Membrane Filter Integrity Testing

Typically an Absolute Membrane Filter

By: Thomas J. Payette, Winemaking Consultant

The previous article in The Grapevine Magazine addressed steaming the bottling line.  Following steaming, the winemaker will want to perform a check to determine whether or not the process has been successful and that the filter has not been damaged by the steaming process or other handling. 

  The following process is a way to check the membrane filter’s integrity prior to wine bottling use.  During proper steaming, sterility should have been achieved from the cartridge filter downstream to the filling spouts.  Please keep this in mind as we follow this procedure to insure the sterile conditions will not be compromised during the testing process.

Objective/Principal

  The objective of this procedure will be to test a pre-wetted membrane filter with air or nitrogen to determine if the filter will hold a certain level of pressure.  The surface tension of clean water on this filter matrix will determine the amount of pressure the filter will hold.  After steaming and cooled the filter cartridge is considered pre-wetted.  Do not remove to wet the cartridge after steaming.  That would violate the “sterile conditions”.

Procedure

1.     Review the information that came with your filter and contact your supplier representative to see if they have any tips on the procedure or process about to be performed.  They may have helpful recommendations and data for you about that specific filter.

2.     After the steaming operation, described in the previous article, allow the assembly to cool to room temperature.  {If this is not done properly the results will not be accurate because the temperature change inside the closed system will show a pressure drop due to cooling and contraction.} The cooling process may take some time.

3.     Attach a source of compressed air or nitrogen (not Carbon dioxide) with a regulator to the top valve or to any sealed up stream orifice of the filter assembly.  Close all of the upstream valves with the exception of the one you would like to use to pressurize the filter system.  Be aware that any downstream orifice could be a contamination point. 

4.     Make sure all the valves are in perfect shape, will not leak and will have the ability to withstand the pressure that will be applied to the filter.

5.     Slowly turn the pressurized air source on and allow it to flow into the upstream side of the membrane housing. [Note: use a clean source of air that does not have any wine residue on the tip of the hose or any possible chance of introducing yeast or microorganisms.  Being the upstream side of the filter this should not be a problem but remember we are about to bottle a wine in a sterile environment.  Try not to introduce any micro-organism: Think Cross Contamination!]

6.     Using the regulator adjustment, allow the pressure to slowly increase up to the designated pressure for the micron rating of the filter.  (Typically 18 PSI is sufficient for a 0.45 micron rated membrane that would hold 20 PSI wetted.  Do double check this number with your supplier in the event this rating changes since publishing of this article. )  The test pressure will be in the literature of the filter package or it can be obtained from your supplier’s technical department.  Be aware, some filters have the same hold pressure even though their micron rating may be different.  Be certain not to “slam” the filter with immediate pressure.  That action may rupture the filter media and that filter may not pass the test or perform the filtering function as designed and desired.

7.     Allow the pressure to rise slowly while monitoring both the pressure gauge on the filter housing and the gauge on the regulator supplying the compressed air or nitrogen.  There should be little or no discrepancies between them.  This also indicates the gas is flowing into the filter housing.  One may see a slight amount of water come through the down stream side of the unit though a bleed valve.   This is normal since some water may “push” off the outside of the pre-wetted filter. Do not disassemble the down stream side of the set up because it will compromise the sterility of the bottling.  [Do make sure an outlet for air is open on the downstream side of the filter so the indication of a pressure, on the up-steam pressure gauge, is not a false one caused by back pressure from a closed valve]

8.     Once the proper pressure has been achieved and both pressure gauges agree – turn the valve supply of the gas into the housing to the off position.  Record the pressure gauge and the time of day.  One may disconnect the gas supply at this time since it should not be needed anymore for this test.  Allow the filter, without any downstream back pressure, to hold the upstream pressure with only the dampened filter holding back the gas.  If the filter holds this pressure for the length of time obtained from the literature in the filter box for that cartridge or from the technical department for that filter, the filter passes the test!  [For clarification : It is the surface tension of the water in the matrix of the filter that is holding back the gas].

9.     Time the holding pressure for the designated time for that filter.

10.   At this time, double check to see that the pressure does show the proper pressure; then slowly open a back stream valve.  Make sure to listen to hear that indeed pressure is coming off the filter housing set up and that the gauge was not stuck at the desired pressure.  Do this slowly so the filter does not go through an abrupt change in pressure that may damage the filter media just proven to be appropriate for the function of sterile filtration.[ If it passed ]

11.   Record any data that may be required by the bottling department or winemaker showing the filter was tested and checked out ready for use.

