Is Your Facility Ready to Host Events?

By: Markel Insurance

As the spring season brings new life to the vineyards and offers opportunities of growth, so too are winery owners looking for new growth in their operations with increased sales.  Having a great experience at a winery results in improved customer loyalty, increased publicity and more sales.

One way to maximize your public exposure is by hosting events.   The activities can be small and simple such as an acoustic guitar on the back patio or larger concert exposures.   Events can include wine club dinners, fund raisers, vendor shows or weddings.

In planning for the events that will best suit your operations and facility, several key elements should be reviewed to help minimize losses and protect your assets.  Understanding your target market and what activities are best for you are as unique as each blend of wine.  Current markets have several popular events, including yoga stretch and sip; Wine Paint and Pour; Races through the vineyard or even a vendors “farmers market” offering local crafts and products.

There are the tried and true, more traditional activities expected at a winery with Crush or Harvest festivals, pickin’ party, club dinners and weddings/shower events.

You should consider the space needed based on the anticipated number of participants and any specialty needs, including tables & chairs or tents, rental equipment, caterer or DJ/vendors.

Once you have an idea on the type of event that will appeal to your demographics, a quick checklist can be reviewed.

Facilities Checklist for Hosting Events:

  • Is the use/occupancy rating for the property acceptable for the type of event?
  • Will you be able to provide adequate staffing for supervision?
  • Is there clear signage for acceptable vs restricted access areas?
  • Are there any ADA compliant concerns at the facility?
  • Based on the attendance expectations, will there be enough bathrooms, trash cans, water stations, shade/covered areas?
  • Are the electrical demands up to code? Who manages the setup and takedown for stage and dance floor exposures?
  • Is there emergency personnel on site?

Slip, Trips and Falls

Liability losses related to the facility most commonly relate to the slip, trip or fall category.  Not to underestimate the severity of what seems to be a simple loss cause, the following claim shows a good illustration of what can happen.

  Real-life claim example: A small concert event on a patio that required additional electrical power and resulted in cords running along the open patio.  A trip and fall occurred resulting in a fractured hip.  A surgery turned into an infection, causing a second surgery and extended recovery time.  With lost wages alone, the price was rising, and when finally settled to include medical, the shared cost was nearly $1.7 million.


Parking can be an often overlooked, but it is an important influence on the experience of the customer because it can be the first and last impression for any event.

Parking Factors to Consider

  • Is there adequate parking based on the number of attendees and is it easily accessible?
  • Always consider the path for emergency vehicle access (fire trucks, police cars, and ambulances).
  • Should local authorities be notified of the event and to help route the traffic flow in and out of facility.
  • Make sure the parking lot is clear of debris and free of obstacles with clear walking areas outside of traffic pattern.
  • Verify all areas of the parking log are well-lit for evening use and not susceptible to rain or vehicle being stuck.
  • Have clearly marked flow patterns and parking lanes help eliminate confusion and frustration.
  • Determine if you will have attendees directing traffic, or will be offering valet parking or any shuttle/transportation.

  Real-life claim example: Parking mishaps may leave you exhausted, or exhaust-less.  A vineyard/winery cleared a small lot to have as overflow parking for their outdoor event.  A small tree stump remained and although not a concern for the tractor or owners pickup truck, was not concealed enough to avoid damaging the exhaust systems of several customers that parked in the field lot.


Depending on the size of the event, the responsibilities of the host grows with increased attendance.  When managing crowd control, do you rely on winery staff or opt for hired security.  Are there any weapons carried by other than law enforcement?  Do you hire off duty local law enforcement or an independent contractor.  Rules and procedure should  be clear relating to checking coolers and bags; not allowing any outside liquor; and restricted areas, especially where there is an attractive hazard, i.e. – open barns, fire pit, swimming pool/fountain/pond.  As an aside on fire, any open flame, fire pits, bon fires, outdoor grills, burgers and s’more’s cooker should be reviewed to make sure there are proper barriers, clear space and storage of combustibles.

Contracts and Certificates

Contracts and certificates should be in place for all vendors, caterers, artist, or instructors.  Each certificate of insurance should be from an  A rated or higher admitted carrier with limits equal to or greater than your limits, naming you as an additional insured, owner of premises.


People love their pets and pet lovers typically believe that everyone else should also be a pet lover, especially their pet.  From an insurance standpoint, it is not recommended to have pet friendly events.   If pets are allowed is there restrictions to be on leash or in designated areas.

Is the vineyard dog allowed to mingle in the crowd, “unsupervised?”

Know the difference between a professional service animal and a therapy pet and have clear rules so that you avoid an issue of selected acceptance or exclusion and can rely on your policy language.


Although minors may not be the norm for the tasting room, family friendly events can bring in a broad age range.   Have you crawled through your facility lately?  What may be obvious to an educated adult, may not be as clear to a child.  Locks and barriers are better than signs alone.  Have staff training to look for hazards and anticipate a lack of parental supervision.  Most wineries are not suitable as a daycare operation and should not have any childcare exposures.

Miscellaneous Exposures

  Evening Events: As a general rule of thumb, liability goes up when the sun goes down.  For many reasons, whether it be the time element of consuming more alcohol or just the visual difficulties to recognize hazards, losses are more likely as events run into the evening hours.   Having events that are shut down by 10:00pm would be considered a good practice and depending on your coverage carrier, may be a requirement.

  Cyber Security: Cyber / data breach coverage can include storing the credit card information for your club members, but can also apply to online purchases and any ticket sales for events.

  Private Events: When dealing with a special private event such as a Wedding or private party, clear contracts are the key.  The greatest frustrations come for unmet expectations.  Make sure all parties know what is being provided and what the expectations are for contracts, payment, timeframes or services.

  Real-life Claim Example: A facility that was not closed to the general public during a wedding event.  There was no clear detail on a separation of the wedding party areas vs the public access tasting room area.  In a clash of Party vs Public, tempers rose, words were cast and a white wedding dress is now a shade of cabernet.


This checklist is not all inclusive for all the unique elements to all event types.   The checklist should be a starting point for your facility.  Before hosting more events at your facility, review what type of events will be the best fit for your situation to provide a great experience for your guest.  Try to create events that will have a positive marketing buzz and will also increase your income while minimizing your exposures to loss.

The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as all encompassing, or suitable for all situations, conditions, and environments.

  Please contact us or your insurance professional if you have any questions. Products and services are offered through Markel Specialty, a business division of Markel Service Incorporated (national producer number 27585).  Policies are written by one or more Markel insurance companies. Terms and conditions for rate and coverage may vary.

For More Information Please Call Us At…800-814-6773, or Visit Our Website:

Here Come the Hybrids

By: Nan McCreary

We hear a lot about hybrid cars, hybrid fruits, hybrid vegetables and even hybrid animals, but what about hybrid grapes? Traditionally, wines made from hybrid grapes have been a non-starter for wine lovers, but that’s about to change. As we prepare to enter a new decade, more and more wine professionals are taking a second look at hybrids, and pioneering winemakers and scientists are working to improve existing varieties and introduce new ones.

A Double-edged Vine

Hybrid grapes are the product of crossing breeding two or more Vitis species. In the U.S., these grapes are cultivated by combining the rootstock from Vitis vinifera, a European wine grape species, and North American vines, commonly Vitis labrusca and Vitis riparia. Vitis vinifera is the source of noble wines so popular today, including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Chardonnay. Vitis labrusca is widely distributed across central and eastern Canada, and the central and northeastern part of the U.S. Vitis riparia originates in central and eastern Canada and the United States, extending as far west as Montana. Grapes from Vitis labrusca and Vitis riparia in their original form are rarely used for winemaking.

French-American hybrid wines were created as a solution for Phylloxera which devastated the vineyards of Europe in the mid-1800s. Because American grapevines were resistant to phylloxera—as well as powdery mildew, rot and other disease— scientists responded to the crisis by grafting Vitis vinifera vines onto to disease-resistant American rootstock. While these new varieties did provide a solution to phylloxera, the grapes crossed with Vitis labrusca and Vitis riparia were not as popular as those crossed with Vitis vinifera. Critics panned the hybrids because they lacked “purebred” status as well as the depth and complexity of Vitis vinifera grapes. Also, hybrid wines were often panned as “foxy,” a term describing juice that smells or tastes like musky Welch’s grape juice. These undesirable attributes caused many European countries to prohibited the use of hybrid grapes in quality wines.

Turning Tides

Today, the tide is turning for these much-maligned varieties. Unlike sensitive vinifera grapes that require particular weather conditions and soil to thrive, French-American hybrids made from Vitis labrusca and Vitis riparia can grow just about anywhere. They withstand harsh winters—some surviving in temperatures as low as -30 F—as well as arid, brutally hot Arizona summers. Hybrid cultivars are critical to the rapid changes in eastern and central vineyards. With growth in wine-related tourism exploding, wineries are showing up in locations where wine production was once thought impossible. Hybrids are also increasingly popular because they are resistant to many diseases, which encourages growers to farm organically. Even the EU is encouraging producers to reconsider hybrid grapes, as cost and health concerns from fungicides continue to rise.

Much of the success of hybrid grapes today can be attributed to the enology departments at the University of Minnesota and Cornell University, which have been breeding hybrid wine varieties since the 1970s and 1980s. Minnesota’s wine grape research enjoys recognition as one of the top programs in the U.S., with the goal of developing high-quality, cold-hardy and disease-resistant wine grape cultivars. Cornell is home to one of the top viticulture and enology programs in the world with international recognition for its expertise in breeding table, juice and wine grapes adapted to cool-climate growing regions. Programs at both schools dedicate research to producing new grapes with potential for flavor and winemaking, with an ideal balance between cold-hardiness and delicate flavors.

The following is a list of the most popular French-American hybrids in the U.S., according to The Grape Grower’s Handbook by Ted Goldammer and used with permission from the publisher, Apex Publishing.

Red Wine Varieties

Baco Noir:  Produces wines that have been variously described as “Rhone-style” or “Beaujolais-style.” It is characterized by high titratable acidity at fruit maturity and produces wines of good quality that are normally deeply pigmented but low in tannin content. It develops a fruity aroma associated with aspects of herbs. The wine is grown primarily in Canada, New York, Oregon and Nova Scotia.

Chambourcin:  Considered one of the best of French-American hybrids, is a highly rated wine used often used for blending with other wines. The grape produces a deep-colored wine with a full, aromatic flavor, and no unpleasant hybrid flavors. It can be made into a dry style or one with a moderate residual sugar level, giving it a pleasant but not overbearing sweetness. Wines from this grape are higher in tannins than other French-American hybrids. Varietal descriptors include raspberry, cloves, cherry, plum, and tobacco. The wine may be found in Ontario (Canada), Missouri, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, New York and New Jersey.

