Applying Fertilizer to Vineyards After Harvest 

By: Annie Klodd, University of Minnesota Extension

Throughout the growing season, we see our grapevines grow and change immensely. Berries turn from green to red, and shoots grow from inches to feet in a matter of weeks.

  What we do not see is all the behind-the-scenes work – the vines are transporting numerous nutrients from the soil to the canopy, and then moving them from the leaves to the fruit during ripening. Then we harvest that fruit, removing a portion of the vines’ nutrients. Grapevines are in their most depleted state in the fall and early spring.

  To keep the vines productive over their lifespan, we do tests to see if the soil needs more nutrients to replace those lost. Based on those tests, we may add critical amendments to the soil. On the flipside, if the soil is already rich in key nutrients, soil tests save money and the environment by telling us when fertilizer is not needed.

  Some growers wish to use the fall as a time for applying nutrients. Harvest is over, but it is too early to prune. It seems like a good opportunity to check something off the to-do list. Before you place your fertilizer order, you show know: What nutrients your vineyard needs, how much is needed, and whether those nutrients are best applied in the fall or the spring.

Reasons to Consider Fertilizing After Harvest

  First, convenience. Other vineyard tasks are done for the year. It is too early to begin dormant pruning. Growers usually have more spare time now than they do in the spring. That is, if they are not tired of being in the vineyard.

  Secondly, grapevine biology. From the grapevine’s point of view, it is in one of its most nutrient-depleted states immediately following harvest, and in the early spring. This is because much of the nutrients it has accumulated have been used up to produce fruit, and that fruit has just been removed from the system.

  Third, logistics. In temperate climates like my area in Minnesota, the soil is wet and spongy in the spring and dry and firm in the fall. It is logistically easier to apply fertilizer in the fall when the ground is dry but not yet frozen, compared to the early spring when melting snow may make the vineyard impassable.

  Applying certain fertilizers in the fall can give the vines a healthy start in the spring. However, one nutrient in particular is best applied in the spring – nitrogen, due to its tendency to leach out of the system. Read on for suggestions on when to apply nitrogen.

How to Apply Fall Fertilizers

  First, do a fall soil test, especially if it has been over 5 years since your last one. Calculate your fertilizer rates and the type of fertilizer based on soil test and foliar test reports. Foliar tests need to be taken at bloom or veraison, but soil tests can be taken in the fall. 

  I cannot understate the importance of soil and foliar nutrient testing. These tests are the best way to understand what the soil is lacking, what it has plenty of, and how well the vine is taking up each nutrient. If nutrient testing seems intimidating, just contact you state university soil testing lab or a private lab – they will tell you how to proceed. It’s easy!

  Test your soil during or shortly after the harvest season. Give yourself 2-3 weeks between when the sample is submitted and the likely first hard frost, in order to receive the results and make an appropriate fertilizer application before the ground is covered in snow.

  After receiving your test report, enlist the help of an Extension Educator or trusted consultant to decide what nutrients are needed and at what rates. Key nutrients include phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, boron, and iron, amoung others. Nitrogen is also very important, but is usually not included in soil tests. Your test report will also include soil pH, organic matter percentage, and possibly your soil’s cation exchange capacity.

  Once you know what to apply and how much, you are ready to go. The most common method of granular fertilizer application is broadcast application using a targeted vineyard spreader. This type of spreader applies it under the rows, avoiding the grass aisles, maximizing efficiency and minimizing cost. There is generally no need to fertilize the grass, as most vine roots are located in the rows.

  Some growers prefer to incorporate their fertilizer through cultivation or banding it about three inches deep using tillage equipment. The advantage is better incorporating nutrients that are not very mobile in the soil, like potassium and phosphorus. The challenge is that it can cut some of the grapevine roots and requires more niche equipment.

Acquiring a Vineyard Fertilizer Spreader

  Most common fertilizer spreaders used in agriculture will broadcast the fertilizer in a certain radius behind the machine, which will of course apply the product to both the grass and vine rows. Applying fertilizer only to the rows will dramatically decrease the amount of product needed.

  Specialized vineyard or orchard fertilizer spreaders are available commercially but may be cost-prohibited for smaller vineyards. One work-around for this would be to hire a custom fertilizer applicator.

  A second solution would be to make your own. A general-use broadcast fertilizer spreader can also be retrofitted to target vine rows. This can be done by attaching a V-shaped bar on the back of the spreader where the fertilizer is ejected, or otherwise engineering a way to redirect the fertilizer at an angle so that it only hits the ground beneath the vines. In Minnesota, some growers build and attach a wooden “V” onto the back of a plastic spreader. Wood and metal can both be used for this purpose. Of course, the methods of retrofitting a spreader will depend on the spreader you have and what tools are available to you.

Why not Apply Fall Nitrogen?

  When it comes to nitrogen applications, it is best to wait until spring. For cold climate grapes, which are my specialty, it is very important to eliminate or minimize nitrogen applications in the fall. Avoiding late-summer or fall nitrogen application is especially critical while the vines are still actively growing.

The first reason is that nitrogen application in the fall can significantly increase the vine’s chances of severe winter injury.

  After harvest, grapevines need to begin senescing in preparation for the winter. They stop growing, harden off green tissue, and move their energy and nutrients from the canopy down to the roots for winter storage. If nitrogen is applied in the fall, it encourages the vines to form new shoot growth late in the season, which is not a good thing. This interrupts the senescence process and makes the vines less prepared for winter and therefore more vulnerable to winter injury.

  Secondly, nitrogen applied in the fall may vanish before the spring.

  Nitrogen is highly mobile in the soil, meaning that it can be easily lost to the environment with water movement through the soil. Nitrogen can also be lost through volatilization – gaseous loss to the atmosphere. When water carries nitrogen down below the root growing zone, the plant can no longer reach it and the nitrogen is lost to groundwater. This process is called “leaching.”

  If nitrogen is applied in the fall, it is more likely to be lost to the environment than to be taken up by the plant. This is because the roots are not actively absorbing nutrients. However, during the active growth season in the spring, the roots are actively growing and nutrients are in high demand by the plants. Fall-applied nitrogen is likely to be gone before the next growing season starts.

What about other nutrients, like phosphorus and potassium?

  Phosphorus and potassium, two key nutrients for grapevines, are less mobile in the soil and are less likely to be lost by the spring if applied in the fall. Applying these key nutrients in the fall will give vines a ready source of nutrients in the spring.

  Many common “all-purpose” fertilizers (like “N-P-K”) and micronutrient sources contain some level of nitrogen. Therefore, it may be challenging to completely avoid fall nitrogen application if other nutrients are also being applied, particularly if using organic fertilizers. If this is the case, select a fertilizer with very low N concentrations relative  to the P and K concentrations, such as a 10-20-20 or 5-10-10 and wait until the leaves have fallen off the vines before applying it. Some P and K fertilizers are available that do not contain nitrogen. Consult with your fertilizer supplier about specific product options based on your soil test results.

  Most of the vineyards I work with have high levels of phosphorus and potassium and do not need to add more. A recent review of Minnesota soil test reports from University of Minnesota Extension showed that many of our cultivated soils have excessive levels of potassium. Excess potassium threatens local waterways, as it can run off from agricultural fields and residential properties. Always consult your soil test results before adding nutrients that your soil may not need.

  Here are some key tips for fertilizing in the fall:

1.   Minimize the amount of nitrogen applied in the fall; save it for the spring.

2.   Granular fertilizer is best applied as a broadcast directed to the vine rows.

3.   If possible, avoid fertilizer application to the grassy aisles.

4.   Calculate fertilizer needs based on soil and foliar tests. Only apply nutrients if needed.

Sources:

  Nitrogen Fertilization in the Vineyard. Dr. Joe Fiola. University of Maryland Extension, 2021.

  Nutrient Management for Fruit and Vegetable Crop Production. Dr. Carl Rosen. University of Minnesota Extension, 2005.

What Records Do You Need at the Time of a Claim?

By: Trevor Troyer, Vice President Agricultural Risk Management, LLC

So, you have opened up a claim in your vineyard due to freeze/frost damage. What’s next? When do you get paid? How much do you get? When is the adjuster going to come out? How does the claims process work? What do you need to provide to the adjuster that shows your loss?

  I wrote a month ago about when you should open up a claim. To summarize, you should open up a claim any time that you might have a loss. You should not wait to see if you have a loss but open the claim up right away. The loss has to be caused by an insurable trigger.

  The Causes of Loss per Grape crop provisions are:

1)   Adverse weather conditions;

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

3)   Insects, except as excluded in 10(b)(1), but not damage due to insufficient or improper application of pest control measures;

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

5)   Wildlife;

6)   Earthquake;

7)   Volcanic eruption; or

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

  Adverse weather conditions could be anything that could cause damage to your grapes. For example; drought, frost, freeze, excess moisture etc. Wildlife could be bird damage, deer etc. Fire would also include smoke taint as that is a result of a fire. Crop insurance does not cover, inability to sell your grapes because of a buyer’s refusal or contract breakage. It also doesn’t cover losses from boycotts or pandemics. Overspray or chemical damage from a neighboring farm is not covered either.

