months.

Click-Through Rates Skyrocket

  The Click-Through Rate is how many people click on an email, expressed as a percentage, and mostly depends on how compelling the email is. What is considered compelling is mostly subjective but includes the offer itself, the copywriting, and the presentation, such as an image, text, or a button.

The exciting thing about the Click-Through Rate is its independence of other metrics – such as Open Rate or frequency. Click-Through Rates are an accurate indication of a customers’ interest in the message.

  The closure of thousands of wineries and restaurants forced customers to look to other channels for their essential wine needs. The most obvious of these channels is emails directing sales to eCommerce. Therefore, consumer attention and consumption of email messages swelled in March and Click-Through Rates stayed high through the summer. But then we see the exhaustion and distraction set in the fall and we fall below previous years. When we pull data next year, we hope to see the typical Q4 spike in 2020 with results in strong eCommerce sales for everyone.

Want To Hear More From the Report?

  Go to our website for the full report that dives into frequency, subject lines, and eCommerce conversions. Alternatively, use this QR Code.

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