Chancellor:  The wine quality is among the better of the French-American hybrids, and it does well alone or in blends. It produces a medium-bodied red wine which is capable of aging well. It tends to be very colored, and care should be taken not to extract too much color from the skins. It’s an important grape in the cooler regions of Canada and the U.S., such as the Finger Lakes Region of New York.

Frontenac:  Produces deep-colored wines with cherry, blackberry, black currant, and plum notes. It can also be used in production of port-style-wines. The University of Minnesota developed the grape and released in 1996. Because Frontenac can survive in temperatures as low as -30 F, it is planted across the Northeastern part of the U.S. and Canada and is one of the most commonly planted wine grapes in Minnesota.

Maréchal Foch:  Possesses Burgundian characteristics, having a vibrant, deep purple color, with a light-medium structure and dark berry fruit characteristics. Some tasters find the similarities to Burgundy Pinot Noir become more pronounced with age. Maréchal Foch is one of the hardiest of the hybrids and is widely grown commercially throughout the Midwestern U.S. and Canada.

Norton (Cynthiana):  Produces a rich, full-bodied dry red wine with berry flavors and spicy overtones. It can be used in varietal wines, including ports, but may also be blended with other reds. These wines have an intense color. Norton is grown in the Midwestern U.S., Mid-Atlantic States, Northeastern Georgia and, most recently, in California.

White Wine Varieties

Cayuga:  Produces a European style white table wine, which has medium body and good balance. This versatile grape can be made into a semisweet wine, which brings out the fruit aromas, or if oak aging, into a dry, less fruity wine. The Cayuga White grape was developed especially for the Finger Lakes Region in New York by Cornell University, and is known for producing fine sparkling wines.

Chardonel:  Is a cross of Seyval Blanc and Chardonnay that produces an excellent wine, with aromas characteristic of both parents. Chardonel has the potential for fine-quality, dry still wines produced with barrel fermentation and/or barrel aging. Chardonel is popular in the Midwestern U.S. and the Mid-Atlantic states.

Seyval Blanc:  Produces a fresh, crisp wine that is often described as good with attractive aroma, but the body is somewhat thin. Malolactic fermentation or barrel fermentation followed by oak aging will enhance the quality. The variety is also popular in Canada and the Midwestern U.S. and the Eastern U.S., particularly New York.

Traminette:  Is a late mid-season white wine grape which produces wine with distinctive floral aroma and spicy flavors, characteristic of its Gewürztraminer parent. Traminette’s relatively high acid and low pH help complement its fresh-fruit aromas and flavors. The wine can be made dry or sweet but is usually finished with some residual sweetness. The wine is grown on the East Coast of the U.S. and in the Midwest.

Vidal blanc:  Is considered one of the best of the white French-American hybrids. The wine produced from Vidal blanc is fruity, with grapefruit and pineapple notes. The wines produced can be quite versatile, ranging from off-dry German style wines to dry, barrel-fermented table wines. Due to its high acidity and fruitiness, it is particularly suited to sweeter, dessert wines. It is especially popular as an ice wine in Canada. You can also find Vidal Blanc the Eastern and Midwestern U.S.

Vignoles:  Produces excellent wines of many different styles, depending on the region where the grapes are grown. Most commonly, however, Vignoles is produced as an off-dry wine or as a dessert wine, especially when picked late in the season. The fruit can have a high sugar content while retaining high acidity. Vignoles is one of the mainstays of the Eastern North American wine industry. It is also prevalent in the Midwest and been called “Missouri’s favorite white wine.”

This list is by no means comprehensive. Cornell and Minnesota have created hundreds if not thousands of new varieties. In 2006, Minnesota introduced two cold-hardy grapes, Marquette and La Crescent. Marquette, a red grape, is said to have the characteristics of Vitis vinifera grapes, while La Crescent has been touted as the perfect choice for Riesling lovers. More recently, Minnesota released the Itasca hybrid, which has drawn comparisons to Sauvignon Blanc.

While French-American hybrids may not have reached the international status of Vitis vinifera wines, the future is wide open for these varietals. Researchers are continuing to develop grapes that produce desirable qualities, and growers are experimenting in site selection, growing techniques and winemaking. Hybrids are getting a second look, too, as an option to offset climate change. Researchers at the University of California Davis are trying to create heat resistant grapes that produce quality wines. In France, the INAO has approved a third category of grape varieties “for climate and environmental adaption” that allow regions to conduct their research on heat-resistant grape varietals.

Wines made from hybrid grapes continue to improve by leaps and bounds. Whether used to offset global warming, promote sustainability, due to changes in consumer tastes or the “localvore” movement, the time is right for these former “mutts” of the wine world. Who knows, one day a hybrid may take its rightful place in wine shops as “America’s grape,” and become a rising star in the international wine scene. Stay tuned!

Uninvited And Unwanted, Vineyard Pests Demand Attention

By: Gerald Dlubala

Vineyard pests are more than just unwanted guests. They can devastate crop yields, attract other pests, and bring along disease and contamination. Depending on the grape varietal and its location, landscape, and environment, the type and number of pests grape growers battle can change on an annual basis.

Ground Battles

The most common type of pest control is the use of pesticides. According to Lisa Malabad, Product Marketing Manager and Cannabis segment lead at Marrone Bio Innovations, pesticides are most successful when the vineyard manager considers the necessities of the vineyard before purchasing a product.

“There are no silver bullets because there are many factors that go into pesticide choice, including application window, ease of use, maximum allowance/season, application resistance and any additional resistance that may have developed that reduces the effectiveness of the applied product. Because of all the changing variables, it’s becoming more common for growers to add biological crop protection into their pest control programs,” Malabad said. Marrone Bio Innovations creates industry-leading platforms of pest management solutions for the agricultural community. Their products help increase crop yield while decreasing chemical residue and pesticide loads in the environment.

However, biological crop protection cannot wholly reduce pests on its own. Marrone Bio recommends a strong, integrated pest management program that includes three main controls: biological, cultural, and pesticides.

“The key to a robust pest management system is monitoring, scouting, assessing and treating in various methods,” says Malabad. “There are considerable products on the market today that are labeled for grapes while providing some level of control for key pests. They fall into three main types: biologicals use natural enemies to attack unwanted pests; cultural methods involve planting cover crops to inhibit or drive away those that are unwanted; and pesticides, which fall into either the organic or synthetic category.”

Integrated pest management programs allow vineyard managers and workers to get to know the vineyard and the changes it goes through from week-to-week throughout the season.

“There is no one answer,” says Malabad, “which is why most growers in California have trusted Pest Control Advisors that consult with the growers for best management practices. Different pests affect the vineyards at different times of the year, but mealybugs, leafhoppers, and mites are the more commonly found insects. Pest pressure and intensity changes from year to year, so many growers are starting to look at preventative measures to control pests. Each varietal has its nuances, so getting ahead of the problem is critical. Ground makeup, cultural practices and micro-climates will determine the best overall pest management program within any unique block, so field scouting is the most important tool we have to determine treatment thresholds and preferred treatment times.”

Marrone Bio offers a pair of organic insecticide options for grape growers to include in their programs. Venerate XC is a liquid, easily mixed and sprayed for repeated success against mites while being soft on both the beneficial insects and pollinators that are so important to vineyard success. Grandevo WDC is equally successful in strengthening any pest control program against mealybugs.


Since 1977, JMS Flower Farms has been helping farmers eradicate powdery mildew, aphids, whiteflies, mites and more in grape crops with their JMS Stylet-Oil, an all-in-one, environmentally safe, white mineral oil-based insecticide, fungicide and plant disease controller that is food grade quality, colorless, tasteless and odorless. Extensive research has shown no effect on the flavor, taste or aroma of grapes or wine.

Stylet-Oil works by physical contact, requiring applicators to wear coveralls, chemical resistant gloves, and shoes and socks. Once applied through a sprayer, the oil acts as a smothering agent, killing powdery mildew on contact, and also preventing insect respiration, spore germination and the attachment of organisms to the host plant.

One of the benefits of using a mineral oil-based treatment like JMS Stylet-Oil is that it prevents mildew development, kills infections both before and after they are visible, and prevents sporulation. It has also proved effective against Botrytis bunch rot and when used as a resistance management tool. JMS recommends the oil as the first step in a powdery mildew treatment program to eradicate the strains before they become resistant.

Bird Battles

Dan Kramer, Technical Director of Avian Enterprises, wants nothing more than to make unwanted guests, in his case, the birds and geese, unhappy. Unhappy enough that they don’t want to come back to your vineyard. Ever. He considers himself a wine aficionado and wants his favorite grape growers to be successful and available. Continually, he’s heard one thing over and over from disgruntled vineyard owners at trade shows, most recently in Sacramento.

“Birds are decimating their crops,” says Kramer, “and that’s not an exaggeration. A group of birds can descend in numbers and do significant damage in no time at all. You’ll first notice a couple of scout birds, and before you know it, your grape crop is infested. That’s just the beginning. Birds just love to leave half-eaten grapes around, readily inviting other damaging pests and disease-carrying rodents to the party, and all of those droppings being left behind are an additional vector for disease and illness. We know that small groups of birds control the movement of the flock, so our goal with our Avian Control bird repellent is to make those birds around your vineyard unhappy. Avian Control makes them unhappy, and unhappiness leads them away.”

Avian Control is a liquid product that is most commonly applied by an air blast sprayer, a piece of equipment that many vineyards already have on hand. Applications are put directly on the fruit but do not affect the growing fruit strand. Kramer suggests applying the liquid every ten days as the product breaks down into a gaseous state.

“I liken it to our reaction to pepper spray,” says Kramer. “It affects the bird’s trigeminal nerve, triggering distress and carrying those sensations to the brain. They can absorb it through their feet when they touch it, through their mouths when tasting it, and when the product is transforming into a gaseous state, the birds will notice it by way of their nasal passages.”

It’s effective on birds only, which is a big advantage, and because of an invisible stain on the vegetation and bird’s eyesight sensitivity to UV rays, they will come to learn and recognize Avian Control treated areas.

“You’ll see the birds fly in, move around, leave, and maybe repeat once or twice before finally leaving altogether,” says Kramer. “They realize that something isn’t right within the treated areas and then respond to those areas as if they are off limits, moving on to more accessible areas.”

Avian Control has significantly reduced crop loss while overcoming objections about possible taste issues. Minimal dosing compared to other products is a significant factor in this accomplishment, with the use of 32 ounces per acre versus a two and a half gallon per acre spread rate for other treatments. In taste tests where the winemaker knew he was tasting the same grapes from a treated vs. untreated group, he was unable to discern any difference between the two tastings. Avian Control is a green, biodegradable product, featuring a one hundred percent break down rate with total non-toxicity.