  An average of your historic production is being covered per acre per variety. You can cover 50% to 85% of your production average. Obviously, the premium for 50% is cheaper than the premium for 85%. If you chose 75% coverage then you have a 25% production deductible. If you have a 4 ton per acre average then you would be covered for 3 tons per acre. Your deductible would be 1 ton an acre. You would have to have a loss over 1 ton per acre to have a payable claim.

  At the time you sign up for crop insurance you report your past production per variety and vineyard location. We do not need any weigh tickets, pick records, or sales receipts from wineries at this time to verify your production. You will be asked to show this year crop year’s production records during a claim. The adjuster may want to verify past production records as well. It is important that when we set up your production database with your history that you have records to prove the data.

  Per the Common Crop Insurance Policy – Basic Provisions; Production record – A written record that documents your actual production reported on the production report. The record must be an acceptable verifiable record or an acceptable farm management record as authorized by FCIC procedures. FCIC is the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation.

  Here are some of the items that may be needed for a claim. A. Supporting Records Settlement sheets, sales receipts, machine harvest records, certified scale records, pick records and final or year-end statements from a winery, cannery or processor must indicate net paid tons of Grapes delivered by variety. Converting gallons of wine to tons of grapes does not qualify as acceptable records. – Crop Insurance Handbook (CIH) 2023. These records would also be needed to support your historical average.

  It is important to keep these items for the future as well. It is not enough that you have your tonnage written down. You need weigh tickets, receipts etc. These documents need to be verifiable, not in a spreadsheet on your desktop computer.

  It can get tricky if you are “vertically integrated” and grow grapes and make wine yourself. You might not have third party weigh tickets or sales receipts. Some wineries sell some of their grapes and make wine with the rest. Some of the records for the adjuster could be sales receipts and the rest would need to be certified scale weight records.

  The scale has to be certified though.

B. Certified Scale Weight Records  Certified scale weight records alone are considered to be acceptable production records, unless the CP requires a pre-harvest appraisal and/or records of sold production. Certified scale weight records must be legible and include all of the following to be acceptable.

1)   The insured’s name.

2)   The name of the crop.

3)   The date of harvest or the date weighed.

4)   The unit number or the location of the

      production.

5)   The practice, type, and crop year.

6)   The quantity/weighed production. For wineries that process their own grapes, the weight can be recorded on the form used for reporting to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. – Crop Insurance Handbook (CIH) 2023.

  There is a lot of information on what is an “acceptable verifiable record”, much more than I can put in one article. For the full information on what is acceptable you can look at the Crop Insurance Handbook, the Loss Adjustment Manual and the Grape Loss Adjustment Standards Handbook. You can find all of these at the USDA Risk Management Agency’s website at www.rma.usda.gov

  To run through the questions at the beginning. You have called your agent and opened up a claim. The adjuster will contact you in few days. They may want to see the damage right away or wait to see how much you harvested. I always recommend to vineyard owners to take pictures of the vineyard if the damage is visible. Once you harvest and production is verified by the adjuster, they will send the information in to be reviewed. Once approved you will be paid the difference of your guarantee (average of your historical production multiplied by your coverage level.)

  I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping good records.

Rules of the Road for Social Media Advertising, Influencers and Wine Brand Owners

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

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the world of beverage alcohol. As the reader knows, e-commerce sales of all alcoholic beverages, and especially wine, have grown exponentially. The reliance by the consumer on their computer is resulting in a war of attrition against the three-tier system, the legal doctrine of Tied-House and trade practice concerns.

  One significant and deeply affected business sphere is how marketers are using technology to create brand awareness. Clearly, the beverage alcohol advertising landscape is in a state of flux and change. The internet and social media, in particular, have had a profound impact on virtually all consumer goods but it seems that the boundaries of acceptable alcohol advertising are being expanded outward. More significantly, the impact of the ‘influencer’ in the alcohol sphere has become an important marketing tool for raising brand awareness and driving case sales. A simple search on YouTube will quickly reveal innumerable posts and videos on the effective use of social media and the influencer to promote wine brand awareness.

  In the world of wine, there is room for influencers at all levels. Although in different forms, past practice supports this contention. There is little difference to the wine marketer between wine writers of the past and the videographer of the present. Whether it be number of points given by Parker, or the number of followers of an influencer, the goal is to raise brand awareness and ultimately move boxes. Obviously, certain categories of influencers will be used to advertise and market high-priced single varietals or a unique Meritage. Lower priced, broad market and perhaps younger focused labels require a different type of influencer.  However, the use of an influencer and the commensurate social media campaign, if not properly designed and executed, could be perilous for the brand owner.

  The purpose of this article is to provide the wine marketer who may be considering the use of influencers with the basic guidance for the effective use of the “influencer” and social media in order to withstand the scrutiny of alcohol regulatory authorities.

TTB and the FTC

  The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”) promulgates rules for compliant labeling, advertising, and related trade practice matters. State(s) alcohol control boards possess the authority to promulgate and enforce their own similar rules within their borders.  The regulatory agencies are certainly known to the reader. There is another federal agency, less known to those in the industry, called the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), which the wine marketer should be aware of.

  The FTC is an independent agency within the federal government that is tasked with, in its own words, “…protecting consumers and competition by preventing anticompetitive, deceptive, and unfair business practices through law enforcement, advocacy, and education without unduly burdening legitimate business activity.” The FTC has stated publicly that it has the authority and ability to enforce alcohol advertising rules on various media including the social media and the use of influencers.

Trade Associations

  Historically, alcohol beverage producers self-regulated their advertising initiatives by adhering to the guidelines of three (3) influential producer associations. Those associations are: 1) The Beer Institute; 2) The Wine Institute and: 3) Distilled Spirts Council of the United States or DISCUS.

All three associations have published guidelines for brand owners of each commodity to follow as minimal industry standards.

  The FTC has adopted these rules and advises that alcohol advertisers should comply with these standards. The FTC has openly stated it can file enforcement actions against brand owners that disregard the adopted standards. It is important to note that to date, the FTC has not often enforced these rules through administrative action. Given the changing nature of advertising and the “pushing of the envelope” by young influencers of acceptable standards it is wise to be familiar with them and work to be sure they are complied with.

  The main concern of the FTC is advertising that is intentionally or inadvertently directed to underage consumers and where the content of the advertisement may be of particular appeal to the underage drinker. Since this is a wine focused publication, we direct the reader to the short list below taken from the Wine Institute, which outlines best and responsible practices. Note that this is not a complete list, but highlights the most significant factors to bear in mind when constructing advertising content and in particular, overseeing the content of influencers broadcast on social media platforms.

Responsible Content

  Wine advertising shall not depict or describe in its advertising:

•    The consumption of wine for the effects the alcohol may produce.

•    Direct or indirect reference to alcohol content or extra strength.

•    Excessive drinking or persons who appear to be intoxicated or to be inappropriately uninhibited.

•    Any suggestion that excessive drinking or loss of control is amusing or a proper subject for amusement.

•    Any persons engaged in activities not normally associated with the moderate and responsible use of wine and a responsible lifestyle. Association of wine use in conjunction with feats of daring or activities requiring high degree of skill is specifically prohibited.

•    Wine in quantities inappropriate to the situation or inappropriate for moderate and responsible use.

•    Wine advertising should not depict or encourage illegal activity of any kind.

•    Wine shall not be presented as being essential to personal performance, social attainment, achievement, success, or wealth.

•    The use of wine shall not be directly associated with social, physical, or personal problem solving.

•    Wine shall not be presented as vital to social acceptability and popularity.

•    It shall not be suggested that wine is crucial for successful entertaining.

•    Wine advertisers should not Show models and personalities as wine consumers in advertisements who are or appear to be under the legal drinking age. Such models shall be 25 years of age or older.

•    Use music, language, gestures, cartoon characters, or depictions, images, figures, or objects that are popular predominantly with children or otherwise specifically associated with or directed toward those below the legal drinking age, including the use of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.

•    Be presented as being related to the attainment of adulthood or associated with “rites of passage” to adulthood.

•    Wine advertising shall in no way suggest that wine be used in connection with operating motorized vehicles such as automobiles, motorcycles, boats, snowmobiles, or airplanes or any activities that require a high degree of alertness or physical coordination.

•    Comparative advertising claims shall be truthful and appropriately substantiated and shall not be disparaging of a competitor’s product.

•    Wine advertising shall not degrade, demean, or objectify the human form, image or status of women, men, or of any ethnic, minority, religious or other group or sexual orientation. Advertising shall not exploit the human form, or feature sexually provocative images.

  It is important to point out that the three essential elements of brand advertising incorporated into the Wine Institute, Beer Institute and DISCUS rules, which are designed to ensure that a particular brand does not appeal to underage consumers, are:

•    No more than 28.4% of an audience for an advertisement is to consist of people under 21 years of age.