12.   Double check that all the downstream areas are still attached and that their sterility has not been compromised.

13.   Start the flow of wine for the day’s bottling run

14.   Pull samples at different times of the day and test them under the microscope ( if equipped and your winery has the expertise ) to insure the designated function did its job and continues to the job.  Numbering pallets as you bottle is a smart operation in the vent you find a filter failure during a days bottling run.  { Not a norm typically by the way }.

15.   Some wineries, after the day’s bottling, will re-wet the membrane with water and follow the testing procedure again to confirm the integrity was not lost on the filter during the day’s run.   This give “back end assurance” as performed as expected and desired.

  The above test should be performed each time a new or stored filter is installed into the filter housing and each time you bottle.  In many instances winemakers are able to get 10,000 cases or more through their cartridge filters before compromising the sterile bottling conditions.  Your supplier will be able to guide you with knowledge on how many cases or steamings your cartridge filter will be able to withstand. Typically I become most concerned of the steaming so I will discard a filter after a certain number of steaming or after a certain amount of time under steam.

Supplemental Notes:

•     Perform this procedure, for the first time, on a day you do not plan to bottle or on a day you have plenty of time to think the process through – not being rushed.

•     Check with the cartridge supplier to determine if the filter purchased has a “steamable life span”.  If so be sure to record the amount of time each cartridge has been steamed and discard the filter when appropriate.

•     Make sure that only water is on the filter during the testing of the filter as other “contaminants” may give a false reading of passing the test.

•     Setting the filter housing up with a male quick disconnect at the top port will greatly improve the ease of attaching the source of the desired gas.

•     The author prefers nitrogen since some compressed air has oils or odors that may interfere with the wine or the testing process.

•     Many cartridge filters were designed for the pharmaceutical industry and they are made to very strict standards.  Handle them with care!

•     Wineries now have the luxury of purchasing a machine to perform this function; however they are not inexpensive and this process, when mastered, does not take long.  The results are inexpensive and easy to obtain.  What is the machine fails ?  Will you have the expertise / knowledge know?

Review:

•   Contact your supplier to review the Hold Test operation with them.

•   Make sure the filter assembly is cooled to room temperature before testing

•   Use Nitrogen to pressurize the unit.

•   Make sure the pressure reading is not caused or influenced by a downstream obstruction.

•   Be cautious of downstream Cross-Contamination.

A Word About the Hold Test:

  The hold test should be performed in the clean environment of the bottling room under strict standards and precise conditions.  Keeping a keen eye on the process for cross-contamination possibilities, potential sources of error and other out of the norm conditions will lead to the winemaker’s ultimate success each and every time this is done.  A sterile bottling will be achieved providing the consumer with fresh and consistent wine each and every time they relax with one of your products.  One can not express the importance of doing this procedure correctly.  The winery’s success depends on the proper execution of sterile bottling and that process rest heavily on testing the membrane before bottling and overall proper steaming of the complete bottling line.

Don’t Get Caught Off Guard During Wildfire Season

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

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

Putting Your Plan Together

  Many wineries may have already revisited their evacuation plans and filed them with their respective state agencies. Staying current of wildfire season developments can help enhance your ongoing planning and preparedness. Technology can also support your wildland fire planning and response. Additional planning resources by the American Red Cross are available at: www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/wildfire.html

Steps to Take Before a Wildland Fire Event

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Controlling Wildland Fire Exposures

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

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

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

What are the primary threats to property during a wildfire?

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

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

What is the Structure Ignition Zone?

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

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

Immediate Zone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intermediate Zone

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

•    Clear vegetation from under large stationary propane tanks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Extended Zone

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

•    Dispose of heavy accumulations of ground litter/debris.

•    Remove dead plant and tree material.

•    Remove small conifers growing between mature trees.

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

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

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

If an Evacuation Becomes Evident

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

•    Remove brush and dry vegetation near buildings.

Fire evacuation – What you need to know

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

Filing Claims

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

Reference

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

•    Fire Adaptive Communities. Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network.

      www.fireadaptednetwork.org

•    Wildfire Safety.http://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/wildfire.html. © 2019 The American National Red Cross

  This document is intended for general information purposes only, and should not be construed as advice or opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. The content of this document is made available on an “as is” basis, without warranty of any kind. This document can’t be assumed to contain every acceptable safety and compliance procedures or that additional procedures might not be appropriate under the circumstances.  Markel does not guarantee that this information is or can be relied on for compliance with any law or regulation, assurance against preventable losses, or freedom from legal liability.  This publication is not intended to be legal, underwriting, or any other type of professional advice.  Persons requiring advice should consult an independent adviser.  Markel does not guarantee any particular outcome and makes no commitment to update any information herein, or remove any items that are no longer accurate or complete.   Furthermore, Markel does not assume any liability to any person or organization for loss of damage caused by or resulting from any reliance placed on that content.