“Netting is a great idea in concept, but it gets very costly with the amount of time and labor involved, and it also restricts airflow,” says Kramer. “And guess what? You still get birds in there anyway. For goodness sake, use your air blast sprayer that you likely have on hand, and save on time, money and labor costs. You can spread our product for about thirty-five dollars per acre, three times a year, rather than spending eight hundred dollars per acre installing and uninstalling those pain in the rear nets.”

Eye In The Sky

Wayne Ackermann, Director of Business Development for The Bird Control Group, keeps those birds away from your grapevines by using his automated laser bird repellent. Ackermann previously worked in the wine industry and used the Agrilaser Autonomic for his own agricultural needs before ultimately joining the company. The Agrilaser Autonomic is a fully automated bird repellent that uses lasers to deter birds around the clock. Sounds simple, but a significant amount of technology is behind the success of the device.

“With a laser, the human eye sees the dot, but the birds see the full beam, almost in the way that we see a laser when it’s projected through fog or steam. The birds see the whole thing, like a sword or stick, or as I like to say, a lightsaber,” says Ackermann. “The beam appears to them to be a real, physical, dangerous object coming towards them, so they scatter to get out of the perceived path. First trials were very successful in blueberry farms, so the next logical steps were to expand to vineyards, where it has proved to be a very effective tool, not only here but in international trials as well.”

Often, says Ackerman, only one unit is needed to keep birds away.

“Individual farm landscapes, terrain, and planting row density make a difference, as does canopy heights,” says Ackermann. “We start with one unit, which generally handles an eight to twelve-acre range. If more coverage is needed, we add additional units to overlap and provide cross coverage.”

The units can run by standard power or solar. Standard power is preferred if available in the fields because of longer run times and fewer potential complications, but if you want physical portability in the unit, then the solar panel option can be a useful upgrade. Each unit is programmable with up to 16 different patterns and one hundred different waypoints so that the birds won’t become accustomed to the same model. The Bird Control Group can set and program the units and also train the users of the units using their software program and a standard Windows-based laptop.

“It becomes very intuitive and user-friendly,” said Ackermann. “And the success rate of the laser technology has been significant.”

However, Ackermann says that they are continually learning and improving through new studies and the experiences of current customers.

“Hey, these birds are smart,” said Ackermann. “They get accustomed to all kinds of things like thump cannons, squawk boxes, ribbons and balloons. So far, lasers have worked out very well with a reported 70% success rate in keeping birds away. That number grows if you use it in conjunction with other options.”

Maintenance on the Agrilaser Autonomic is simple and straightforward, with regular lens cleaning and battery replacements. An internal timer and regular programs control the lasers, which come with a one-year warranty.

Coexisting With Wildlife in the Canadian Vineyard

By April Ingram

British Columbia touts the tag-line ‘Super, Natural British Columbia’ in their tourism branding and advertising, drawing visitors from all over the world to come and see Canadian wildlife in all its natural glory.  Wilderness tourism is a primary driver of all tourism in BC, which in total represents $13.8 billion in revenue and 132,000 direct jobs.

The region is blessed with a rich variety of habitats and wildlife and distinct wine growing regions surrounded by stunning natural scenery. Some of the same factors of climate, soil, and geography that contribute to growing the wine industry also support a diversity of unique ecosystems and plant and animal populations.

As the human population and development expand, many wildlife species increasingly depend on private land and working landscapes such as vineyards for all or part of their life cycle. This necessity translates into interactions with some of our wild inhabitants on a near daily basis, and some encounters are more positive than others. Wildlife such as deer, bear, rodents and birds can develop a liking for grapes, or the vine itself, and cause significant crop losses.

There seems to be a shift in attitude from wildlife in the vineyard being regarded as pests that need to be managed, to a coexistence, leading to healthy and biologically diverse ecosystems. Maintaining this balance can provide many essential services to viticulturists and reduce the need for inputs such as pesticides and fertilizers, increase the productive capacity of the land, and reduce production risks.

Vineyards provide habitat, food sources and breeding grounds for a variety of birds, amphibians and reptiles and can serve as corridors for wildlife as they move between habitats. It is important to balance the need to protect your vines and grapes with the need to maintain healthy local ecosystems and support the species that depend on them.

Before veraison, our wild inhabitants usually find the grapes to be too tart, but things can become especially problematic in the lead up to harvest.  As the grapes accumulate more sugar, they become especially tasty for birds, deer and bears, whose pre-winter appetites can be destructive to harvest yields. Even more so, as growers carefully monitor the temperatures until they dip down to the required -12 C, those grapes are one of the few food sources available at that time of year for birds and deer, so protecting them becomes a top priority.

Sound wildlife management requires using an integrated approach that should include prevention of conflict, identifying and learning about the species, monitoring them and the damage they cause, choosing appropriate control methods and reviewing the effectiveness of your actions. Most wildlife issues are managed through preventative measures. For example, habitat alteration and exclusion strategies can reduce the number of pests and problem wildlife frequenting your vineyard. These strategies may include using grow tubes around young vines to discourage chewing by rodents; selecting cover crops that are less desirable to wildlife, locating compost heaps away from forests and thickets; and clearing away brush piles that create habitat for birds.

The Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance (OSCA) is a registered non-profit society run by a volunteer board of directors, with other dedicated volunteers and contract staff who plan and deliver over one hundred environmental events every year in communities in the region. They help farmers connect with organizations and resources to fund conservation projects. This kind of support is crucial because merely wanting to get along with wildlife is far easier than actually making a plan and doing the hard work. As Tanya Brouwers, the OSCA ECOstudies coordinator says, “it’s one thing to put up a bat box, but it’s quite another to have to fence off a wetland, a long stretch of creek or to replant these areas if they’ve been damaged. Projects like these can be very costly to a farmer.”

Know Your Neighbors

Getting to know your animal neighbors is vital. Invasive species and native birds may both be unwanted in the vineyard, but strategies for controlling these pests differ. The Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Species at Risk Act protect some birds (e.g., bluebirds and Lewis’s Woodpecker) and these protections require that management strategies fit within the law.

Starlings, robins, house finches and other birds feed on grapes. Starlings, however, cause the most damage. Ensure that starlings are not able to nest in farm structures, or destroy their nests before the young fledge. Creating nest traps can be useful in controlling starlings, but care should be taken not to trap other cavity-nesting birds (e.g., bluebirds, flickers). It is illegal to kill or harass most native birds and their nests in Canada as detailed in the Migratory Birds Convention Act and the BC Wildlife Act. However, the European Starling is a non-native bird for which there is an aggressive campaign of extermination and netting to prevent fruit loss.

Audible bird scare devices can be a nuisance to the vineyard’s human neighbors; therefore the provincial government’s Ministry of Agriculture has developed strict guidelines for the use of these devices.

Rodents can damage young vines by gnawing on grape shoots, roots and crowns. While the damage they cause in vineyards is usually minor, they also attract animals such as badgers, snakes and coyotes, which can become problem wildlife. Snakes are not considered an agricultural pest but can become a nuisance or a danger to vineyard workers. In fact, snakes are beneficial to crops because they are significant predators of rodents. Provincial and federal laws make it an offense to harass or kill snakes.

Deer and elk can severely damage vines. They don’t just eat buds, spurs, shoots, fruit and leaves, they scratch their itches, and rub their antlers against the plant, breaking branches and removing bark in the process.

When dealing with deer and elk, sScare devices like cracker or whistler shells, propane exploders, and electronic Av-Alarm or Phoenix Wailer Systems are an option, but may also become a problem for neighbors. Some growers allow hunters (especially bow hunters) to access their land during hunting seasons, where this is permissible. Some opt to plant “lure crops,” crops less desirable to wildlife.

God’s Mountain Estates placed their vineyard deer fence well inside their property boundaries, leaving natural habitat outside the fence but within their acreage. This fencing placement allows wildlife to travel along all four sides of the vineyard to get to their water sources and up to the cliffs and forest for shelter, but keeps them from snacking on the grape harvest along the way.


Bears can be a nuisance in some vineyards and can pose a threat to workers, becoming a severe problem as the harvest approaches. In years when native berry hosts have low production, vineyards have become a favorite target of bears in the fall. Depending on the intensity of bear attack, vineyard managers have tried many different methods to keep bears out, such as nightly patrols to scare off bears with bird flares and bangers, rubber bullets or other scare tactics. Managers must weigh this approach against staff costs and safety. The only long-term, proven and effective method for keeping bears out of vineyards is properly constructed electric fencing.

John Skinner of Painted Rock described a worrying “infestation” of black bears in the vineyard six years ago that led to a loss of 11 tons of grapes in just three weeks. “In September of 2010, we noticed bear scat and evidence that they were eating our grapes overnight. As time went on, more bears arrived, having no problem climbing our deer fence. Losing fruit at night is one thing, but the bears started showing up during the day when our staff were busy at work among the vines,” Skinner told Wine Spectator in 2016. “We had to solve the problem with a higher electrified fence, as well as an electric mat at the front gate.”

Waterside Vineyard & Winery in Enderby, BC considers their resident bear and his appetite more of a barometer for harvest and part of the “nature tax.” On their website, they describe him as, “a great bear that comes down from the mountains, and wanders into the vineyard. He seeks the sweetness and comfort of this place where he began, a place where he, too, grew and thrived, and returns to when the grapes are perfect in their ripening for magnificent flavors of wine.  He is our telltale of harvest time.”  Jennifer Marcotte of Waterside shares that this season she has not yet caught a photo of their bear, but, “just evidence, and missing grapes!”

To mediate some of the damage caused by wildlife to farmers in the province, the government created the Agriculture Wildlife Program that provides compensation for losses to harvests due to specific wildlife (bison, bear, cranes, deer, elk, moose, mountain sheep, and waterfowl). Unfortunately, this program does not extend to grape growers, only to lost forage crops.

Kelowna’s Tantalus Vineyards has numerous initiatives to preserve sustainability and peaceful coexistence with local wildlife. According to their website, they are a naturally-farmed vineyard—hand tended, no use of herbicides and the vineyard ecosystem biodiversity encouraged through the preservation of a 10-acre natural, dry land forest in its center. Kelowna also developed a partnership with Okanagan Similkameen Wildlife Habitat Stewardship to identify and enhance wildlife diversity. They have specially constructed nesting boxes to encourage populations of beneficial bird species like the Western Bluebird and sparrows, as well as newly installed bat nesting boxes to boost their populations on site. This is part of ongoing work with the Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Society, working toward long-term solutions that allow people, vineyards and wildlife to coexist.

“Wine is Sunlight, Held Together By Water”

By Tracey L. Kelley

Galileo said, “Wine is sunlight, held together by water.” A wine enthusiast may have this quote in calligraphy on a decorative wall hanging, but winemakers and vineyard managers know the truth behind it.