•    Content of the advertisement should appeal to individuals over 21 years of age-conversely; content should not appeal to individuals under 21 years of age.

•    Models and Actors employed should be older than 25 years of age and reasonably appear to be over 21 years of age.

  When deciding on whether to partner with an influencer, wine marketers should scrutinize the past content of the influencer as well as thoroughly analyzing the demographics of the influencers target audience.

  Although the Wine Institute is silent on this issue, the DISCUS rules state that the 25 year old threshold for models and actors does not apply to athletes, celebrities, spokespersons and influencers of legal drinking purchase age that are generally recognizable to their intended audience (see Code of Responsible Practices Distilled Spirits Council of the United Sates). The influencer does not necessarily have to be older than 25 years of age.

  Beverage alcohol manufacturing, production, taxation, Tied-House, and related regulatory matters are complex. Trade practice and advertising rules, standing alone are also detailed and complex. As this article suggests, the internet, social media, and the influencer are acting as disrupters of an orthodox system of doing business. Of course, the new media and the new media stars offer tremendous opportunities to raise brand awareness that translates to more sales. The best advice here is be aware of acceptable and self-imposed industry standards and make them part of an effective social and influencer media driven campaign. The FTC is poised to enforce these regulations and likely will do so the more and more influencers test the acceptable limits of alcohol beverage advertising. As wine brand marketers, strive for compliance to stay off the radar of the regulatory authorities. To do otherwise, could be costly.

Grapevine Red Blotch Virus: Update on Disease Epidemiology Auto Draft

By: Judit Monis, Ph.D.

Vineyards in the fall, often display a palette of colors that differ from those expected during senescence (yellow leaves that turn tan).  In many cases, the whole vine may turn completely red or perhaps patchy red spots are interspersed with green color that have a blotchy or patchy appearance is present.  Sometimes all vines in a vineyard display bright colors but in other cases, a few vines may display color or have different ranges of red (or yellow) that are interspersed with healthy senescent vines.   Generally, the abnormal colors observed in the fall season are caused by some sort of stress.  One important stress factor is the presence of disease-causing agents or pathogens. The most likely cause of foliar discoloration is the presence of detrimental plant viruses.  Although many different viruses cause vine symptoms in the vineyard, this article will focus on an update on grapevine red blotch disease caused by Grapevine red blotch virus (GRBV).

The Virus that Causes Red Blotch Disease

  Based in molecular and structural characterization, GRBV has been placed in the Grablovirus genus, within the Geminiviridae family.  With the exception of Grapevine fanleaf and red blotch, Koch’s postulates have not been completed with most of the disease-causing grapevine viruses.   To complete the Koch’s postulates, a pathogen must be isolated in pure form from a diseased organism, later the pathogen (virus in GRBV’s case) must be introduced to a healthy organism (grapevine plant), and the newly infected plant must show the same symptoms as the originally infected one.  Clearly Koch’s postulates are important because they prove the cause and effect of a pathogen causing a specific disease.  Dr. Marc Fuchs team at Cornell University tweaked the definition of Koch’s postulates to prove that GRBV causes grapevine red blotch disease.

  The work was done using sophisticated recombinant DNA technology to introduce the virus genetic material into tissue cultured grapevine plants.   Time will tell, after the plants grow, if the infected vines also display the detrimental effect of the virus in organoleptic qualities of the fruit (i.e., reduction of sugar, mouthfeel, etc.).

Red Blotch Symptoms

  Grapevine red blotch virus infection displays leaf discoloration which usually appear spotty or blotchy in vines. The symptoms of GRBV infection become more pronounced in the vineyards in the fall season.   However, these symptoms can be indistinguishable from those caused by leafroll viruses, especially in red-fruited varieties when rolling of leaves are not present.  In red fruited varieties, GRBV infected vines can display red veins, but red veins have also been observed in non-infected vines, and many red-blotch infected vines do not display red veins.   Therefore, red vein symptoms cannot be used as a diagnostic tool.   In white-fruited varieties red blotch diseased vines displays yellow blotchy discoloration in leaves. While the symptoms of leafroll and red blotch can be confused, these diseases are caused by different types of viruses that can often be found in mixed infections, complicating diagnosis and control.  Although, the change in colors of the leaves in the fall is a tale-tell of virus infection, the most important negative effect of both leafroll and red blotch virus-infection is the reduction of sugar in fruit resulting in reduced Brix values and delayed fruit maturity.

  Two different strains (scientifically known as clades) of GRBV have been reported.  However, no differences in their biology or effect on symptoms of these different strains in the vineyards have been observed so far.  The symptom expression of GRBV infected vines is affected by climatic conditions and the author has noted differences in the effect on sugar reduction in sunnier and warmer areas.  For example, California coastal areas with more fog and low sunshine levels yield fruit with sugar concentration than the same grape clones grown inland with more sun exposure.

Transmission and Spread of GRBV

  In June, I attended a seminar series organized by the Napa Valley Technical Group. The presentations by Marc Fuchs and two of his students focused on the ecology, transmission, and epidemiology of Grapevine red blotch virus.

  Researchers at Cornell University and the University of California have reported that the three-cornered alfalfa hopper (Spissistilus festinus) can transmit GRBV in greenhouse and laboratory conditions.  Although, the three-cornered alfalfa hopper has been found in vineyard blocks where red blotch disease has spread, grapevine is not the preferred host for Spissistilus festinus. This insect prefers to feed on legumes, grasses, and shrubs.  Furthermore, the insect is not able to complete its reproductive cycle in commercial grapevines.  Based on the different strains of GRBV found in wild grapes and nearby commercial vineyards, research has shown that infection of wild grapes is probably due to the movement (transmission) of virus from commercial vineyards. Because the three-cornered alfalfa hopper can complete its reproductive cycle in wild grapes, wild grapes grown in the riparian areas become a potential source of infection into commercial vineyards.  While research continues to determine if other vectors are capable of transmitting GRBV it is clear that the rapid expansion of this virus in vineyards was due to propagation and grafting of cuttings from infected vines.  This also explains the arrival of GRBV to many countries in Asia, Europe, and South America where GRBV had not previously been reported.  

Transmission of GRBV to Healthy Vines in the Vineyard

 To determine the efficiency of natural transmission of GRBV in a vineyard, the Cornell team conducted an experiment with sentinel vines (GRBV-free tested).   In 2015, 36 sentinel vines were planted in a vineyard with a high density of GRBV-infected vines.   Annually, the team performed testing using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) as well as visual inspection recording the symptoms of each vine.  The results showed that the virus was first detected by PCR in sentinel vines in 2018 (three years after the GRBV-free vines were planted).  However, these vines displayed symptoms one year after the virus was detected.  By 2021, 16 out of the 36 sentinel vines tested positive but only 13 of these infected vines were symptomatic.  The data presented suggests a lag period between GRBV infection and its molecular detection and further symptoms expression.  In contrast, the researchers report a much shorter time period for detection and symptoms expression when GRBV-infected material is planted in a vineyard. The team theorizes that a lag on symptom development in a vineyard may also be due to the planting of vines that were grafted onto infected rootstocks.  Field experiments with infected rootstock grafted onto healthy scion would need to be performed to validate this theory.  In the many years I have been performing testing on both rootstock and scion grapevine material for my clients, I have yet to receive a positive result. Furthermore, past work in my laboratory showed the quick transmission (less than one month!) of GRBV from infected scion to healthy rootstock.  I am curious and would welcome readers to contact me with information on positive GRBV infected rootstock findings. 

Conclusions

  The best way to avoid disease in the vineyard is to plant disease tested plant material.  Nursery propagated material must be tested prior to grafting, making sure that both the rootstock and scion material are sampled.  It is important to note that the lack of symptoms in a vine does not always correlate with a healthy diagnostic result (rootstock varieties as well as non-grafted vines are usually asymptomatic), so it is best to test a statistical sample of the nursery propagated material to be sure of its health status.

  My experience with both field and laboratory sampling techniques can provide help during your vineyard development projects.

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

Bernhardt Winery: New World Winery, Old World Wines

 By: Nan McCreary

Deep in the heart of Texas, located in the piney woods and rolling hills surrounding Plantersville, is a small boutique winery that offers visitors not just an opportunity to taste quality Texas wines in a picturesque setting but also to experience the wines of the ancients, be it Mavrud from Bulgaria or Limiona from Greece.

  “It’s fascinating to me that these are the grapes enjoyed thousands and thousands of years ago by ancient ancestors like Spartacus, Aristotle, Homer and Alexander the Great,” winery founder Jerry Bernhardt told The Grapevine Magazine.  “I’m always sniffing out indigenous wines that are experiencing a revival today and adding them to our selection.”