Wine Labels:

Catch the Eye and Excite the Palate  

By: Cheryl Gray    

In many ways, a label is the signature finish to any bottle of wine. Just like wine, creating wine labels requires a devotion to the craft. 

Whether pre-printed, embossed or etched, winery labels involve much more than a name and a logo. Experts say there are several factors to consider, everything from the temperature sensitivity of the paper stock used to the texture of the actual label.  

Express Labels

  Express Labels brings more than 25 years of experience to its customers whose wineries depend upon its multiple applications for digital and flexographic label solutions to put a successful marketing image on their winery products. The company has clients in the United States and Canada, servicing not only wineries and vineyards but also manufacturing, food and beverage, grocery and craft beer. With locations in Washington, Colorado, Indiana and Florida, its four strategically placed facilities are equipped with the latest technology designed to meet customer demands. Marketing Director Debbi Ulmer, a marketing industry expert with 25 years of experience, told The Grapevine Magazine how Express Labels helps its winery clients make their products stand out.  

  “We offer a nearly unlimited combination of inks, stocks and finishes, but our primary differentiator is us: our capability, capacity, and competency. With many of our winery customers, the ability to stand out amongst the ever-growing competition is nearly as important as the ingredients in the wine. We have noticed that many request ‘hot-stamped’ labels to create a foil, shiny appearance on the label’s art,” said Ulmer. “We have several cost-effective alternatives to this to achieve a similar, if not more creative, look and feel. Foil simulation is one example. Using a foil stock, you can manipulate the look of the art to create any color of metallic using ink over the foil. For instance, you can create bronze by using brown ink over silver foil stock. Couple that with a soft touch or matte lamination for a high-end look that will be sure to catch a shopper’s eye.”   

  One of those eye-catching techniques is embossing, which Express Labels offers. The process achieves an engraved effect for the wine bottle label by embossing key areas of the art to make it appear as engraved.   

  Craig Harrison is Executive Vice President of Marketing and Sales for Express Labels with a quarter-century of industry knowledge. He said that when it comes to selecting paper stock and printing wine bottle labels, experience matters.

  “We highly recommend consulting with your label manufacturer to ensure you’re using the best label stock based on the wine. For instance, red wine may not require the same stock as a white that needs to be chilled or exposed to ice and water. In the case of chilled white wine, we would recommend a beverage grade stock to ensure the label stays in place while being stored and served,” said Harrison. “We do not recommend attempting to use a laser or other desktop printer. To ensure you’re using the best label available, you will want to print your labels through a trusted printing partner, such as Express Labels, to protect your wine and your brand’s reputation.”  

  Maryland’s Olney Winery is an Express Labels client and relies upon that kind of experience, along with competitive pricing, when ordering labels for more than 65 different varietals of wine. Managing Member and Owner Joe McCall told The Grapevine Magazine that his winery generates about 150,000 bottles of wine each year. He explained why the right labeling could make the difference in consumer choice.  

  “The quality of our wine labels is extremely important. In a competitive market, sometimes it is our label that becomes the determining factor as to whether a consumer chooses our wine or not when they purchase their wine off a store shelf. Both the design and the quality of the printing of the label are critical.”

  Olney Winery uses adhesive-backed full-color labels, which are applied to the bottle by the winery’s automated bottling machine.   

Orion Labels

  Experience is also the trademark of Orion Labels, a family-owned business established in 2003 and headquartered in Seymour, Wisconsin, just outside of Green Bay. The company, whose team of employees has more than 100 years of industry experience, specializes in manufacturing pressure-sensitive, glue applied, cut and stack labels, along with specialty products. While about 80% of its clientele are concentrated in the Midwest, Orion Labels also has an international presence with clients as far away as Hong Kong. Its customers represent the food and beverage, cosmetics, health and beauty, and pharmaceutical industries. 

  Dave Bradish is Director of Sales and Minority Owner of Orion Labels. With 30 years in the paper and packaging industries, Bradish knows well that working closely with clients makes a difference in how wine bottle labels are created and delivered.