Vineyard irrigation isn’t often a romantic craft topic, but its constant evolution requires frequent examination and an exchange of knowledge so each droplet replenishes the vine in just the right way. And while American Viticultural Areas (AVA) delineate regions with similar characteristics, individual landscapes still present unique challenges in water management that encourage or prohibit the best yield. This is when the application of science influences art.

Fine-Tuning Your Approach

Maybe after last year’s harvest, you discovered some inconsistencies. Perhaps your current system isn’t as effective, or needs other modifications. Or as the acreage grows, it’s harder to keep up with soil variations and water needs in certain areas. “Irrigation management takes a lot of time and effort to ensure it’s managed correctly,” said Wesley Porter, assistant professor and extension precision ag and irrigation specialist with the University of Georgia (UGA). “Precision irrigation is critical to proper crop production and quality. This allows for more stabilized yields during times of low to no rainfall, more commonly known as periods of episodic drought. So this is a task growers should take seriously.”

Technological applications in precision viticulture continue to expand the potential of using quality data and devices with which to base decisions. For example, aerial mapping by drone enhances topographical views. Remote sensing, first established for many aspects of agriculture the 1960s, is now an essential component of vineyard irrigation systems. “Using only sight inspection to determine irrigation scheduling isn’t the most valid method, as once moisture stress is visible, typically yield is lost,” Porter told The Grapevine Magazine. “More advanced methods should be implemented such as soil/water balance models or soil moisture sensors to make appropriate irrigation scheduling decisions.”

Usually there are two ways to measure soil moisture in an active vineyard:

  • Tensiometric measurement, or soil water tension, which analyzes the physical force holding water in the soil.
  • Volumetric measurement, which evaluates the percentage of water in a certain area of soil.

Often, it’s important to understand how difficult it is for vines to draw water from the soil. Soil texture classes for vineyards include clay, loam, sand, and silt, with varying characteristics for each. Many growers often deal with a combination of soil compositions in their landscapes, and this means continuing to recalibrate irrigation procedures with proper data.

Tom Penning is president of IRROMETER, based in California. The company manufactured the first commercially-viable tensiometer for use with scheduled irrigation, and now has a product line that includes sensors, reading meters, and remote data access portals. Penning said these technological field tools help producers strategize irrigation needs and solve problems, such as excessive run-off or pooling, more quickly.

“The sensor data gives them information on water availability with which to make these decisions. If evidence of significant variability in percolation is revealed, then the grower can determine where to change emitter sizing to better match the soil characteristics,” he said. “Sensor data provides better resolution of where and when these problems occur, thus allowing the grower to better address the issues.”

IRROMETER’s tensiometric devices don’t require site calibration, but volumetric measurement devices often do. Since most soil moisture sensors work with a variety of irrigation methods—including drip, sprinkler and micro-spray—a producer’s choice often relates to irrigation capabilities, terrain and personal preference.

And a winemaker’s approach to irrigation refinements and scheduling might include a solid combination of tech along with paying attention to the vine’s subtle hints.

“I like to make a ‘leaf sandwich’—gauging leaf temperature by holding a leaf between your hands,” said Gill Giese, a viticulture extension specialist at New Mexico State University. “Even a fully-exposed leaf should be somewhat cool to the touch. If not, the vine may be stressed. Other vine-based indicators are drooping leaves, such as when you see their angles in relation to the sun are bent downward to avoid full exposure. Finally, look at the tendrils. If they’re exerted beyond the shoot tip, then the vine is likely not water stressed,” Giese said.

A longtime educator, Giese is also a former winegrower for Shelton Vineyards in the Yadkin Valley region of North Carolina—the first AVA recognized by the U.S. federal government. One challenge there had less to do with designing an effective watering system, but rather dealing with the excess moisture of the region due to humidity and rainfall—a common problem for many growers east of the Rocky Mountains. He advised producers to assess other site-specific factors when determining irrigation needs.

“All the vine-centric parameters should be considered: climate, vine spacing, trellis type, variety and rootstock, training system and production goals—both quality and quantity. These needs are reevaluated as the vineyard develops and grows, year-to-year and within a given season. Vine age and phenological growth stage impact the optimum water requirements as well,” Giese told The Grapevine Magazine. “Additionally, beyond the obvious differences of climate during the growing season such as differences in precipitation and vapor pressure deficit, grapevines progress through the same growth stage, regardless of location. The optimum amount of water for each growth stage must be learned at each location.”

Penning said one problem growers face is they often don’t know the variabilities that exist within the soil in the vineyard. “The use of soil moisture sensors illustrates the status within the root zone, which isn’t visible without in-situ instrumentation,” he said. “The status below ground as well as what’s visible on the surface at representative locations provides the grower with comprehensive data when they schedule irrigation.”

A frequent question about irrigation practices involves understanding when not to water. This harkens back to the adage of “stressing the vine.” Giese had thoughts about this.

“The grapevine needs a slight water deficit just after berry set in order to limit berry size at veraison and harvest. Regardless of location, a widespread belief or practice is limit water to vines post-veraison. This is tricky,” he said. “Too much stress and the leaves stop photosynthesis. If this happens, the flow of sugar and other assimilates is halted and berry-ripening suffers. If photosynthesis stops and then water is supplied, the delay in reactivation of photosynthesis may too late to be optimal. But growers east of the Rocky Mountains differ because of water excess due to rain post-veraison. In some dry vintages, they’re tempted to totally withhold water post-veraison, and this can be a mistake.”

Giese suggested producers apply stress through regulated deficit irrigation, but don’t over-stress vines. The University of California, Davis (UCDavis) Drought Management Department provides detailed information about this practice on its website. For further reading, also consider Pete Jacoby’s research at Washington State University about deeper subsurface irrigation systems that force grapevines to extend root zones, stress plants only slightly, and require less irrigation.

Finally, if you’re not already employing the use of cover crops between the rows to boost irrigation efforts, these experts encouraged you to do so.

“The correct selection of cover crops help in many ways,” Porter from UGA said. “They aid in shading the soil surface and improving soil structure, both of which reduce evapotranspiration; and also aid in increasing infiltration and reducing runoff. Cover crops also encourage weed suppression.”

Giese added, “Cover crops can provide competition for excess nutrients and water in the case of regions with excess rainfall. They also provide numerous other benefits:  ground cover or thatch/mulch that limits evaporation, increased infiltration rate of water, better soil structure and thus, improved water holding capacity, increased organic matter, mitigation of erosion and others,” he said. “But in the Southwest, most growers don’t employ cover crops, as the amount and cost of additional water required is prohibitive. I currently have some studies in place to take critical look at some ground cover options in the Southwest.” 

Right Now, It’s All About Maintenance

The average cost of a vineyard drip or micro-sprinkler irrigation system ranges $1,500-$3,000 per acre. While some growers may participate in a cost-sharing plan, managing this investment effectively comes down to maintenance. Here are a few things to consider.

  • Growers west of the Rocky Mountains might still need to water once a month or so “to ensure the soil profile is nearly full when vines are ready to bud out in spring,” said Giese.
  • Growers east of the Rockies should winterize their systems. “Check for leaks, evaluate hose structure, check the pumping system and filters and so on,” said Porter. He offers a number of irrigation resources, including checklists for maintenance, on the UGA Extension website.
  • Throughout North America, wildlife control is an ongoing concern in irrigation maintenance. “This is a hard issue to resolve,” Porter said. “Do the best job you can to keep equipment protected either in weatherproof enclosures or critter-proof sheathing. Ensure that drip tape and emitters are buried and/or out of their reach.”
  • Get started on growth season maintenance by clearing vines, roots and weeds from emitters, testing soil and water, calibrating pressure gauges to manufacturer guidelines and running pump tests.
  • Also use this time to look into more cost-savings measures. For example, solar-powered drip irrigation systems help growers better manage energy and water consumption. A fact sheet is available on the UCDavis website.

Incorporate Conservation Methods Now

A primary concern of any vineyard owner is proper land management, and water continues to be a critical resource to conserve. “Global water concerns heighten the awareness of the importance of water use efficiency,” Penning said. “Precision agriculture includes exact water management, and these concepts are needed for sustainability of the resource.”

World climate data indicates the past four years were the hottest on record, with expanded drought events. While grapevines endure heat and drought better than most crops, and dry farming is still popular throughout Europe, growers notice climate changes and the need to modifying practices. In 2018, excessive drought in South Africa’s Western Cape reduced harvest by 15 percent. Producers there are evaluating drought-resistant vines still rich in flavor, intensity and acidity. Growers in France are purchasing land farther northwest in chilly, cloudy Brittany, once considered undesirable because of winds and moisture off the Atlantic Ocean.

In America, the Petaluma Gap in Northern California received an AVA designation in December 2017—something that probably wouldn’t have happened 20–30 years ago for this cooler, slightly wetter clime. Similarly, the Van Duzer Corridor in Oregon is experiencing rapid growth as winemakers use the region’s hot, dry days tempered by cool nights and damp morning fog to nurture thin-skinned grapes.

Giese said proper water and irrigation management has always been critical to growing wine, and will continue to become more of an issue as increased demands are placed on water supply. “Growers in the West have been aware of this for some time. Look to work being done in California and Australia for trends in irrigation and management. Often growers of other high-volume or high-value crops use techniques we can adopt for advantage in winegrowing,” he said.

One rising trend in North America is the use of vineyard waterbodies for irrigation needs. Few vineyards have quality wells to draw from, and many states and provinces continue to implement strict water rights and usage laws for agricultural access to springs, running water sources and municipal or rural systems. Depending on the size of the property, even a two- to three-acre pond can be a viable, independent source of summer irrigation.

A strong sustainable method for drip irrigation systems, ponds can also flash supply micro-sprinkler applications when vines are in need of frost protection or conversely, cooling from high heat, without too much danger of exhausting the pond when more frequent irrigation scheduling events are necessary. Primary reservoirs are often reliant on rainfall as well as subsurface water collection drains for replenishment, but additional waterbodies can be created to contain and later aerate wastewater from the winemaking process.

There are some concerns when sourcing from onsite still water sources. Following local and federal quality regulations and frequent testing for algae, nuisance weeds, invasive species, bacteria and chemical runoff from neighboring farms are major management issues. Pest and mosquito control can sometimes be a problem. Wildlife in search of fresh water can damage or pollute a reservoir, or happen to also love juicy grapes, furthering labor efforts for netting and other protective methods.

There’s also the investment. For example, if there isn’t a suitable clay soil site on a property to use as a base, then installing additional soil reinforcement or even liners is necessary. Proper buffering methods are a must as well. On average, the cost for vineyard pond construction could escalate beyond $200,000. However, the need for conservation is so great, there may be options.