  Bernhardt’s “selection” includes 33 varieties of traditional wines sourced primarily from grapes and juice throughout Texas, as well as the seven ancient grapes in its Antiquity Wine Curation.  The Texas wines fulfill Bernhardt Winery’s mission “to provide our customers with quality wines and a fun tasting experience in a warm environment,” while the Antiquity series takes the love of wine to an entirely new level.  That mission is “to find indigenous varieties as close to the genetic original and grown in the same terroir as in ancient times.  We hope to recreate a shared communal experience of our ancestors such as love, passion, family and celebration through the tasting of these age-old wine.” Based on the number of visitors to the winery and wine sales and awards, Jerry Bernhardt and his team have surpassed expectations in both missions.

  Bernhardt opened his namesake winery in 2005 as, he laughed, “a retirement project gone wrong.”  He had always wanted to know more about wine, he said, so as a former engineer and builder, he understood that the best way to learn was to “just go do it or build it.”  And so he did. He and his wife began making home-made wine, and he spent two years interning with the pioneering winemakers in nearby Fredericksburg, the Texas Hill Country home to over 50 vineyards and wineries today. One of his mentors was the French-born Bénédicte Rhyne, winemaker at Kuhlman Cellars in Stonewall and international wine consultant. He and Rhyne still maintain a partnership today.

  When Bernhardt opened his doors, he offered four wines, all with grapes or juice sourced from Texas vineyards:  A red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon), a white wine (Blanc du Bois), a Rosé (made from red and white grapes) and a Port, a barrel-aged Cabernet Sauvignon fortified with brandy and aged for a year in a proprietary barrel. The first year’s production was 900 gallons, or around 370 cases. Today, Bernhardt produces 15,000 gallons annually, or over 6,100 cases.

  As he’s grown, Bernhardt has not strayed from his commitment to produce quality wines. In his quest for excellence and diversity, he diligently oversees and harvests Blanc Du Bois and a few rows of Black Spanish from 1.5 acres on his 20-acre property, and sources the rest from reliable, tried-and-true vineyards. He and his winemaker, his nephew Jonathan Schrock, select grapes and juice carefully, always based on quality.  “What we produce depends on the year,” Schrock explained.  “In Texas, we have good years and bad years.  If the quality is there, we may source 100 percent from an area.  But if it isn’t, we will go elsewhere. It all depends on the quality, and whether we can get it here safely without oxidation or other flaws.”

  While the wines Bernhardt produces in Texas require careful oversight, the bottles shipped from Bulgaria and Greece come from trusted winemakers who have benefited from financial support, training and promotional opportunities provided by their local government. Since visiting the Plantersville winery in 2017, the Bulgarians have developed a solid relationship with Bernhardt, and are eager for Americans to experience the quality of wines coming from these ancient regions. As importers, Bernhardt Winery simply promotes and sells the wine. “They are so good,” he said, “they fly off the shelves. We sell out of everything we import.”

  Currently, Bernhardt imports 30,000 bottles of wine annually in his Antiquity collection.  The Bulgarian wines include: Mavrud, regarded as the one of the most highly esteemed wines in Bulgaria, with evidence of production 7,000 years ago, and possibly an ancient clone of clone of Mourvedre; Sauvignon Blanc, with origins believed to go back 1,000 years; Chardonnay, originally propagated on the Danube River plains by the Romans on their march to France; Rosé Inanna, regarded as the Queen of Heaven and the most popular goddess in all of Mesopotamia, and planted on the same Mesopotamian soil dating back to this ancient time; Cabernet Franc, native to the Loire Valley in France, and an up-and-coming grape that thrives in Bulgaria’s moderate climate; Sangiovese, more ancient than early Rome; and Syrah, an ancient grape with historical records dating back to 20 AD. The one grape from Greece in the Antiquity collection is Limniona, written about by Homer and Aristotle, and currently enjoying a revival in its home region of Thessaly, and increasing popular in Greece and abroad. Each bottle shares the story of the wine on the label.

  While Jerry Bernhardt is a big fan of the wines of Bulgaria — known for its diverse microclimates and soils favorable for quality wine production — importing these wines (and the Limniona) fulfills his passion for educating people about wine, plus he sees it as a wise business decision.  “I learned very

quickly that diversification is important,” he told The Grapevine Magazine. “With fires and freezes, and other variables, if you only have one source, you’re in trouble. Also, importing these wines gives us another level of top quality products to represent without having to invest millions to increase our capacity. We’re very comfortable where we are.”

  Comfortable, yes, but Bernhardt’s not ready to rest on his laurels.  He and winemaker Schrock are both self-described “creative” people and continue to push the envelope in search of new products, be they ancient grape varieties or different expressions of Texas fruit. “When we make blends, we may sit down and pull samples from 20 barrels,” Bernhardt said.  “We sniff and taste until we find the flavor profile we want.  We don’t blend based on what the wine’s going to taste like three or five years from now; My philosophy is to make wines that are designed to drink now.” So far, results of these “experiments” have proved to be very successful.  Schrock invented a wine called Black Zinnish, a blend of Black Spanish mixed with Texas Zinfandel, which has been extremely popular.  He also came up with Bayou Blend, a unique mix of Texas grapes, bottled in April this year and nearly sold out by July. Yet another best-seller is Cabernet Sauvignon Nouveau, a unique expression of the grape Cabernet Sauvignon that features new fruit without any aging.  “We want people to simply taste the fruit itself,” Schrock said.

  As Bernhardt moves into the future, customers can expect to taste new blends, particularly those that express differences in oak aging. “We’re using next-generation barrels (made with an oxygen permeable polymer shell) that can be used and reused, with oak coming from very high quality staves,” Schrock explained. “The staves are a ‘recipe,’ depending on the type of oak and the amount of toast we want. We get exposure from all four sides — not just one — and the staves are cut thinner to provide greater surface area for faster extraction.” As Texas grapes become more popular and availability increases, Schrock will have more and more opportunities to express his creativity. “My favorite part of winemaking is the oak aging,” he said. “Playing with the staves gives me such freedom.  I can choose staves to open up tannins or structure or I can use blends of new and old oak, for example. I can really experiment and take the wines to the next level. It’s a lot of work, but less work than moving wine from barrel to barrel.”

  Whether customers want to sample the best of Texas wines or imagine they’re sharing an ancient wine with Aristotle, Jerry Bernhardt promises guests a fun experience. The Tuscan-Style winery is a blend of old-world charm and modern luxury surrounded by 20 acres of rolling hills and 200-year-old pecan trees. It’s a perfect setting for enjoying a picnic, or any of the musical events the winery hosts on the weekends. “To sum it up, what’s important to us is to give people quality wine and a fun experience in a warm environment.  You can find it all here, from local Texas wines to wines from across the world that are tied to our ancestors.  For us, it’s all about a human connection.  The quality of our shared experiences nudges us emotionally, and that’s what we want to provide. We want to share a story…and share a relationship.”

For more information on Bernhardt Winery, visit www.bernhardtwinery.com

Best Practices for Soil Protection in the Vineyard Auto Draft

By: Alyssa L. Ochs  

Soil protection practices help prevent erosion, improve grape quality, improve crop yield and aid environmental conservation. To practice sustainability and maintain a profitable business, it is necessary to find a balance between soil conservation and water consumption. Also relevant to the soil, fertilizer can make a big difference when growing grapes. Yet fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides have a way of attaching themselves to soil particles and moving from vineyard lands to nearby waterways. Therefore, it’s essential to choose your fertilizer products wisely and always use them as directed to maintain soil health and do your part to protect the environment.

Soil in the Vineyard

  Many issues affect the soil in vineyards across the country, including low nutrients, water flow and surface runoff. Gully, sheet and rill erosion are common in vineyards, as well as issues with slope length and steepness for drainage. From one vineyard to the next, variables to consider are crop rotation practices, the amount of rainfall and the type of soil in the region. Increasingly, vineyard operators feel the effects of climate change as they take care of the soil on their land and the grapes growing on it. This often comes in the form of more extended drought periods, consistently higher temperatures, longer hot seasons and increased wildfire risks.

  “Compaction from equipment driving through vineyards along the same tracks year after year can severely stunt vine root growth, which will, in turn, stunt vine growth, regardless of how much fertilizer gets thrown on the vines,” said Dr. Jodi Creasap

 Gee, Ph.D., BioSafe Systems’ assistant plant pathologist, viticulturist and technical sales representative for the Northeast. Since 1998, BioSafe Systems has been an innovator in environmentally sustainable practices and products to protect crops, water and operations in diverse industries. “In vineyards

where soil is already compacted or likely to be compacted, some growers may use a cover crop that develops deep taproots, such as a radish, which can break up the top six-to-eight-inch layers of soil.”

   Dr. Creasap Gee also told The Grapevine Magazine that soil pH could change dramatically in vineyards where workers apply fertilizer without regard for actual soil content.