  “In a world where everyone has a lot of the same printing equipment, what sets Orion Labels apart is our collaborative nature. We work directly with our clients, listen to what they need, and create timely, cost-effective solutions. At the end of the day, our difference is that we take the time up front to listen and deliver labels that add value to our customers’ products.” 

  Bradish told The Grapevine Magazine that one of the advantages of adhesive labels is that you can print several SKUs in small quantities and do it cost-effectively. Another benefit is that the label dispensing equipment is easy to manage. There are also options for what materials wineries can use to achieve different looks or images for their wine bottle labels.  

  “It’s not really about the best paper stock. It’s about what the customer wants,” said Bradish. “Most companies start using estate paper, but there’s also metalized paper, films, and other materials, depending on what your goal is. The possibilities are endless. There’s a material for whatever you want to do.” 

  Orion Label’s team takes advantage of its collective century-plus years of experience by relying upon that broad knowledge base. This includes knowing how to get the best product from the latest technology.  

  “When it comes to equipment, we are more followers than innovators. However, while we have some incredibly versatile equipment – including a hybrid digital press that allows us to do some pretty amazing things, Orion Labels’ true innovation is our experienced staff. They know how to get the most out of our equipment and are great to work with,” Bradish said. 

Evermine

  Innovation and customer service are also a priority at Evermine, a family-owned eCommerce company based in Portland, Oregon. In 2000, co-owner Jeanne Williamson came up with the idea of going beyond just making special labels for her homemade Christmas jam. She and her husband David worked out of a spare bedroom to launch their company website. The result was an online presence with an initial focus on providing creative labeling for home-crafters and canners. 

  Since then, Evermine has grown to 20 employees and has broadened its services to include personalized custom sticker labels for special events such as weddings, birthdays and the like. The company is also building an expanding client base in home breweries, kitchens and business product labeling. Travis Rees, Customer Service and New Clients Manager, told The Grapevine Magazine how Evermine’s versatility allows it to meet clients’ needs, no matter how large or small the order.   

  “Because we can do quantities of as little as six labels or as many as 600,000, we can grow with you as your needs expand. Over the years, we’ve added many other product offerings including hang tags, coasters, personalized stationery (invitations, holiday cards, thank you cards, etc.) and packaging.”  Rees said that the company’s client base stretches across the globe.

  “We have had customers on six continents, and we can service about 200 countries. Canada, Australia and the UK are our most frequent. But we have regular customers in the Middle East, Asia and the rest of Europe as well.”

Etching Expressions  

  California-based Etching Expressions began in the 1990s, creating custom labels for personalized wine gifts for fraternities and sororities at San Diego State University. The company specializes in sandblasting, which etches a design deep into the wine bottle glass. Marketing Director Kirsten Elliott explained the intricate process performed by highly skilled artisans.

  “The most unique thing that we do is specialize in deep etching and hand painting designs directly into the glass. The wine bottles are sandblasted by our experienced technicians. A mask is applied to the bottle to protect the areas that will not be carved, yet allowing abrasive material to come through and etch the glass. Sandblasting is a precise skill, and there is no room for errors. In addition to etching, we also offer digital printing on pre-cut, high-gloss polypropylene labels.”

  Whether handcrafted or digitally produced, creating wine labels is a process with a universal goal – to attract a consumer’s eye and entice that consumer’s palate through the imagery that only a finely crafted label can evoke. 

Dawn’s Dream Winery:

Making Dreams Come True for Others

By: Nan McCreary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information on Dawn’s Dream Winery, visit www.dawnsdreamwinery.com

Tank Choices Enhance Wine While Protecting Business and Livelihood

By: Gerald Dlubala

Considering the amount of time wine spends in a tank, whether for storage or fermentation, the type of tank chosen for a winery can play a crucial role in their overall story, branding and image. Whether choosing wood, concrete, clay, stainless steel or something else, each offers unique qualities, options and associated costs. Ultimately, each winemaker’s unique vision and preferred process dictates the type of tank used.

Wood Combines Nostalgia with Utility

  Wood tanks remain commonplace in wineries and are still what we envision when picturing a classic winery. The nostalgia and charm of a romantically serene winery with weathered wooden tanks and barrels in the background are aesthetically pleasing, but the usefulness of wooden tanks shouldn’t be overlooked. Wooden vessels have a natural insulating property that keeps fermentation temperatures slightly higher. Traditionally, red grape varietals get stored in wooden vessels during the early stages of fermentation, which wine producers believe allows their wines to develop smoother textures with fewer astringent properties. Deeper red varietals acquire their characteristic aroma and distinctive mouthfeel from wooden vessels. French oak barrels are well suited for adding tannins and promoting the familiar vanilla profile to Cabernet Sauvignon varietals. Pinot Noirs and other classes of lighter wines of the Pacific Northwest also age very well in oak casks.