“Often, government agencies incentivize the purchase of such irrigation water management tools to improve the efficiency of water use,” Penning said. “Growers should check with their local agencies to see if funding is available to help subsidize the investment.”

In addition to county and state initiatives supporting soil and water conservation grants, another possibility to establish a sustainable irrigation system is the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service. The agency often extends funding through its Conservation Stewardship Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Regional Conservation Partnership Program and water-based Landscape Conservation Initiatives.

Pruning Techniques and Tools

By Robin Dohrn-Simpson

Between last year’s harvest and the new growing season lies a gnarled mess of grape vines. The plants rested during the winter and are ready to begin their new growth cycle. First, however, the dormant plants will need pruning. For vines young and old, pruning is the key to managing canopy, fruit quality and growth.

“One of the most important vineyard practices a vineyard owner must accomplish every single year is dormant pruning. Pruning grapes aids in keeping the shape and architecture of the vine, sets the ultimate crop load for the season and encourages fruit formation for the following season,” said Michael Cook, Viticulture Program Specialist at North Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Cook provides research-based knowledge to members of the Texas wine industry.

Pruning, Cook said, should be done every year. “Since clusters are exclusively borne on one-year-old wood (called canes when dormant) it is critical to prune your vine–whether you are a commercial grower or a backyard hobbyist–every single season. We often remove 80-90 percent of the wood that grew the previous year every time we prune,” he said.

Even if pruning is done each year, when done incorrectly it can adversely affect the health of the vines. Vineyard managers should ensure that they and their staff are taking the time to learn the correct way to prune their canopies.

“Improper pruning will always lead to a vine that is out of balance and more susceptible to environmental stressors and disease. Whether under- or over-cropped, the health of the vine itself and the crop for this season, as well as subsequent seasons, will be negatively affected. If this is not fixed and improper pruning occurs every season, the sustainability of the vineyard will be called into question rather quickly. Therefore it is paramount that anyone growing grapes take the time to learn and practice pruning with a mentor,” Cook said.

When to Prune

When to prune differs throughout wine regions; however, it is critical to do so at the appropriate time to avoid early bud break.

“In Texas, our greatest threat that limits when we can prune is spring frost. In other states, such as in the Central Valley of California, pruning can commence once the vines go dormant because in most areas frost is a rare occurrence. This is not the case for Texas. It is not uncommon in the High Plains, where 80 percent of our commercial wine grapes are grown (or in North Texas or the Hill Country) to see spring frosts occurring as late as Easter,” Cook said.

For growers in regions where frost is a concern, consider employing double pruning. In double pruning, vines are pruned twice during dormancy, once in late winter or early spring, and once before bud break, typically in March.

“With the first pass of rough pruning, the grower will cut each cane back to about 10 inches. This removes most of the tangled mess; and if the vine decides to break bud and there is a frost, only the top buds will be affected. These will be pruned off anyway during final pruning,” Cook said. “The second pass, or final pruning, occurs right before bud break. Here the grower will approach each spur position (the location where one-year-old wood is found) along the cordons and will remove all but one cane and prune the remaining cane down to one, two, or three buds. This type of final pruning is called spur pruning and is most common in Texas. While spur pruning is the most common technique, there are a few vineyards who cane prune certain varietals.”

While double pruning is a useful tool that can reduce the risk of frost damage, Cook told the Grapevine Magazine it does not guarantee protection from it.

Pruning Techniques & Error Management

One of the greatest fears of a new grower is pruning too severely or not enough. Often is it better to prune too much, since heavy pruning promotes good fruiting. However, Cook suggests balance and consistency to quell any worries.

“For each spur, the grower has to decide which cane he or she will keep and then prune down to one, two, or even three buds. For weak spur positions, only one bud will be retained for that season. A healthy cane, often around pencil size in diameter, can support two buds. Under vigorous conditions where a cane is larger than ‘Sharpie size,’ we will often leave three buds. It all boils down to balance. If done properly, the following season the new canes will be pruned to two buds,” Cook said.

For growers who aren’t sure what to do, or think they’ve made a mistake,  reach out to a local extension office for guidance.

“One of the great things about cultivating grapes is that they are often very tough and resilient. If you make a mistake, it is important to correct that mistake as soon as possible. Fortunately, mistakes are usually easily corrected. If a mistake was made and the time to prune has passed, multiple canopy management practices can be conducted–such as shoot thinning and fruit thinning–which can be used to keep a vine in a healthy and sustainable balance,” said Cook. “The best way to know if you have made a mistake and how to correct it is to attend one of our hands-on workshops. Each of the four growing regions of Texas has an Extension Viticulture Program Specialist like me who can help you.”

To keep the vine healthy throughout the process, continual sanitation and use of fungicides will keep vines healthy.

“During the pruning process, it is advised to routinely sanitize pruning shears to help prevent the spread of disease, such as grapevine trunk disease. Additionally, once the vine has been pruned it is advised to spray specific fungicides within 24 hours to protect the recently made wounds on the vines,” said Cook.

Training a Vine

Vine training takes approximately three to four years. In the first year of planting the focus is on creating a strong and straight trunk as well formation of roots. In the second and third year, the focus is on incremental cordon establishment; these cordons will bear the crop every year. It is strongly recommended to remove all fruit from the vines during trunk and cordon establishment since it will compete with root and shoot formation. A partial crop may be possible in the third year.

“Once the cordons have become fully established, the vineyard is considered mature, and that is when double pruning will be initiated. It is important to note that while the trunk is often considered a permanent structure, unless diseased or damaged, the cordons should be removed and retrained every 10-15 years to rejuvenate production,” Cook said.

Using Proper Tools

Using quality tools saves both time and potential body overuse. FELCO has been manufacturing vineyard management tools for roughly 75 years. Their mission is to offer innovative and durable solutions to commercial pruning and cutting markets.

FELCO offers electronic pruners that have for years been quite popular in Europe, Australia, South Africa and even niche markets like South Korea. In recent years, faced with a growing labor shortage, these electronic pruners have become popular among U.S. vintners.

“The U.S. market so far has been blessed with very inexpensive farm labor when compared to a country like France, for example. More and more growers in the United States are seeing the solution to labor issues as well as being able to bring more women into the workforce with this product. It requires no effort to use and can dramatically improve efficiency and job quality,” said Ryan Amberg, Brand Manager of PYGAR, a subsidiary of FELCO.

The versatile FELCOtronic tool line can be adjusted depending on vine width and size. Workers can change the head opening by accessing the portable control box, allowing the sheers to cut vines up to two inches in diameter, making it, according to Amberg, an ideal tool for orchards as well.

FELCO offers a large variety of shears to fit different size hands and different dominant hands. “When doing fine pruning, you should always have the blade in the right position in comparison to the bud. If you are left-handed using a right-handed pruner, this can be difficult to achieve. With a left-handed pruner the ergonomics are proper for prolonged use,” Amberg said.

The blades of FELCO’s pruners are made from high quality proprietary high carbon steel. “We have a clear vision to be the premier product. To do this, it means we must cater to our customer and their needs and applications. Our blades are one of our key strengths along with our lifetime warranty on all forged aluminum parts. You can have a FELCO and keep it for multiple generations. They can rust, but will hold a much better edge than something in stainless steel which tends to wear much faster.”

FELCO tools are easy to maintain. All that is needed is light oil, hydrophobic grease and a sharpening stone. With these three items, you can keep a tool working like new for many seasons. Find FELCO products at nurseries, agriculture supply retailers and online at

As with every growing season, pruning is just the beginning of an exciting new time. Bill Schweitzer of Paccielo Vineyards in Ramona, California certainly believes that, and hopes others remember as well. “Pruning is our chance each year to create great wine in the vineyard. If we watch what the plants do naturally, and guide them to do what we want, they will turn out great. Remember, the grape is a weedy vine; it has strong roots and the strength to grow to the top of the nearest tree. It is hard to make a mistake. The vine will grow around it.”

Tips & Best Practices for Wildlife Control in the Vineyard

Few things frustrate vineyard operators more than producing healthy grapes only to have them eaten by pests. Small insects are a significant cause for concern, but larger animals often put delicate grapes at risk as well. This article will discuss the topic of wildlife control in the vineyard and the various ways that vineyards can effectively and humanely deter wildlife to protect their valuable grapes.

Wildlife That Impact Vineyards

Matt Doyle of Doyle Vineyard Management in Hammondsport, New York told The Grapevine Magazine that the most common pest problems that occur in the Finger Lakes region are deer, birds, and turkey. A premier Finger Lakes region grape grower, Doyle Vineyard Management also offers full-service vineyard management services and sustainable vineyard programming.

Meanwhile, in the Sebastopol, California area, Rick Williams of Harmony Farm Supply & Nursery said most of the wildlife issues that plague vineyards in this region are gophers.

“Most of the problems that they cause are with new plantings, whereby they will eat the tender roots of new plants,” Williams said. “Established vines have such an extensive root system that the gophers don’t generally pose a serious threat. The holes that they dig cause issues within the vine rows, creating soft spots that tractors and other vehicles traveling down the vine rows can sink into.”

Williams said that rats and mice climb vines to feed on the berries. “Most other problems are from coyotes that come into the vineyards and are digging after the gophers because they dig large holes,” he said.

According to Williams, birds also cause a significant problem in vineyards when they eat the berries as they mature. Wayne Ackermann of the Wilsonville, Oregon-based Bird Control Group told The Grapevine Magazine that the type of birds that cause damage and financial loss to vineyards largely depends upon the location.

“On the west coast, we tend to see most damage caused by starlings and blackbirds,” Ackermann said. “On the East Coast, cedar waxwings and robins tend to be the issue, but in all regions, there are many birds attracted to the sweetness of the ripening grapes.”

Not only can wildlife pests eat the grapes and gnaw on the roots and trunks of grapevines, but they can also cause other significant types of damage as well. For example, wildlife pests can damage irrigation systems, cause erosion, and leave bacteria and fungus on grapes from their fecal matter. These behaviors cause contamination, bunch rot, and off-flavors in the final product.

Wildlife Control Solutions for Vineyards

Fortunately, there are many ways to prevent and control wildlife through vineyard management and safeguards. There is rarely a one-size-fits-all approach to wildlife control, so vineyard owners should consult with pest control experts in their local area for advice.

Deer in the Vineyard

Deer tend to enter vineyards early in the year to graze on young shoot growth, which can destroy a vineyard’s training system. Deer can also be a significant nuisance when it comes time for harvest. It is best to use deterrents before the animals have discovered the potential food source.

Sunni Ashley, co-owner of Vineyard Industry Products, and said that deer, pigs, and bears are best controlled with fencing. The company has stores in Windsor, Paso Robles and Los Alamos, California carrying a variety of wildlife control products for vineyards. Their products include barbed wire, bird netting, mylar tape, traps, grow tubes and, of course, fencing. Fencing that extends six to eight feet high and made of woven wire can be installed to deer-proof a vineyard.