  “Most grapevines require a soil pH between 5-7 for optimal uptake of nutrients from the soil, so in many vineyard sites, managing the soil pH is the most critical part of managing vineyard nutrients,” Dr. Creasap Gee said. “Therefore, consistent soil and petiole testing are so important. You need to know what’s going on in the soil, as well as what’s being taken up by the vines to monitor their health, like the blood tests we humans get during our annual physicals. In established vineyards, applications of nitrogen can reduce soil pH, leading to acidic soils and reducing nutrient uptake in the vines. Consequently, applications of lime may be necessary to improve the soil pH, and, as that will take time to affect soil pH, foliar feeds or foliar applications of fertilizers may be necessary. One of our products, CalOx FT, moves calcium through the vines with your chosen foliar feed product. CalOx FT uses ion channels to move calcium ions through the symplastic pathway, which is much faster than the typical apoplastic pathway. Applied as a foliar application, TerraGrow Liquid can improve vine health and bolster vine stress responses.”

Using Fertilizer in the Vineyard

  Everyone who runs a vineyard has a favorite type of fertilizer to use on the soil, such as the manure of cows, poultry or rabbits. Vineyards use urea, zinc, potassium and ammonium nitrate depending on the soil needs. It is a widespread practice to apply granular fertilizer as a broadcast over the vine rows.

  As a family-owned manufacturer of biodegradable crop protection, water treatment and sanitation products, BioSafe Systems offers a soil health program called “Sustainable Soils,” which workers can incorporate into any vineyard with irrigation and vineyards before planting.

  “Typically, vineyards in the eastern part of the United States do not have any irrigation, save, perhaps, for newly planted vineyards,” said Dr. Creasap Gee. “On the west coast, however, irrigation may be more commonplace, which is where our TerraGrow Liquid plant growth promoter would shine. This product boasts several beneficial microorganisms and can improve plant health. It has been used as a root dip in vineyards to give vines the best possible start as they get established in the vineyard.”

  Dr. Creasap Gee said that what sets BioSafe apart from the alternatives on the market is that its products are American-made and produced under strict quality control guidelines to ensure consistency and quality for growers. She also said that BioSafe’s sales representatives work closely with end users and distributors to ensure the optimal use of BioSafe Systems’ products and to answer queries as they arise.

Ideas for Vineyard Soil Conservation

  Vineyards can improve their soil conservation practices in various ways, such as using buffer strips, drainage tiles and diversion ditches. It is also possible to protect your grapevines’ precious soil with a specific vineyard layout, permanent sod, and water and sediment control strategies. Mulch, seeded cover crops, soil biodiversity and weed management are other ways to ensure healthy soil for the current crop and for many years to come.

Dr. Creasap Gee told The Grapevine Magazine that the most critical step in this process is to work with a soil and water conservation specialist to identify and correct issues within the site.

  “There are many soil conservation practices available to growers, and eXtension lays out a fantastic guideline for soil management,” she said. “Remember, if you don’t have good soil, the vines will struggle to establish good root systems, and without a good root system, vines may be puny and fail to ripen fruit consistently year after year.”

  Overall, Dr. Creasap Gee said that the options for soil protection and conservation are numerous, depending on the site and that the options start with soil testing and a site evaluation for water drainage.

  “For established vineyards, cover crops, like rye, can be an effective strategy to manage soil erosion and to increase soil organic matter,” she said. “The cover crops are burned down with a contact herbicide, like AXXE Broad Spectrum Herbicide, which can also be used in a vineyard to manage insect pests on cover crops and allowed to remain in the row middles to suppress additional weed growth.”

Fertilizer Tips for Vineyards

  As a general rule and for optimal growth, it is best to aim for a soil Ph of about 5.5 to 7.0. Start by conducting a soil test to determine the best fertilizer strategy. Use fertilizer before planting, apply as little of the product as possible to start and introduce it lightly during the second year of growth.

  Many vineyards apply a quarter-pound or less of 10-10-10 fertilizer in a circle around the plants and about four feet from the vines. In the years that follow, vineyards often increase the application to one pound but extend the circle to approximately eight feet from the plants’ bases for vines that appear to need an extra boost. Overall, saving more fertilizing activities for spring is best while minimizing usage in the fall season. However, a vineyard may choose to apply fertilizer in the fall because it is easier with the ground being dry but not yet frozen. In the spring, vineyards in some parts of the country may still present challenges due to melting snow and the frozen ground. Grapes are most depleted of nutrients right after harvest and in the early spring, so a combination of fertilizer sessions may be optimal for balance and longevity in the vineyard.

  Dr. Creasap Gee emphasized how important timing is when using fertilizer in a vineyard and always to be sure to apply fertilizers when the vines can take them up.

  “For example, we know that soil nitrogen can be taken up by roots during a two-week window around bloom,” she said. “The recommendation from extension programs is to apply nitrogen in split applications: once two weeks prior to bloom – and only what you need, hence the soil and petiole tests mentioned above – and again after bloom but before veraison.”

  She also emphasized how necessary testing is because testing your vine tissues and soils on a regular basis will ensure that you don’t harvest your vineyard nutrients with your grapes and without annual, consistent inputs.

  “Remember that the micro- and macro-nutrients in the soils are only part of the equation,” Dr. Creasap Gee said. “The microbial activity in the soil is what makes these nutrients available to root systems, so ensuring a soil with high organic matter and a diversity of microbes can only improve overall vine health.”

  A final piece of advice that Dr. Creasap Gee offered is not to be afraid to ask for help because plenty of specialists around the country can assist you with vineyard soil management.

  “You don’t have to rely on the internet. You can reach out to any of the hundreds of viticulture specialists around the world who would be more than happy to help you strategize and problem-solve.”

Material Handling Within the Winery and Vineyard Auto Draft

By: Gerald Dlubala

“Most winery owners don’t see the whole picture when considering the best ways to move their product around the winery and vineyard,” said Sam McHenry, president of Accurate Forklift Inc. McHenry has been providing material handling equipment to the wine industry for decades, even designing some of them himself. “There’s much more to think about in material handling than just how to get something from one point to another, and it comes down to the location’s characteristics and intended layout. When recommending the right forklift for the job, we look first at the harvest and apply the Christopher Columbus principle, meaning the world is not flat and will tremendously affect your equipment stability given the chance. Is the area that we are working on flat or paved? If so, we recommend an electric-powered forklift or pallet jack with cushion tires. If it’s not, and you’re expecting to use your equipment off-road, in fields or over rough or uneven areas with potholes, then you’ll need fork trucks with larger, air-filled tires for stability.”

  “The type and size of fork truck needed are also determined by your harvesting plans and equipment used,” said McHenry. “Will you be harvesting during the day or night? Do you anticipate harvesting for eight hours a day? Fifteen? Around the clock? Current electric-run equipment will generally give you about eight hours of runtime before needing the same amount of time to recharge unless you have a backup battery, secondary truck and hoisting equipment on hand to change batteries, a pricey option. Propane-powered trucks can be kept running with a simple tank change or refill at an on-premises propane tank station with the proper filling attachments and safety precautions. Gas or diesel options need only extra fuel on hand.

  McHenry said that vineyard owners also need to consider their field-loading activities. How is the loading area constructed? What are the widths of the rows? Your material-handling equipment has to be able to maneuver within these parameters. What type of bins does your vineyard use for their grapes? Do you use the Valley Gondola type of bins? Many smaller wineries use the macro-bins. When you combine the bins’ and grapes’ weights, you must ensure the equipment you’re using is rated for that weight, especially if the terrain and landscape will play a part. McHenry tells The Grapevine Magazine that he regularly sees accidents happen because vineyards use improperly rated equipment for the conditions and tasks they are performing.

  “It gets down to physics at that point,” said McHenry. “The type of landscape and terrain you’re working on and the type and size of holding bins you use determines the capacity level needed of your fork trucks. Anything less runs a high risk of overloading your equipment, possibly risking the health and life of the equipment operators and nearby workers. This same principle holds for the attachment used for dumping your harvest. Using rotating attachments, they must be able to reach and dump where you need them. Forward dumping bins have become popular because of their easier, more predictable use. Likewise, presses and fermentation tanks come in different types, weights, sizes, and volumes, making them all unique in their handling needs. To properly size the equipment, we have to consider the load centers, heights, and ease of movement around the tanks. For example, I was responsible for getting fork pockets added into the design of the egg-shaped fermenters for safer movement and positioning. Until then, these awkward-shaped fermenters were moved with forklifts, some undersized, and straps that wrapped around the egg shape. It wasn’t a very safe or ideal situation.”

Barrel Storage and Manipulation Equipment Requires Planning

  Barrels come in all different sizes, shapes, weights, and volumes and can be used for storage or in barrel fermentation, and the type, use, and storage methods that the winery uses will determine the type of equipment needed. Wineries can store barrels in their barrel rooms, warehouses, or caves in pyramid stacks, individual rows, or two-to-four-barrel racks, depending on their physical location and production capabilities. The process of in-barrel fermentation requires other aspects of material handling equipment, including side grabbers, barrel rotator clamps, and more. As with vineyard specifications, aisle widths, backup, and turnaround space are all important when choosing the proper handling equipment for the space.