  Wooden tanks and vessels are generally not a locally manufactured product, so it’s critical to keep timeframes in mind when ordering. Another knock against wooden tanks has always been the increased time and attention needed for maintenance, cleaning and storage due to wood’s naturally rough texture and ability to absorb flavors. The good news is that wood tanks are now fitted with many of the same convenience options that stainless steel tanks offer, including larger access doors, top hatches, easily accessible drainage pipes, temperature control plates, thermometers and leveling gauges. With this in mind, wood tanks can be used for decades with proper care.

Concrete: Solid as a Rock

  Concrete offers a compromise between the porosity and flavor enhancement of wood vessels and the clean and slick neutrality of stainless-steel tanks. Although concrete was always a valued option for European winemakers, the benefits and advantages of using concrete have now gained favor worldwide, especially in more progressive wineries. Concrete, depending on the formula used, allows for slower oxygen exchanges and slower temperature changes. This more natural fermentation process builds better textures and more favorable aromatic notes. Like wood vessels, concrete tanks can retain small amounts of natural byproducts and yeast from previous uses.

  Constant improvement in concrete formulas offers better tank quality and greater size and shape customization. Egg-shaped concrete tanks are popular because of the lack of edges, corners, or creases that encourage stagnation of fermenting liquids. Winemaker’s plans can adapt installation of new concrete tanks, whether that means traditional above ground placement, in-ground or buried placement for enhanced temperature regulation, or even integration into the winery’s physical structure.

  Temperature control plates or glycol temperature control systems can be installed in the walls of concrete tanks for protection against any contact with the wine and to prevent hot or cold spots within the concrete tank.

  Concrete tanks can be more expensive upfront, especially if the design needs an original mold cast for the concrete pour. 

Clay Vessels Remain a Quality Choice

  Clay fermentation and holding vessels date back to the Roman Empire, and there hasn’t been a tremendous change in what they can bring to the table in wine enhancement. The natural porosity of clay allows for natural micro-oxygenation, which is beneficial for quality fermentation and bonding anthocyanin to produce better color in red varietals.

  Amphorae and Terracotta vessels offer the ability to sweat and eliminate excess moisture without adding the tannins or oak aromas of their wood counterparts. Clay is historically recognized for its unique and exceptional thermal insulation capacity that keeps the contents cool through surface evaporation. The fermentation process in clay vessels is slower than in other tank types, but the temperatures remain steady with no heat spikes to provide a richer and brighter mouthfeel.

  As expected, proper and regular maintenance is critical for clay tanks. High-temperature washes can cause any stainless attachments to expand and crack older vessels. Newer clay tanks no longer have that issue and can, like other tanks, use hotter water or chemicals to clean, sanitize and neutralize the tanks when needed. Since clay tanks are generally smaller than other choices, they are easier to move, tilt, tip or maneuver for easier access, drainage and cleaning.

  When cared for properly, terracotta and other clay vessels’ superior lifespan is comparable to concrete. There are some vessels in use that have surpassed 100 years of regular wine production.

Stainless Steel Fills all Needs

  Because of their simple design that allows easy regulation of temperatures, minimal cleanup and easy sanitization procedures, stainless steel tanks are on their way to becoming the most common storage and fermentation vessel in winery production. Stainless steel tanks are generally produced by local distributors, making them easier to get with less lead time and more cost-effective with less shipping costs. Add in their long-lasting composition, easy resale qualities and value holding properties, and it’s easy to see that stainless-steel tanks are a wise investment.

  Other than the required cleaning and sanitization duties performed through automated systems or by hand, stainless tanks require little additional maintenance other than swapping out normal wear parts like worn gaskets when needed.

  Stainless tanks are available in various sizes and customizations to fit a winery’s needs, from the boutique and family-run wineries to the large-scale producer, and are more widely available on the pre-owned market. Unlike other vessel choices, separate tanks aren’t needed for the red and white varietals unless the winery produces sparkling wines, which require higher internal pressures in their production process.

Protecting Your Investment, Employees and Legacy: the ONGUARD Seismic System

  Proper tank choice helps to nurture and protect the winemaker’s product, but natural events like a damaging earthquake can quickly change that. After a 6.6 magnitude earthquake rocked New Zealand’s prime winemaking region in 2013, Will Lomax, founder and managing director of ONGUARD Seismic Systems, along with an experienced team of structural engineers and designers, developed the first genuine seismic tank anchoring system specifically designed to protect liquid storage tanks from earthquake-related damage and resulting product loss.