“Deer require at least six feet of fencing, but depending on the area, you may need to go higher,” Ashley said. “You can add two strands of high tensile wire at the top to get to seven feet. For pigs, putting the barbed wire along the bottom and connecting it at each stake (and sometimes another stake in between the standard fence posts) helps.”

Meanwhile, physical barriers, such as grow tubes and mesh vinyl screens, can be placed to protect young vines. In some regions, vineyard owners can obtain deer damage permits to hunt deer that cause substantial damage to crops and to reduce the population outside of the established hunting season. Odor repellents can be useful for deer control, acoustical repellants can scare away both birds and deer, and dogs can be trained to deter deer and protect vineyards too.

Doyle uses many of these options to keep deer from his vines. “The ways we control [deer] are utilizing fences for severe deer pressure, pig blood spray to deter deer from eating the vines, and having people fill out NYSDEC deer nuisance permits. We use Plantskydd deer repellent sprays on newer vineyards,” he said.

Rodents in the Vineyard

Many pest control and vineyard management companies use traps and baiting to control wildlife, mainly gophers. It is recommended to set many traps, note the location of gopher mounds, and place bait in the pests’ underground tunnels.

This process requires a substantial amount of patience and effort, which is why fumigation may be used simultaneously to control gophers and other rodents using aluminum phosphide in the late winter and early spring with moist soil. Other wildlife control solutions include bringing in barn owls to help control field mice, voles, and gophers. Nest boxes in the vineyard help owls set up habitats to accomplish this type of rodent control.

Williams of Harmony Farm Supply & Nursery said that they “carry a variety of traps to kill the gophers.” He also said they do not have cost-effective organic rodent deterrents for large-scale application.

Birds in the Vineyard

Birds often pose late-season threats to vineyards, especially for those in a migratory pathway. Bird control is typically a point-of-contact effort, with netting and scare devices among the most common deterrents.

“For birds, we typically use BirdGard brand devices to deter birds, bird bangers, or occasionally net varieties that have heavy pressure. We have no real control measures for turkey, but they cause minimal damage compared to the deer and birds,” said Doyle.

Netting is a popular choice among vineyard owners, although bird nets can be a hassle to put on and later remove. Over-the-row netting is often used in vineyards to cover large surface areas. These nets are made of nylon, plastic, cotton, polyethylene, or a lightweight acrylic material to drape over plants. Netting can be a costly investment for a vineyard, but a quality net lasts several years.

Scare devices such as motion-activated water sprinklers and electronic scarecrows are also typical.

Bird Control Group is the world leader for laser bird deterrents and bird repellent solutions that have proven to decrease bird nuisances by over 70 percent. The company offers a fully automated bird repellent system that effectively scares away birds by projecting a laser beam towards them. The birds perceive the laser as a danger and fly away. It’s a one-time investment that does not harm the animal or the environment, and it has patented safety features to eliminate potential hazards.

Bird Control Group initially targeted commercial blueberry growers in 2017 because they do not have the option of netting and often depend on expensive falconers for bird control. After immediate success providing an effective, cheaper solution, the company ran two experiments with vineyards that same year in Petaluma, California and the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Both vineyards saw great success and saved on labor.

“In 2018, many vineyards incorporated our laser technology in California, Washington, Oregon, Texas, Nebraska, New York, Rhode Island, and New Jersey,” Ackermann of Bird Control Group said. “We have also seen our sales aggressively grow with vineyards in Australia and Chile, as their season is just getting going. The lasers are a very good tool, and the trend is for customers to return for additional units and also send their friends to us. We always say that farmers vote with their wallet, and when they return to buy more lasers, we know it’s doing something well for them.”

Ackermann of Bird Control Group reminds vineyards there is no silver bullet and that vintners should incorporate methods that fit into their current pest management strategy. Noisemakers, netting, and Falcons all have their successes, but they can also create challenges with neighbors, become labor-intensive, and drain a vineyard’s budget.

“Our lasers aren’t a 100 percent cure, but they do work well and provide a large amount of control,” Ackermann said. “The key advice, I would say, is to start early. Your best success is to keep birds out of the vineyard and not let them get a good taste of the fruit. Just like other measures of a good IPM Program, prevention is always easier than eradication when farming.”

To comply with the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, vineyard owners should check the local and state laws before controlling any bird species. This act protects all birds aside from pigeons, starlings, and sparrows; however, local ordinances may vary from place to place.

Organic and Natural Wildlife Control

For a more natural approach to wildlife control in the vineyard, adding plants is a simple, humane, and proactive way. Aromatic deterrents are ideal for rabbits and deer because both are sensitive to smells. Marigolds, for example, can be planted at the end of vineyard rows to deter rabbits. Vineyard operators can plant strong-smelling herbs such as tansy and artemisia near the vineyard. Culinary herbs, like mint, thyme, oregano, chives, sage, rosemary and dill have a similar effect.

These methods play into the strategy of biodiversity within a vineyard and may be more of a priority for organic winegrowers. Organic strategies typically revolve around creating habitats for beneficial animals and plants that are native to the region, as well as utilizing integrated canopy management and vine balance to keep the fruiting zone aerated, equipped with enough sunlight, and with the right amount of nutrients and water.

Pest Prevention and Monitoring in the Vineyard

Proper planning and preparation go a long way in keeping unwanted animals out of your vineyard and away from your grapes. In all seasons, it is critical to monitor the vineyard for large wildlife pests. Control strategies should be implemented at the very first signs of pest activity.

“The best way to monitor the vineyard for wildlife pests is to regularly walk the vineyard and inspect for evidence of these pests,” said Harmony Farm Supply’s Williams.

Ashley of Vineyard Industry Products and her team advise vineyards to keep gates closed, check around the perimeter daily for pests, and keep fencing in good repair. “Check for holes and damage in your bird netting prior to installation, install at the appropriate time, and secure it under the canopy properly,” she said.

Doyle of Doyle Vineyard Management emphasized that to have decent yields on grapes, you need to have some way of keeping the wildlife off the vines. “They can cause severe economic damage on some types of grapes,” he said. “In the Finger Lakes, it does seem that the pressure from these pests can vary greatly from one year to the next.”

The Spirit of Alliance: Oregon’s Philosophy of Collaboration

By Robin Dohrn-Simpson

Although Oregon has been home to vineyards as far back as 1847, after the end of Prohibition in 1933, it needed a bit of rebuilding. It wasn’t until the 1960s and 70s that winemakers made the trek from the Mediterranean and mild climates of California to do just that, throwing their hats in the ring to grow grapes in a new and very different terrain.

It was during this time that well-known names like Dick and Kina Erath, Dick and Nancy Ponzi, Susan and Bill Sokol Blosser, David and Diane Lett and David and Ginny Adelsheim put down roots around the state of Oregon and started vineyards. Some had education and training in viticulture; some did not. Most had a pioneering spirit. It is this spirit that has seen them through the trials and tribulations of grape growing and winemaking in a new frontier.

Susan Sokol Blosser chronicles these trials in her book, “At Home in the Vineyard: Cultivating a Winery, an Industry and a Life.” In a state with no tradition in fine winemaking, she and husband Bill helped create one by taking a leap of faith, moving to Oregon without farming or winemaking experience, buying property and planting grapes. The struggle was real and took perseverance. Through trial and error, she and her husband finally harvested their first vintage in 1977.

By 1979 the Oregon wine industry was recognized at the Wine Olympiad in Paris when Eyrie Vineyards’ 1975 South Block Reserve placed in the top ten pinot noirs. In a rematch one year later Eyrie came in second, only 2/10s of a point behind the winner, a 1959 Chambolle-Musigney from Joseph Drouhin. Suddenly Oregon was a force in the wine world.

After Eyrie’s success, Oregon’s wine industry grew leaps and bounds. By 1990, there were 70 bonded wineries and 320 growers. In the same year came disaster—phylloxera—forcing vineyard owners to rip out vines and replant on grafted phylloxera-resistant rootstock. This replanting allowed Oregon growers and winemakers to rethink and resurface stronger than ever.


Eventually, the growing regions were separated into AVAs, and the Oregon Wine Marketing Coalition formed. All the while growers and winemakers collaborated–discussing strategy and banding together in times of need for growers and employees alike. That has never ended.

“Every wine region claims to be collaborative, but in Oregon, it’s truly a close-knit environment. I have worked in other wine regions, and this one really does feel genuinely tight–people make wine together, share equipment, come together to help each other when disaster strikes, and trade knowledge and advice. I’ve been told by several owners that when they started out, the community was incredibly supportive of them throughout the learning curve of starting a winery,” said Julia Burke, Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the Willamette Valley Wineries Association.

“I remember being impressed by the close community when I visited Oregon for the International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC) while I was a winemaker in California,” said Anthony King of The Carlton Winemakers Studio. “The Oregon winemakers were friendly and welcoming to those of us from out-of-state, but extremely close and familiar with one another. Now that I’ve been here for thirteen years, I know that camaraderie is true. That spirit, I think, comes from the founders of the industry, who helped each other in the beginning and have continued to help the industry through combined efforts to tell the story of Oregon wine.”

In 1999, state legislators passed HB3429, allowing multiple winery licenses on a single premise, and, in 2002, The Carlton Winemakers Studio formed. This unique facility, pioneered by Eric Hamacher, Luisa Ponzi and Ned and Kirsten Lumpkin as an incubator and home for multiple producers, is the ultimate in collaboration.

Today, Anthony King is one of the winemakers at The Carlton Winemakers Studio and consults as the general manager. When asked about collaboration at the Studio, he mentioned an ongoing project with Patrick Reuter at Dominio I, one of the first winemakers at the Studio. “In 2015, Patrick and I started a collaborative project that we named after our grandmothers, ‘Agnes and Luisa.’ It focuses on Italian varietals and is meant to be a learning experience and exploration,” said King. “We all help each other. Jerry Murray of Project M explained to someone just today that it is easier to help someone and know that you’ll likely need some help sometime later that day. I, for one, love that I can walk around the Studio with a barrel or tank sample and ask ten winemakers whom I respect what they think of it.”

Collaboration is not limited to members of the studio, however. Tim Ramey of Zenith Vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills told The Grapevine Magazine, “I agree that winemakers are collaborative. Our annual winemaker dinner is a great example of this. We invite all of the winemakers who produce wines from Zenith, and they come and present their wines to each other where the common denominator is vintage and Zenith – the variables are winemaking and vineyard block. It is hugely informative,” he said.

“We borrow equipment. We help each other with vineyard problems. I have even harvested grapes at Seven Springs as a favor to a winemaker since in 2006 there was no one to harvest.”

Winemakers also provide feedback to one another through tasting groups King told The Grapevine Magazine.