  “The process is tedious, demanding focus, planning, and calculations, including the choice between equipment rental or purchase,” said McHenry. “Talk with experienced professionals in the industry and other wineries that currently use the equipment you’re considering to get honest feedback about use in real situations. The result will be a safer, more ergonomic, more efficient workplace that will experience increased production and less waste”.

Racking Increases Square Footage Efficiency 

  Greg Weinerth is president of Enterprising Solutions, a multi-faceted professional services company providing warehouse and storage solutions to all industries, including the craft beverage and wine industry.

  “Racking can be as simple as the common rack found in any commercial kitchen or production facility, to pushback racks that save or eliminate aisle space by allowing pallet storage up to six pallets deep, to complete systems featuring drive-in racks,” said Weinerth. “We know that square footage is expensive, so it’s critical to talk to a professional for layout efficiency, including aisle depth and width. If the winery or vineyard already has the equipment that they’ll use for handling the product, then obviously we need to factor that into the racking layout and plan.”

  Weinerth tells The Grapevine Magazine that pallet racking sounds simple, but it demands a floor plan that fits in conjunction with your winery’s specifications. For example, Weinerth says that when formulating a workable and efficient layout, you must be aware of the building or storage area’s height restrictions, aisle width needs, and intended machinery use. The installation of a new or replacement racking system may be subject to getting the proper permits, including reassessing the existing fire sprinkler, egress, and evacuation systems.

  Additionally, many locales now require a seismic evaluation, including a torque test proving the safety of the racking anchors. Structural engineers usually perform these evaluations and are mandated at the municipal level depending on the winery’s proximity to past and potential seismic activity.

  “And we all remember the old way of providing a solid deck in vertical racking by laying plywood down as a base between the supporting members,” said Weinerth.  “That isn’t allowed anymore due to fire regulations. Wire decking is the preferred choice because it allows water from the fire sprinklers to travel down and through the racking to impact all stored products. For that same reason, your palleted product can be stretch wrapped on the sides but should not be stretch-wrapped over the top of products or cases on the pallet. Water must be able to access the product on the pallet as well. A typical business owner may not have the specific, relatable knowledge that a quality, experienced material provider will know about and walk them through.”

  Weinerth said that he sees the popularity of direct-to-consumer shipping affecting the type of racking systems that wineries are now choosing. Mini pick systems are gaining attention and popularity because of the possibility of offering a direct-to-consumer wine club subscription service. They can ship a subscription box filled with the consumer’s choice of wines directly to their most loyal consumers. When not able to be done by hand, the picking and packing usually require equipment like a stand-up, narrow-aisle lift equipped with a picking mechanism.

“Larger production wineries can benefit from racking systems that allow a driver to load the palletized product into the racks from one end and then pull those products from the opposite end, ensuring that older inventory is used first. Also popular with larger production wineries is the use of self-guided vehicles, electric-powered material handling machines that can unload, locate and inventory products in one task, which immediately updates the winery’s accounting and inventory system in real-time before moving on to its next task. This type of automation is becoming more accessible to the general market and will soon be able to be applied to a broader number of systems and be able to be used on a 24/7 basis if needed.”

  Weinerth said that additional considerations that a winery or vineyard must make in determining material handling needs include the type and position of loading docks used and if there are any clearance issues, turning areas or landscape limitations that necessitate the use of ramps or specialized equipment. Generally, standard gravity-operated conveyor systems are adequate for the needs of wineries.

Multi-Use, Ergonomic Equipment Increases Efficiency and Productivity: Bishamon Industries

  “Care inside the winery must be equal to the care in the vineyards,” said Brian Dedmon, director of sales for Bishamon Industries Corporation. “There are two main pieces of equipment we see used within wineries that fill most of their needs daily, our EZ Loader line of self-leveling pallet positioners and our Uni Lift pallet lifter, positioner and transporter.”

  Bishamon’s EZ Loader line of self-leveling pallet positioners are popular choices for everyday winery tasks like loading or unloading cases. It features a 4,000-pound capacity and adjusts by way of a self-contained air system that the user can fill with a bicycle pump eliminating the springs and mechanical aspects of other positioners that routinely wear out. In addition, the EZ Loader can be quickly

moved and easily positioned with a forklift as a side table for packaging functions or anywhere a little extra table space is needed, like moving product from conveyor to pallet or taking it off of the line.

  “Our positioners also offer options including square platforms instead of the circular designs, FDA compliant tops or stainless-steel designs,” said Dedmon. “With the portability and ease of adjustment, we can increase productivity while helping to eliminate production safety risks and overall worker fatigue, leading to fewer compensation claims.”

  “Our UniLift is a multi-use piece of machinery wrapped into a hand-powered, battery-operated pallet jack,” said Dedmon. “It’s a pallet lifter, positioner and transporter all in one unit, and as far as I know, it’s the only unit like this that works on closed bottom pallets. It can lift and transport a pallet without straddling it because it contains outriggers that the user deploys when needed. These outriggers allow wineries to create tighter work cells and better utilize their square footage. More available square footage means greater efficiency with more lines and increased production using fewer person-hours. The UniLift can also raise and lower pallets during stacking or unstacking, creating an ergonomically beneficial work site.”

  Bishamon Industries provides quality, innovative ergonomic products that enhance worker safety while improving productivity in industries that include the wine and craft beverage sectors from the company headquarters in Ontario, California.

Undiscovered Gems: Wine Regions of Africa  Auto Draft

By: Hanifa Sekandi

Some say that South Africa is the only wine region in Africa that you should venture to if you ever make it to this beautiful continent. Is this true? It might be if you are unaware of the breathtaking vineyards in other countries. Viticulture in Africa has barely scratched the surface. It is not as widespread compared to North American and European wine markets. Both continents have lucrative and renowned wineries. As winemakers strive to tip the scale in competition, it is not surprising that wine savants have their eye on what many call the Motherland, where all things began. There is no question that the climate in many African countries is ideal for vines to grow. And harvesting biodynamic wines is also possible since an existing diverse ecosystem permits this with ease. Also, life in Africa is deeply-entrenched with nature. In addition, there is an understanding that all species must live in harmony. The great vineyards in Africa do not rule those lands. They become a part of its history as they plant their roots in ancient mineral-rich soils.

  When people think of diversity in viticulture, they generally stay within the framework of wines made in North America or Europe. Entry into the wine market on a global scale is easier for these regions. The dominance of such wines has nothing to do with quality at times. Although, one cannot say that a vintage bottle of Bordeaux made from a prestigious winery in France is not worth every penny. South African and Moroccan wines have created a buzz, but there is still more to discover.

  Thanks to the evolving times, social media and the internet document many undiscovered gems. This allows one to see that the wine industry has barely touched the edge of exploration and possibility. It is also a surprising notion since a form of wine has been made for thousands of years in many countries worldwide. What brings all these nations together? European travelers bought their vines and their winemaking to them, thus planting an interconnected web of vines and winemaking traditions globally. 

  Come along and explore just a few undiscovered, breathtaking and small but mighty wine regions in Africa. The first stop is Madagascar, and finally, Ethiopia on this new adventure. They are contenders for sustainable, organic and biodynamic winemaking. Sustainable practices exist in these regions out of necessity. As this movement takes hold globally, winemakers who want to cut down on waste while still producing wines that respect the land and allow nature to flourish freely may also adopt these sustainable practices.

Wines Of Madagascar

  Winemaking in Madagascar started with the French colonialists. The first vineyards are said to have been established by Jesuit missionaries. The intention for growing wine initially was not for commerce or how one enjoys wine today. Records from this time show that the sale of wine at the Maromby Monastery was a source of income for

the monks. Large-scale wine sales in this region did

not occur until after the emancipation from the French in the 1960s. The Swiss saw an opportunity on this island. They intended to rebuild through a development aid program in the mid-late 1960s. Some would say it was a short-lived enterprise since they withdrew from this program in 2011. Unfortunately, even with the aid, they did not make significant headway in the wine industry. Their exit left a big gap for winemakers who have not been able to gain the momentum needed to compete on a large scale. The wine produced in Madagascar is geared towards the local market and tourists. Rum is the main export.

  Vines are planted on the highlands on steep slopes and in areas with cooler altitudes. This helps prevent fungal disease and high levels of alcohol in the grapes that have not reached the ideal ripeness for harvesting. Pineapples, rice paddies, bananas and sugar cane are also planted nearby. The plant diversity among the vines demonstrates that vines can co-exist and thrive. The need to clear lands simply for grapes is not necessary. Perhaps, this is a great initiative to model for newer winemakers considering biodynamic practices. It is also an opportunity to increase their profit margins by selling other fruits grown on their land at local farmers’ markets or having an on-site shop. Yes, Madagascar is behind and nowhere near being considered successful in the wine market. But this wine region does provide a gateway to new ways to create biodynamic vineyards. Rice paddies are situated in the low-lying, damp valleys below vines nestled on the hillsides. Both benefit from the placement since the terraced slope runoff allows the rice to thrive.