  Lomax combines his extensive background in winery design and structural engineering experience with the latest cutting-edge design tools and methods to form and use a capacity design approach in protecting the winemaker’s tanks, walls and contents. His system includes using ductile anchors to transfer and concentrate any damage from seismic loading into one small, easily replaceable component.

  “You know, years back, building codes were put in place mainly to ensure life safety, meaning employees. Don’t get me wrong, that’s all good and great, but those codes left open and sometimes even encouraged the damage to transfer to property and buildings, as long as human life was preserved. Those structures damaged included wine tanks, and to an owner, the product in those tanks is literally his lifeblood and livelihood,” Lomax said. “We believed that the codes didn’t go far enough to protect a business’s livelihood and devised a cost-effective way for all wineries from boutique-sized and family-owned through the mass producers to protect their tanks and investment from seismic activity, including earthquakes.”

  Protecting those tanks becomes even more critical when you realize that many winery tanks are now aesthetically or structurally integrated into the winery’s popular reception areas, tasting rooms and banquet facilities. ONGUARD’s anchoring systems protect the tanks, and nearby people, by offering controlled yielding in both compression and tension throughout an earthquake event and any resulting aftershocks.

  “I stood alongside a winery owner after the 2013 earthquakes in New Zealand as thousands of liters of his valuable, hard-earned wine disappeared down the drain due to the damage inflicted on the tanks due to the seismic activity,” said Lomax. “The consequences are so much more than just product going down the drain. It’s been noted that around 75% of a winery’s balance sheet is tied to what’s housed in their tanks. In a case of tank failure caused by seismic activity, you’re not only talking about immediate product loss. You’re talking about an immediate loss of business, the potential of a high insurance deductible, and the loss of future business. Market share is hard to gain, and wineries traditionally have some of the more loyal consumers. But if you can’t produce wine for a year, there’s a good chance those customers will get their wine from another supplier, and you’ll have to try and regain your previous customer base as well as any new customers.”

  ONGUARD Seismic Systems partners with tank manufacturers who possess the familiarity, skill and installation knowledge to offer their system on new tank installations. Many insurance companies now offer rate reductions for wineries that install tanks equipped with the ONGUARD Seismic System or those that get the system retrofitted on their current tanks. Retrofitting the ONGUARD System works similar to new installations by partnering with knowledgeable, qualified tank companies to install the system on those tanks currently in place and in use. 

  “Retrofitting is just reverse engineering for us,” said Lomax. “We thoroughly test and perform strength and load analysis on a winery’s current equipment and environmental conditions. After assessing that data, we can confidently move ahead with a course of action and install the properly sized anchors to ensure tank safety.”

  “The unknown variable in many of our installs is when retrofitting a winery’s tanks that are on tank stands,” said Scott Erwin, ONGUARD’s Vice President of Sales. “We know that about 60% of tanks in California wineries are on stands, and those stands are typically not up to current code. So we sometimes have to re-engineer or change the stand design to increase performance and meet code before installing our anchoring system.”

  Once installed, there is little necessary maintenance. Lomax recommended an inspection every three years of between 5-10% of the replaceable load cartridges inside of the anchors. If there has been a recorded seismic event, Lomax said they would immediately inspect those cartridges.

  “This was easily doable in the early stages,” said Lomax, “But now we estimate that we have over 25,000 anchors inground between New Zealand, California and Oregon, so we’ve developed our own software monitoring system with sensors that wake up with and report on any movement in their assigned tank. Now we get immediate feedback and information on which anchors need inspection and possible replacement.”

  Lomax told The Grapevine Magazine they are continually improving the software, with the latest evolution reducing costs in their componentry. It is currently available only in New Zealand, with planned additional rollouts coming in the future. “It really is a structural analysis software, and with it being our system, we can train and license knowledgeable local contractors to use it successfully when any inspections or support are necessary, eliminating the extended wait time for service.”

  The cost of installing the ONGUARD Seismic System is minimal, generally adding between 0-4% to the cost of the tank, or between 6-20 cents per gallon based on the tank’s contents and the amount of new-versus-already-available resources for ONGUARD to use in their installations, such as concrete pads and stand viability. These numbers vary because of each winery’s potential to offset installation costs with a reduction in their insurance premiums. ONGUARD Seismic Systems reports a 100% success rate since inception.