“Most winemakers have tasting groups or cellar crawls where they visit each other’s cellars throughout the year,” King said. “One group has been tasting together for years and started Their tastings have likely helped us all to be better winemakers, as they learned from each other and then passed that knowledge on to the rest of us.”

Vintners Associations and Wine Festivals

Oregon wineries have many vintners associations and wine boards that transcend AVAs. “The Oregon Wine Board covers the whole state, focusing the efforts of AVAs across the state. That organization hosts the Oregon Symposium each year in Portland that is well attended by winemakers, cellar workers, marketing folks, direct to consumer and national salespeople,” King said. “The seminars are designed by people in our industry and each year are pertinent to our ongoing conversations. We also have a research group that reviews research proposals and allocates OWB funds to wine and vineyard research annually.”

“The vast majority of the wineries in this region belong to associations–most of them belong to several, as there are smaller nested AVA associations and then our organization and the Oregon Winegrowers Association and Oregon Wine Board and others. I have noticed a tremendous willingness to talk out differences and resolve issues as a community. Everyone has an eye on perspective and the bigger picture,” Burke said.

With collaboration also comes celebration, in the form of festivals honoring Oregon’s status in the wine world. “The International Pinot Noir Celebration is based in McMinnville and brings us together annually to showcase our wines in the context of some of the best Pinot Noirs in the world. We often find ourselves discussing and formulating seminars that we hope both the winemakers and attendees will find compelling,” King said. “The Oregon Chardonnay Celebration is similar but has not been quite as developed as IPNC, but gets better every year. Oregon Pinot Camp is probably the ultimate of collaboration in Oregon. Each year 280 sommeliers and buyers come from across the country to visit, taste and attend small, intimate seminars. Planning takes the entire year, and the seminars are in a constant state of evolution. Although not all the wineries participate in OPC, I believe that it continues to be the kindling for our industry’s collaboration. Collaboration is a regular topic of conversation with the sommeliers and buyers. They all love the collective spirit and typically one or two of them each year ends up moving here to be a part of it.”

For winemakers in Oregon, community support and collaboration are only natural, given their roots.

“Camaraderie is a part of Oregon’s culture. People are neighborly and value community over competition. Part of it is that we’re a young region. Our founders had already observed other wine regions around the world and came here with intent, and they knew that a rising tide lifts all ships,” said Burke. “Part of it is that we have one focal grape, Pinot noir, and yet an incredible diversity of sites, and it would be crazy not to share knowledge and experience with each other. I think the biggest factor is that about 70 percent of wineries in Oregon produce less than 5,000 cases, which means we trend very small. We have a lot of small producers who rely on each other, and the larger producers remember what it was like to be just getting started.”

WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENS: Fermentation And Storage Tanks

By Gerald Dlubala

The style and type of fermentation and storage tanks used in wineries are dependent on many factors, but always includes the winemaker’s beliefs, experiences and history regarding the quality and traits of the wine they want to produce. Tank suppliers have become true partners with wine producers, shouldering the trust and responsibility for providing quality vessels to ferment, hold and enhance the winemaker’s product while sometimes even providing insight on the proper use of their chosen vessel.

Terracotta Amphorae

Such is the case with Manu Fiorentini, Founder and CEO of Itek Wines, a tank supplier, distributor and filtration service provider servicing California’s Central Coast.

Itek Wines’ offerings include oak barrels from the French region of Burgundy, Italian concrete tanks from Nico Velo and a complete line of stainless-steel processing equipment for wine production. However, it may be Fiorentini’s line of Terracotta Amphorae fermenters that may be their most intriguing line of fermentation and aging tanks.

“Terracotta and clay are where it all started, used as the primary vessel to ferment, store and carry wine as far back as the Roman Empire,” says Fiorentini. “The actual reasons that terracotta fell out of favor have never really been identified. We don’t know if they had to stop using terracotta for a specific reason or they just found other means, but about fifteen or twenty years ago, there was a bit of a resurgence in using terracotta and other clays for the purpose of fermenting and storing wines.”

Itek carries terracotta amphorae crafted from the renowned Impruneta clay, a unique blend of natural ingredients found in Tuscany and made by what he calls “local mom-and-pop producers.”

“There hasn’t been a whole lot of modifications to the vessel itself, just different mixtures of clay to control porosity without excess leakage. That porosity allows for natural micro-oxygenation which is beneficial for a healthy fermentation and bonding anthocyanin for better color in red wines. Additionally, amphorae are thin-walled, measuring only about an inch thick. This allows the amphora to sweat, eliminating excess wetness without adding in any strong tannins or aromas like oak,” says Fiorentini. “[These fermenters] are crafted primarily of minerals similar to those that are found in actual vineyard soil. The grapevines have been feeding off these types of soil-based minerals their entire lifespan, so continuing with fermentation and storage in that same, neutral environment allows for full expressions of flavor and minerality of the grapes, whether red or white. The results are very smooth tasting wines, with a soft, almost plush, pulpy mouthfeel, sometimes featuring a very slight mineral or earthy tone. It’s a happy result that has carried through even within our blending experiments.”

The benefits of this vessel extend to temperature control as well. “Terracotta amphorae also possess an extraordinary thermal insulation capacity that keeps contents cool by evaporating excess heat. The fermentation is slightly slower than you may be used to in other materials, staying steady and without heat spikes. Amphorae work for both wine and beer, providing a richer and brighter mouthfeel for either,” said Fiorentini.

Maintenance on amphorae is minimal. “They need, for now, to be washed with hot water at one hundred twenty degrees or less, due to the expansion possibilities of attached stainless hardware. That expansion can put pressure on the clay and possibly cause cracking,” Fiorentini told The Grapevine Magazine. “With our newer models, the stainless accessories are no longer attached to an embedded framework, so this is no longer an issue. You can use chemicals to clean and sanitize if needed, and then later to neutralize, but the amphorae are light and durable enough to tilt or lay flat for total access and superior drainage. Some wine producers have lined the interior of the amphorae with organic beeswax. This affects the oxygenation rates, and is usually done only with white wine varietals.”

Terracotta tanks have demonstrated superior lifespans when cared for properly, with some original vessels documented at over one hundred years old. The newer versions have been around for twenty years with little to no issues, and are rated comparable to concrete for longevity. If small, hairline cracks ever do show up, food grade resins, the same ones used for concrete tank repair, are perfect for correcting the cracking. Itek adheres to a detailed, multiple point inspection process from shipment to delivery, and the terracotta amphorae can be installed on powder coated frames if desired, making them easier to move and set in place with forklifts.

Tim Mondavi, American wine royalty and winegrower and proprietor at Continuum Estates, appreciates this type of vessel. “Concrete or various types of earth or clay are among the oldest containers known to man and among the oldest used for wine. They develop more elegance and tenderness of texture,” he says.

Rocking The Concrete

Concrete tanks remain a preferred choice for fermentation in many progressive wineries. Some of the most renowned wines in the world, including Château Petrus in Pomerol and Cheval Blanc in Saint-Émilion currently rely on concrete to produce their wines.

Experienced residential and business concrete companies like Sonoma Cast Stone of Petaluma, California have seen a resurgence in concrete use within wineries, designing and building concrete fermentation and holding tanks throughout Napa and Sonoma.

For wineries desiring a custom built concrete fermentation tank, casting the first mold comes with certain upfront costs. However, concrete is a balanced compromise between nonporous stainless steel and flavor-imparting oak barrels. Like clay, concrete allows a slower exchange of oxygen, and because of the tank’s massive size, temperatures rise slowly and steadily, eliminating heat spikes. Concrete fermentation tanks don’t require the cooling that stainless tanks need, so fermentation happens more naturally, resulting in better textures and aromatic notes. Like oak, but on a much smaller scale, concrete tanks retain a small amount of yeast and other natural byproducts from previous uses that impart additional qualities during future fermentations.

Applying epoxy coatings to concrete tanks may stop surface erosion caused by acidity in fermenting wines, but while epoxy covered tanks make cleaning and maintenance easier, some winemakers reported issues with temperature control and oxygenation. About ten years ago, this led some concrete tank manufacturers, including Nico Velo in Italy, to go back to using concrete without epoxy. However, they created new formulas, using concrete mixtures far superior to old ones, with no lime, silica, or other toxins typically used in standard, structural concrete. Manufacturers prep these modern concrete tanks with high acidic treatments to create a natural barrier that stops wine penetrating the concrete walls. Temperature control plates equipped inside tank walls provide slow, consistent temperature changes.

Tank shape can be custom molded and designed to fit any available space. Egg-shape tanks are popular since they lack corners or pockets for fermenting liquids to settle and stagnate. Other options include cubes and tulips, as well as round, cylindrical and custom shapes, limited only by the imagination. Customers install concrete tanks above ground, buried into the earth for thermal regulation, or even integrate them into the structural engineering of their building. Glycol temperature control systems can be embedded into the walls of concrete tanks, keeping them out of direct contact with the wine and preventing hot and cold spots.

Wood is Still Good

With all this talk about clay and concrete, for many vintners wood has not yet lost its charm or usefulness. Oak casks and vats offer quality holding power while providing outstanding and significant aromatic results. Even better, wooden vessels can now be fitted with many of the same convenience options that stainless-steel tanks offer, including the crawl-through doors, sash doors, top hatches, easily accessible drainage pipes, temperature control plates, thermometers and leveling gauges.

Red grape varietals are regularly housed in wooden vessels during early fermentation. Cabernet Sauvignon varietals are especially receptive to French oak barrels, readily accepting the familiar nose, tannins and vanilla flavors that we have come to expect. Bordeaux and Burgundy cooperages also use mainly French oak. Pinot Noirs and other lighter wines of the Pacific Northwest age exceptionally well in oak casks. Winemaker Chris Cooney of Dana Estates in Napa Valley says that wood tanks provide the great insulation that moderates the speed of temperature during the early fermentation process, allowing for smoother texture with less astringent properties.

Stainless For A Modern World

When it comes to cleaning, sanitation and maintenance, vintners are always looking for a better, more efficient way. It was partially because of this that stainless-steel tanks in wineries became the norm. Stainless steel is easy to clean and sanitize by hand or through a clean-in-place system. Also, their size is customizable, they can be modified to maintain proper temperatures easily, and they’re lightweight, making shipping and tank mobility simpler. These benefits, according to Colin Laursen, International Sales Manager for Paul Mueller Company, make stainless the best option.

“Presently, within wine production, we largely focus on stainless steel fermentation vessels because other than routine cleaning, there is very little regular maintenance required on a stainless-steel tank,” says Laursen. “Over time, the gaskets will need to be replaced, and if you use a tank with an agitator, some moving parts will need service, but honestly, I’ve seen our tanks currently in the field that we built back in the 1960s. Our tanks are known for their longevity.”