  Since Madagascar is off the East coast of Africa in the Southern Hemisphere, grapes are harvested in the rainy season during February. The process of winemaking here is unique. Winemakers here allow their senses and instincts to determine when grapes are ripe—a simple yet effective method to replace a refractometer. From here, grapes are fermented in large concrete vats, where a mechanical press is used for extraction. The liquid is transferred to another concrete vat that contains sugar and preservatives. It will further ferment for approximately six months. The richness of color in the red wines made here is due to the skin remaining on the grapes during fermentation. Ready-to-bottle wine is bottled in previously used bottles by hand. The entire bottling process is done by hand, including labeling and corking. Wasting bottles is not an option. The labels of old bottles are peeled off, and bottles are cleaned and reused.

  Seven of the eight wineries on this island use a French-American hybrid grape. Only one winery, Clos Nomena, uses Vitis vinifera, a European grape varietal touted by sommeliers, who say that the finest wines are made with these grapes.

The Growing Vines Of Ethiopia

  Tej is a traditional Ethiopian wine once consumed by the nobility and that dates back centuries. It consists of water, gesho and honey. Gesho is a plant that is similar to hops. Although this drink does not contain grapes, it is still classified as wine in this region. Many liken it to mead, an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting water, grain, spices, fruits and honey. Although wine in this country has existed since the first millennium A.D., the presence of large-scale vineyards with methods attributed to European wine cultivation only began in the late 1950s. The oldest and most well-known vineyard in this region is Awash Winery. It was established in 1956 under the helm of real estate developer Mulugeta Tesfakiros and politician Ras Mesfin Sileshi. In 2013, it was acquired by the Blue Nile company and partnered with 8 Mile, a company chaired by legendary musician Sir Bob Geldof. This partnership aims to expand its global reach and scale of production by building another distillery.

  Approximately 10,000 million bottles of wine, primarily consumed within Ethiopia, are produced annually by Awash Wineries. The second winery, Castel Winery, produces the remaining bottles, approximately two million bottles annually. It was established in 2007 and located in Zway, south of Addis Ababa. Awash Winery is in Awash Merti Jersu. The proximity to the equator allows for harvest to occur twice a year due to a shorter vegetation cycle. Harvest occurs from June to July and from November to December. This is a great benefit that European vineyards do not get to experience. Perhaps this makes up for some of the other shortcomings that the Awash vineyards must navigate. Harvested grapes are transported for seven hours down the vineyard winery path. It is a somewhat long journey that leaves them vulnerable to the scorching sun burning their skin. Even with a protective shield placed on top, the sun’s powerful rays can still permeate this barrier. To ensure that the grapes are cool enough before pressing, they are left overnight in the truck, a method that offsets the day’s travel under the beaming sun. At the Awash Winery, there is a small selection of wines offered. Axumit Sweet Red Wine is a much-loved wine by Ethiopian locals. Similar to Madagascar wineries, the bottles are recycled for rebottling purposes. The bottles themselves are collectibles since some have been used for over five decades – true history in a bottle indeed.

  Castel Winery is a partnership between the Ethiopian Government and the Castel Group. Partnering with a company responsible for making and distributing premier beer and wine brands is a formidable venture. Both parties believe that this winery will be able to compete with South African wineries since it is in a region located 1,600 meters above sea level and where temperatures sit evenly at around 25 degrees Celsius each year. The sandy soils also benefit from the approximately 650 millimeters of annual rainfall. Bordeaux vines were imported and planted in this region and occupy most of the space in these vineyards. There are two ranges of wines produced at Castel. The most notable wine is Rift Valley. It is a premium wine aged in French oak barrels. With the help of the European Union’s Everything But Arms program and AGOA program, Castel Winery plans to expand into European and North American markets.

  The undiscovered gems for African wineries do not stop in these two countries. As you know, when a seed is planted, growth is inevitable. Other African countries are taking note. So, this journey into the unknown world of the Motherland’s wineries will continue. Like the bottles that have circulated in the hands of many, there is more to this story. For now, dream of an evening in Antananarivo, Madagascar spent drinking Clos Nomena-made wine or a day in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia having your first sip of Tej.

Hunting the Great White Grape  Auto Draft

By: Tod Stewart

So, what if, as a winemaker or grape grower, you could create the “perfect grape.” Since it’s summer, we’ll narrow it to the perfect white grape (assuming that more people purchase white wine during the summer and that purchases ensure you remain a winemaker or grape grower). Where would you start?

  Okay, how about yields? If your business model is based on high volumes of drinker-friendly wines, a vigorous vine delivering impressive volume would probably be desirable. Modern fermenting techniques would help you deliver white wines that, while lacking real complexity, would give you a decent, quaffable light white wine that may be just the right background in a blend with more assertive varietals.

  However, if your aim is also to craft lower volumes of wines that will impress the true connoisseurs, you’d want this same grape to behave slightly differently when crop volumes are reduced. So, this super-grape would have to double as both a workhorse and vinous royalty. It should also be able to thrive in various climates, be they those of California’s Central Valley or the upper (and lower) wine belt limits. From Northern Europe to South America and New Zealand.

  Since winemakers around the world vinify a plethora of styles, übergrape should be up to being treated much differently in different hands. Light and dry. Dry and complex. Sweet across the spectrum – from barely off-dry to rich, unctuous, and lush. Sparkling as well, from dry to sweet. And depending on the audience, it should give wines that can be consumed young but that can also age and develop with both short and long-term cellaring. Let’s throw in an ability to reflect the nuances of various terroir just to up the ante a bit more. Oh, and good wind and disease resistance, right? It would be a great grape indeed.

  The good news is that you don’t have to run off to your nearest viticulturist to plot which currently existing grapes could be cross-pollinated, hybridized and grafted onto which rootstock to result in this Frankenfruit. It’s already here. Say hello to Chenin Blanc, probably one of the most underrated and under-appreciated white grapes out there.

  I had the opportunity to learn about – and taste the wines made from – this “magical chameleon of a grape” (as Jancis Robinson, MW calls it) during a three-week journey through France, starting in the Loire Valley – the ancestral home of Chenin Blanc.

  If first-hand confirmation is in order, let me confirm: traveling in/out/through Toronto’s Pearson International Airport has been pretty much akin to traveling through Dante’s Fifth Circle of Hell as of late (though you’d probably still have your luggage in the Dante’s Hell scenario). I suppose I got off lucky in that I was only delayed an hour flying to France and only had to sit on the tarmac for 45 minutes or so upon returning before spending only about another hour or so clearing security. As luck would have it, my luggage actually made it back with me (a good thing in that it was packed with wine, pastis, marc, olive oil and all sorts of other things). It probably helped I wasn’t flying Air Canada (though Air France was running out of in-flight food on the return leg).

  Anyhow, what brought me to France in the first place (other than several thousand gallons of jet fuel) was a media trip (“Val de Loire Millésime”) sponsored by InterLoire (Interprofesssion des Vins du Val de Loire – in long form) – the body responsible for the promotion and development of the wines from the regions of the Nantais, Anjou-Saumur, and Touraine. Now, before going any further, I think it’s important to set the record straight with regard to “media trips.”

  Being media comes with some perks (a robust – or even steady – paycheck is typically not one), and media trips – certainly in the eyes of non-media types – fit the bill. Airfare is generally covered, as is ground transportation. As are accommodations. As are meals. But let me assure you, these trips aren’t vacations. No way. You’re on someone else’s schedule and someone else’s dime. So, prepare to work.

  Early morning educational seminars and visits to numerous estates and vineyard sites (which may include a “hike” through said vineyards) are the order of the day. (As an aside, I’ve become wary of the word “hike” when followed by “though the vineyards.” These excursions can literally be a walk in the park or reach survival training endurance levels. The phrase, “Please ensure you bring suitable footwear” often indicates that the latter will transpire). Also, there are back-to-back tastings. Sampling over 100 wines per day (minimum) isn’t uncommon. It’s all tiring and sometimes exhausting, day after day.

  The look on your face suggests I’m not drumming up much sympathy.

  Anyway, over the course of my four-day Loire adventure, I was able to experience Chenin Blanc in all its vinous incantations and learned more about the variety’s lineage.

  I was based in the town of Angers, which is pretty much smack-dab in the middle of Chenin’s birthplace. Also known as Pineau de la Loire, Chenin Blanc is thought to have originated in the vineyards of Anjou, likely sometime in the ninth century, before spreading to vineyards in the neighboring Touraine region by the 15th century. In fact, the name Chenin Blanc likely came about due to plantings in vineyards near Mont Chenin near the famous Château de Chenonceau. Over the course of history, plantings of Chenin Blanc waxed and waned, largely due to the dictates of consumer tastes, but it has remained the white grape of the Loire.