The Okanagan Valley:

Where Business Meets Pleasure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To learn more please visit…businesseventscanada.ca

Lake Erie Northshore:

Ontario’s Lesser-Known VQA Appellation

By: Alyssa Andres

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steaming the Bottling Line

By: Thomas J. Payette, Winemaking Consultant

Steam is one of the most widely used methods of sanitizing a bottling line and cartridge filter prior to bottling.  If done properly a “sterile bottling” can be secured at each bottling run.  Steam, for safety reasons, is a nuisance, yet most wineries still find it the bottling sanitation measure of choice.  Steam is hazardous to use and the author accepts no liability for error on behalf of the operator.  Please be careful if this is your first time!  Be careful every time!

  Bottling is an important time to be on your game.  You will only get one chance to do this properly so it must be taken very seriously.

Why?

  A winemaker interested in bottling a wine sterile will want to eliminate all viable bacteria and yeast from the bottling line and final filter prior to bottling day.  Even winemakers who are bottling unfined and unfiltered wines sterilize their bottling lines before bottling for extra security.  Steam, when used properly, is lethal to all living organisms.

How?

  Live steam is the key to doing this procedure properly.  If an orifice or filler spout is expected to be sterile, a flow of live steam must be coming from that area.  Below are guidelines for steaming a bottling line and final filter prior to bottling.  Some of these principals may need adjusting for your specific line set up.

  Before starting the below procedure, it is recommended to rinse out all the areas that will come into contact with the steam.  Do a visual inspection for dust or foreign matter in areas that will come into contact with the wine – filler bowl, filter housing, filler spouts, etc.

1.    Secure a source of steam that will be abundant enough to handle the set-up.  A six-spout gravity flow filter may require less output from the steamer than a 16 spout filler.

2.    Secure a wine hose that will allow steam to flow through it safely and use it for all the connections down stream of the steam.  This hose should also be appropriate for wine.

3.    Have the steamer as close to the bottle filler as practicably possible while also allowing for a sterile filter cartridge(s) to be placed prior to the filler.  (The closer the items are – the shorter the runs – leading to less error and faster ramp-up in the steaming cycle.)  Some bottling units are nice since a cartridge filter may be attached directly to the bottom of the unit minimizing hose length.

4.    Place a stainless steel T with two valves prior to the cartridge filter and a T with two valves after the cartridge.  Accurate pressure gauges should be placed on the T’s so the winemaker can monitor the pressure during steaming and during bottling.  (Remember to use pressure gauges that are designed to be steamed!)

5.    Attach the hoses as if pumping wine through the filter and to the bottling line.

6.    Open all valves in the beginning.  (If using a mono block – make sure the automated solenoid valve is in the open position to allow steam into the filler bowl.) {If a safety blow off valve is not on your steamer – please install one yourself or take it to a qualified mechanic to install one.}

7.    Turn on the steamer to initiate the creation of steam leaving all the valves down stream of the steamer open.

8.    During the ramping up of the steam, condensed water may flow out of these open valves.  Allow this to happen until it turns to steam.  Then turn the valve toward the closed position but do not fully close.  Leave the valve(s) “cracked” open to allow a small amount of live steam to flow from the valve.  This insures that the valve(s) has come up to the steam temperature and that it will remain at that temperature as long as live steam is flowing from it.

9.    “Chase” the steam through the complete setup and throttling back valves as steam appears.

10. When a full set of steam has reached the final destination of the end of the run (This may be the ends of every filler spout or the leveling mechanism in some mono blocks, etc.)  – we can start timing the steaming operation. Double check that all the filler spouts are open and that steam is flowing.

11. Places to look in the filler bowl may be a drain valve.  Make sure that it is cracked open slightly to allow for a free flow of steam.  Plus the tops of each filter housing etc.

12. Step back and look at the operation asking yourself “Is steam getting everywhere and on all the surfaces that may come into contact with the wine?”  If the answer is – “YES” proceed to timing the operation.

13. Most winemakers steam for a minimum of 18 minutes and up to 25 or more should do little or no harm.

14. During the steaming operation – one may take steaming temperature crayons around to double-check they have achieved the desired temperature at a specific location on the bottling line. Steaming crayons are pencil like devices made of materials that melt at certain temperatures. 

         Caution is important when using these crayons on parts that may contact the wine.  If wishing to test an area coming into contact with the wine – run a trial steaming operation – use the crayons – allow the line to cool and then thoroughly clean the area the crayons have contacted.