With global partners including Kendall-Jackson, Beringer, E & J Gallo and others, the Paul Mueller Company is no rookie when it comes to providing top quality, stainless steel tanks for the winery business. They offer standard tanks in different sizes but are also able to accommodate the individual needs of a winery when needed.

“The different red and white wine varietals won’t usually require different style tanks, but once you move into sparkling wines, you need different design specifications and considerations to produce a tank that can maintain high internal pressure,” Laursen says. “We also make stainless steel wine barrels to provide solutions for those winemakers looking for flexibility in their storage and fermentation choices.”

The simplicity of the stainless steel tank design makes improvements on it unlikely at this stage but opens the door for innovations in cleaning and maintenance. “Most of the trends we see coming aren’t about the tanks themselves, but rather in tank cleaning improvements and product agitation and recirculation,” says Laursen.

Laursen believes that stainless steel tanks are here to stay, with no new type of storage or fermentation vessel unseating them any time soon. “Tanks such as wood and concrete can have their place within the winery. The winemaker’s process will dictate tank requirements … but stainless is really the way to go.”

Spray, Mow And Mulch Your Way To Better Grape Yields

By Gerald Dlubala

Quality wines start with quality grapes. Quality grapes start with quality care, meaning everything from the soil to the prevention of disease and insect damage. Proper mowers, mulchers and spray systems can help with this process.

Slimline Manufacturing: Go With The Flow

Wayne Riddle sells Turbo-Mist Agricultural Sprayers for Slimline Manufacturing, based in British Columbia, Canada. Slimline sprayers take advantage of the wind’s trajectory, transforming a potential setback into the sprayer’s key feature.

“Any successful chemical application is based on good circulation,” says Riddle. “So, we control the movement of the wind to direct chemically loaded droplets to their target. The terminology that we use is the gear-up, throttle-down method, which is to say that we can speed up or slow down our machinery at the proper times to effectively change the speed and strength of wind flow, which then controls the direction and reach of the applied product. There can be different coverage needs for different areas of the vineyard based on factors like soil type, terrain makeup, disease or insect problems. This is where we need to adjust for different wind speeds to apply the right amounts of chemicals for a particular situation.”

Controlling coverage in this way means less waste, easier maintenance, and more environmentally responsible chemical application.

“This [feature] eliminates chemical waste and saves money on both fuel and equipment wear and tear. The tractor and sprayer don’t have to work as hard, so fuel consumption is more economical,” Riddle says. “We stay socially responsible by using the least amount of product possible and applying it most efficiently and effectively. By approaching spraying this way, we leave less of a carbon footprint.”

Slimline’s Turbo-Mist sprayer systems are made for farms of all sizes, from small hobby farmers to massive vineyards requiring four hundred-gallon sprayers. Riddle told The Grapevine Magazine that no matter the size, Slimline tends to attract forward-thinking, progressive farmers.

When it comes to future trends, Riddle is most interested in the management of the sprayers through the use of a data loaded spray controller and GPS technology.

“It would be extremely useful to load a spray controller with information including GPS data to manage and disperse the gallons per acre needed depending on the agricultural needs, regardless of tractor speed or nozzle wear.

BDi Machinery Sales

Bill Reiss, owner of BDi Machinery Sales of Macungie, Pennsylvania, stresses the importance of quality, easy-to-use spray systems that assist wine growers while letting them do things their way.

“Whether growers prefer a high wire, vertical shoot or another canopy system, it’s all about the delivery of the chemistry [sic] to the intended target while using the smallest possible chemically loaded droplet,” says Reiss. “The canopy style the farmer chooses to use determines the correct spray head for the application. Our CIMA sprayer systems can be fitted with a multitude of available spray heads appropriate for a variety of crops. We pride ourselves in finding solutions to the needs of farmers in America.”

Reiss told The Grapevine Magazine that disease and insects are the most significant problems facing wine grape growers simply because wine grapes aren’t native to the U.S. “Wine grapes need to be treated and monitored, and it’s always better to spray early in the season rather than waiting and trying to eradicate a problem once it shows up. Effective coverage is critical, and it takes better delivery using minimal chemistry [sic], smaller droplets with less overspray to reach the target,” he said.

BDi Machinery sells the Italian-made CIMA sprayer line. These sprayers use an atomizer and air shear nozzle to push the dead air out of the canopy, ruffling leaves as it goes. This movement guarantees the chemicals will hit all surfaces outside and inside the canopy.

“We minimize overspray by opening and closing the atomizer which controls the width and reach of every dispersed droplet,” says Reiss. “Calibration is as simple as tightening or loosening a couple of wing screws on a regulator to get the needed orifice opening for the desired coverage. You can easily change the calibration from field to field, block to block, or season to season with little effort.”

Maintaining CIMA sprayers takes minimal effort, something Reiss feels is pivotal for busy farmers. “Sprayer maintenance needs to be easy, or it simply won’t get done,” he says. “Look for things like rinse tanks and minimal grease fittings. Our CIMA sprayers have only three grease fittings and include both hand rinsing tanks and internal chemical basket mixing systems for chemical safety.”

Electrostatic Sprayers Use Laws Of Attraction For Efficient Coverage

“Honestly, the most important thing about vineyard sprayers is that they need to be reliable and work when we need them to work,” says Mark Ryckman, Sales Manager and co-owner of Progressive Ag Inc., in Modesto, California. “They need to be durable and heavy duty but offered in a simple package so they last while proving easy to operate. Ours are heavily constructed and powder coated to increase their longevity.”

Progressive Ag manufactures indirect charging, electrostatic sprayers in several models. “We put a static charge in each droplet coming out of our machines. Plants and vegetation are neutral, so the droplets are naturally attracted to the plant. With each droplet having the same amount of charge on it, the drops repel and push against each other like some of those magnets we’ve all played with as kids. By pushing against each other, they naturally space themselves apart, making sure the vine coverage is consistent and even,” says Ryckman.“The chemical loaded droplets can be dispersed in larger volumes through larger than the normal pinhole size nozzles. By using larger sized nozzles, we don’t have the plugging issue that standard pinhole nozzles can have. The chemical is then dispersed through air induction instead of pressure sprayed so it can naturally land where the attractive properties of the charged particles take them.”

Maintaining Progressive Ag’s LectroBlast sprayers doesn’t take long, but should be completed daily. Ryckman told The Grapevine Magazine it requires only a five-minute daily greasing along with cleaning the electrodes and regular flushing to “have the sprayer work when you need it.”

Ryckman is excited about future technological trends such as variable rate controls for the spray rates. “Through the use of drones, we’ll be able to locate insect problems or disease and fungus issues in specific locations of the vineyard. We’ll map it out, load it in the controller, and then be able to automatically apply variable rates of material depending on the specific needs of each location, more on the high-risk areas, and less on the areas that are doing well.”

Like Ryckman, Willie Hartman, President and owner of On Target Spray Systems in Mount Angel, Oregon, sees the importance of incorporating computerized rate control programming built through GPS or wheel sensors. “It’s one of the things that customers are continually asking for. They are looking for data and the valuable coinciding reports.”

Hartman also sells electrostatic sprayers for the vineyard and says that, now, more than ever, “It’s vitally important to get a sprayer that provides super coverage. Keep mildew at bay early with complete coverage, over leaves, under the leaves, and wrapping around the plant vines themselves.”

On Target sprayers charge the droplets through induction, meaning the particles run through an atomizer for absolute universal size. They don’t pick up their charge until run through the dispersing nozzle, where they get hit with one thousand volts on the way toward their target.

“We use the least amount of water per acre of all the other types of sprayers right now. With labor costs rising, we can save money on water use immediately. Less overall material to spread means less time on the tractor, translating into fuel savings. By using less water, we can concentrate our spray. When you use concentrated spray, there is less runoff, minimal drift, and improved chemical coverage leading to increased performance. In today’s world, that is extremely important because, with the organic farming push, we’ve moved away from systemic treatments and are now relying on contact treatments,” Hartman says. “Improved concentrations and better overall contact are critical and successful. We know it works because of situations like last year when the East Coast had terrible disease and fungus issues except for the handful of farms that were using our sprayer systems.”

Hartman told The Grapevine Magazine the maintenance step not to overlook is rinsing the sprayer after use. On Target sprayers reflect this belief through onboard rinsing tanks accessible with a flip of the switch. Additionally, all components, including liquid, air and the twelve-volt electric needed for droplet charging are separately enclosed.

Mowers And Mulchers For Ground Level Care

Replacement part availability is magnified when considering agricultural mowers and mulchers simply because of the complexity of these machines.

“It’s a real issue at times,” says Kevin Pereira, sales professional with Woodland, California-based Clemens Vineyard Equipment Inc. “We get calls all the time about replacement parts for mowers and mulchers because growers can’t get the right parts in a timely fashion. Sometimes we can help, but other times we can’t because they bought a machine that may not have a physical presence or supply outlet here in the states.”

Pereira says growers can avoid these issues by buying from an equipment company like Clemens Vineyard Equipment. “We have a tremendous history of over twenty years, with excellent support and a United States warehouse for priority parts availability when needed.”

“Mowers are mowers, and when you get down to it, they all do the same job,” says Pereira, “but parts and available service are just as important as features and pricing. Cheapest isn’t always the best, and in the case of mowers and mulchers, you generally get what you pay for. Clemens mowers and mulchers are built for heavy-duty use featuring long-lasting plates and components, and a premium flex adjustability feature for variances in row lengths.”

Proper mowing and mulching protects roots, increases soil structure, reduces soil erosion and temperature, and increases the vigor and yield of crops. Approach mulching much like spraying chemicals, by formulating a mulch mixture to best suit the needs of the area. Sections of a vineyard that have less than desired growth may need mulches with higher nutrient components, while organic based mulches can assist with water dispersal in lower elevations.

Row mulchers and spreaders save time and labor by efficiently spreading mulch, organics, compost and other soil mixes within vineyards. Since they’re considered specialty equipment, it’s critical that they provide a return on investment. For multiple rows, side mulchers are equipped with either dual or single side dispersing, but if needed, mulchers are available with remote and distance spreading capabilities to get the mulch to the targeted location.

“The type of mower or mulcher you should get is tied to your needs. Do you need to mow weeds and mulch, or mow, mulch and prune? The type and amount of versatility you’re after will make a difference in the machine you need. They’re not all created equal, with some being better at certain functions than others,” Pereira says. “Find the happy medium that fits your budget and priorities, but whatever type you choose, regular maintenance is very important. Daily greasing and a quick visual inspection to spot any excessive wear on parts or components is recommended. Depending on the size of the acreage and amount of use, mower blades should be changed either annually or bi-annually. Bearing checks are always a good idea, and as should be done with all machinery, occasional professional inspections are a good idea.”