  I had the opportunity to taste Chenin-based wines representing an extremely broad stylistic range. Susceptible to Botrytis cinerea (aka “noble rot”), the sweet, late-harvest wines of Anjou and Vouvray – and specifically Coteaux du Layon, Bonnezeaux, and Quarts de Chaume – I tasted showed layers of waxy, honeyed, spiced baked apple and, in some cases, an earthy, mushroom-tinged nuance. As glorious as many of them were, what intrigued me the most were the dry Chenin Blancs, some of which were like nothing I’ve ever really tasted before.

  The Saumur Blanc wines of Domaine Arnaud Lambert – including the Coulée de Saint Cyr 2018 Blanc, Clos de la Rue 2018 Blanc, and Brézé Bourguenne 2018 Blanc – deserve (I think) special mention. All were gorgeously complex, dripping with floral/mineral/smoky/lanolin and stone fruit aromas and flavors, with rich, ripe, concentrated and beautifully balanced flavors to match. One thing about Chenin Blanc is that, even in some of the least expensive examples, an undeniable richness can be detected. Alas, Lambert’s wines are hardly the least expensive examples. At closing in on 50€ per bottle, the Brézé Bourguenne 2018 Blanc was (I think) the most expensive wine I tasted while in the Loire. That being said, I’ve tasted plenty of wines costing far more that delivered far less.

  Another property that caught my attention was Domaine des Fontaines. Vigneron Rousseau Vincent explained to me that the appellation his winery resides in – Bonnezeaux – was certified an AOC for the production of sweet wines only. Dry wines were not (yet) able to carry the Bonnezeaux AOC distinction. Vincent – and others caught in a similar predicament – are pushing for a change. Personally, as a consumer, I’d question if AOC status really matters (I’m sure there’s a reason it does), especially having tasted the Domaine’s outstanding Cuvée Landry 2020 Blanc (which carries the broader Anjou appellation designation). This was an amazingly concentrated and deeply flavored wine, with a full, ripe and viscous texture and of considerable length. At 10.50€, this wine was a steal. If it were crafted from a different grape, country, or region, it could likely command double that price (or more).

  Though top-quality dry Loire Chenin Blanc wines are becoming more the norm these days, some have been known for quite some time as perhaps the pinnacle of the dry style. And here I’m talking about those of the Savennières region. Comprised of three AOCs – Savennières, Savennières-Roche-aux-Moines and Savennières-Coulée-de-Serrant. The total area under vines for all three regions combined is less than 400 acres. Savennières-Coulée-de-Serrant in itself is home to a single estate managed by Nicolas Joly. It covers a mere 17 acres. But it’s within these boundaries that Chenin Blanc shows what it can deliver when planted within a very particular terroir. In fact, the wines are typically so influenced by the schist soil, vineyard exposure, and relatively cool temperature of the region that “earth,” rather than “fruit,” is the most defining characteristic of these wines.

  Taste traditionally-made Savennières young wines, and you’ll wonder what the fuss is all about. When young, these wines typically fail to really impress (at least me). Sure, there’s lots of body and weight (many Savennières wines routinely top 14% ABV, some hitting 15%), but the screamingly high acid levels (typical of cool climate Chenin; maybe Chenin in general) and lack of any really opulent fruit makes them a little hard to warm up to.

In one session, I tasted 17 Savennières, mostly from young vintages (2019 and 2020). Some were pleasant enough (and some were obviously made to be a bit more approachable young), but it wasn’t until I hit the Loic Mahe Savennières Les Fougeraies 2016 that I found what I consider to be “classic” Savennières. The nose was nutty, with hints of caramel and buckwheat honey, underpinned with some mildly mushroomy notes that all wrapped around a distinctly mineral spine and buttressed by still crisp, dry acidity. If heavily-oaked Chardonnay is your thing, stay far away from Savennières. However, if you are looking for distinctive, age-worthy Chenin Blanc, step right up. I have some Savennières of the 2002 vintage in my cellar that are starting to show beautifully.

  Of course, the Loire Valley isn’t the only place you’ll find Chenin Blanc. I found it planted in the vineyards of Mas Cal Demoura in the Languedoc – the polar opposite end of France from the Loire (yes, I chose to extend my “tour de France” well after I left the Loire). It’s also the most widely planted variety in South Africa, where it covers at least three times (maybe more) the acreage planted in France. Traditionally, it was called Steen until it was discovered in 1965 that it was actually Chenin Blanc (for whatever reason, this made it even more popular). And all the attributes listed at the beginning of the story have resulted in it being planted far and wide.

  No matter where it sets its roots, Chenin Blanc is typically a cooperative and reliable vineyard addition that will do, vinously speaking, pretty much anything you want it to do while retaining a personality and uniqueness all its own.

When is the Correct Time to File for a Claim?

By: Trevor Troyer, 
Vice President 
Agricultural Risk Management, LLC

When should I file for a claim? That’s a question I get a lot. Some growers think that they should wait until they know that they have a loss. They want to harvest to see if they have a loss. That is not the correct answer to me. You should turn in a claim as soon as there is a weather event or other cause of loss situation. This helps to document what is happening during your growing season as it unfolds.

  This spring in California there was a late frost/freeze event for several nights. Primary buds in many counties were killed. Some areas like Sonoma and Napa Counties had mild to moderate damage. Other counties in California had much worse damage. Oregon also had a lot of areas that were damaged. Some areas were quite severe with all the primaries frozen.

  Obviously if the buds were all frozen you should contact your crop insurance agent and have him open a claim up. But what about damage you are not sure about? You know that you will still make a crop but are not sure if it will reduce your tonnage by any large amount. Depending on your coverage level you may think that you won’t have a loss. At this point don’t worry about the deductible percentage of your crop insurance policy. Call your crop insurance agent and open up a claim.

  It is always better to have a claim open than not in this type of situation. There’s no way at this point in the season to determine how much your yield will be down. But if the claim is open and documented its better. This gives time to have an adjuster assigned, time to do an inspection and to document the damage. Damage done may not be as visible several months later. Damage can very well be cumulative as well. During the year you may have several weather events and other things that could reduce your yield.

  Here’s what it says in the Basic Provisions of the Common Crop Insurance Policy:

14. Duties in the Event of Damage, Loss, Abandonment, Destruction, or Alternative Use of Crop or Acreage

Your Duties -


(a) In the case of damage or loss of production or revenue to any insured crop, you must protect the crop from further damage by providing sufficient care.

(b) You must provide a notice of loss in accordance with this section. Notice provisions:

      (1) For a planted crop, when there is damage or loss of production, you must give us notice, by unit, within 72 hours of your initial discovery of damage or loss of production (but not later than 15 days after the end of the insurance period, even if you have not harvested the crop).

  Per the USDA Risk Management Agency you have from 72 hours of the original cause of loss or until you discovery it and up to 15 days after the end of insurance. I do not recommend waiting till 15 days after the insurance period. It does happen though and I am sure I will have growers do it again. I have had vineyard owners call me and say that their tons are down for a certain variety. Then we have to piece together what happened. What was the cause of loss? When was it? Was this the only thing or were there other weather events? Is the loss only showing up only on one variety?

  Losses will get paid but it is much easier on everyone if you report causes of loss right after they occur. That doesn’t mean you have to know for sure that you will have a loss, just that some event happened that may cause your crop to be reduced.

Here are the Causes of Loss out of the Grape Crop Provisions from the USDA RMA:

10. Causes of Loss.

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

(1) Adverse weather conditions;


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


(3) Insects, except as excluded in 10(b)(1), but not damage due to insufficient or improper application of pest control measures;


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


(5) Wildlife;


(6) Earthquake;


(7) Volcanic eruption; or


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

(b) In addition to the causes of loss excluded in section 12 (Causes of Loss) of the Basic Provisions, we will not insure against damage or loss of production due to:

(1) Phylloxera, regardless of cause; or


(2) Inability to market the grapes for any reason other than actual physical damage from an insurable cause specified in this section. For example, we will not pay you an indemnity if you are unable to market due to quarantine, boycott, or refusal of any person to accept production.

  Number 1 on the list is Adverse weather conditions. This could be just about anything, frost, freeze, drought, excess moisture, hail etc. Fire is listed as well and because of this there can be damage many miles away from the fire due to smoke. Insect and disease damage are covered but you must show that you have application records for spraying etc. Wildlife is another one that can cause problems – deer, raccoons, birds and so on. I have even had a claim turned in for a bear. Earthquake and Volcanic Eruption I have never seen a claim turned in for. I am sure, unfortunately, that there will be one for an earthquake. Number 8, Failure of irrigation water supply, is something that can be a big problem for growers. Certain areas in California and Washington State rely heavily on irrigation. If there is a drought and your well or reservoir dries up then that is a payable cause of loss.

  Don’t wait to contact your agent about a situation or adverse weather that may reduce your crop. That is what we are here for! For more information please contact Agricultural Risk Management LLC.

Office: (239) 789-4743

Email: info@agriskmgmt.com

Website: www.agriskmgmt.com