15. During the steaming operation – continue to check on the operation to make sure the function is continuing as planned and for safety reasons. Check that filler spouts have not “jiggled” into the closed position.

16. After the steaming operation time limit has been met, the operator may once again check to make sure all the orifices are steaming as needed.  Then turn off the steam source and allow for cooling of the lines, spouts and cartridge(s), etc.

17. Allow the system to come to room temperature and perform an integrity check (procedure to be covered in a future article) on the final absolute membrane filter to insure the unit will perform properly at the rated micron level.  Make sure the parts used to do this are free from microbes and that they have been cleaned with a 70% ethanol solution or equivalent protocol.

18. Do not disconnect any of the lines at this juncture.  Use a spray bottle of the ethanol referenced above on all areas that have a possibility of compromised sterility.  When in doubt – spray it!  Filler spouts – too! The winemaker has a totally sterile system from the final filter down stream to the filler spouts!

19. Aseptically close the filler spouts so they will retain wine when wine flows to them.

20. Attach the upstream line that was connected to the steamer to a source of appropriately pre-filtered wine.

21. Start the flow of wine slowly through the system once again “chasing” the wine through the cracked valves.  Some water may be allowed to drain off before wine reaches its destination.

22. Once the wine is completely through the system – complete the cycle by running several sets of bottles through the filler and returning that wine to the wine tank being bottled.  This will insure the first bottle of wine off the line will be exactly the same composition, as practically possible,  as the last bottle of wine.

23. Resume the normal bottling operation.

24. After bottling rinse the final filter with water and perform another integrity check to confirm the filter held all day.

25. Once bottling is complete, make sure to rinse all the areas of the transfer lines, final filter housings and filler bowl / spouts to remove any residue of wine.  Some winemakers (like me) will actually rinse and then resteam the line without the final filter while cleaning up at the end of the day.  This is a great idea especially after running a cuvee for sparkling wine on your “everyday” bottling line.  Remember one will still want to steam prior to the next bottling – too!

26. Send a bottle off to a certified lab or test in house under a microscope to make sure the wine is indeed clean and refermentation or a malo-lactic is not a concern.  Taking samples at different times of the days bottling run can be a great idea to help identify any problem areas if they should occur later during the bottling day.   

Some Other Helpful Hints: 

•     Use water that is clean and free of minerals to extend the life of the steamer.  Also, some water issues may clog the filters prematurely or during the steaming cycle.

•     If the bottling line has ball valves on the filler or other areas – make sure these are physically clean and sterilized properly with steam.  This is an area that can create cross-contamination issues with bottling.

•     Contact your final filter supplier to make sure the procedures about to be incorporated are in line with their recommendations and to see if they recommend other helpful advice about their product and the specifications of their product.   

•     Contact your equipment dealer to make sure the equipment will hold up to the procedure and to hear potential areas of concerns.  They may be familiar with other wineries that have done these procedures so they may be able to give helpful tips and suggestions.

  If looking to sterile bottle your wines for the first time – take the above steps and recommendations and implement them to cater to your specific bottling line setup.  Every line is different with a new set of places on which to focus or of which to be aware.  Open the lines of communication with your suppliers, winemaker and bottling crew to make sure the above can be implemented successfully. 

Vineyard Bacterial and Fungal Trunk Diseases Prevention and Control

Crown Gall symptoms caused by A. vitis

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

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

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

Crown Gall

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

Petri Disease, Young Vine Decline, Esca

  The disease caused by Cadophora,

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

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

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

Black Foot

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

Sudden Vine Collapse (previously known as Mystery collapse)

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

Other Diseases

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

Disease Management and Control

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are You Seeing the “Low Hanging Grapes?”

(What if OSHA Came Knocking at Your Door?)

Frequent Winery OSHA Violations – Are You in Compliance?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frequent Winery Violations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

  This document is intended for general information purposes only, and should not be construed as advice or opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. The content of this document is made available on an “as is” basis, without warranty of any kind. This document can’t be assumed to contain every acceptable safety and compliance procedures or that additional procedures might not be appropriate under the circumstances.  Markel does not guarantee that this information is or can be relied on for compliance with any law or regulation, assurance against preventable losses, or freedom from legal liability.  This publication is not intended to be legal, underwriting, or any other type of professional advice.  Persons requiring advice should consult an independent adviser.  Markel does not guarantee any particular outcome and makes no commitment to update any information herein, or remove any items that are no longer accurate or complete.   Furthermore, Markel does not assume any liability to any person or organization for loss of damage caused by or resulting from any reliance placed on that content.

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