The Results Are In! The Annual Email Benchmark Report

By: Susan DeMatei

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

  However, did these emails work?

Open Rates Fell

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

•    The sending address or who the email is from.

•    The subject line.

•    The teaser text that appears in browsers to

      provide a summary of the email.

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

Bounce Rates Increased

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

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

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

Click-Through Rates Skyrocket

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

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

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

Want To Hear More From the Report?

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

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

Automated Inspection Systems Offer Consistency, Reliability and Measurable Results

By: Gerald Dlubala  

Research shows that wine purchases are primarily made based on the bottle’s overall shelf presence, meaning the label, the brand, the story behind that brand and total aesthetic appeal. Every part of that shelf appearance is geared toward having the consumer pick your bottle from all the other choices in front of them. By incorporating automated inspection systems into your winery’s filling and packaging operation, you can present a consistently reliable product that will build brand awareness, product recognition and consumer trust. The types of automated inspections are varied, so the ones that are right and most economical for your winery will depend on the specific aspects of your winery’s production and operational speed.

  “Typically, wineries will perform different inspections based on their output and line speed,” said Rick Reardon, General Manager, FT System North America. “A smaller winery where every bottle is touched by hand may only do a visual inspection, but this isn’t practical as line speeds increase, so the winery usually moves to automated inspection systems. Commonly used automated inspections include incoming glass inspections, fill level with cap/cork inspections, label inspections and case or packaging inspections. The most common are the fill level, cap and cork closure inspections, followed by label inspections. An improperly filled or labeled bottle is simply harmful to the brand consistency, while a bottle that is not properly closed can be a problem further down the line, particularly in the casing application. An open or leaking bottle in a case causes issues either in the warehouse or while in transit. These inspections are the easiest to implement and are proven to be cost-effective. The more important inspections are those that identify a hazard to the consumer. These inspections detect things like a chipped finish in the bottle, a foreign object inside the bottle, or some other defect in the glass that increases the potential of the bottle to fail. These inspections prove to be more critical in the wineries that manage bulk glass or use automatic uncasers.”

  Automated in-line inspection systems are designed to inspect 100% of the contents in a consistent, repeatable and measurable way. Unlike their human inspector counterparts, they don’t impart any environmental interpretations or change their inspection parameters due to weariness, distractions, daydreams or some other type of inattentiveness. Machines inspect every bottle using the same parameters every time. Suppose the inspection system detects any defects or misapplied labels. In that case, the line workers will be alerted and allowed to take immediate corrective action versus waiting until the problem is detected further down the line in the packaging application or during a routine quality control check. If inspection applications detect that a filler or labeler is trending out of the desired tolerance or calibration settings, the operator will be able to take preventative action before an issue arises that would halt or disrupt production.

  “An Empty Bottle Inspection system is commonly found on lines that run either bulk glass or lines that have automated uncasers,” said Reardon. “It is located before the filler and uses a series of cameras with specific lenses and illumination. By design, it looks for defects in the bottle glass, incorrect bottle sizes or foreign objects that may be inside the bottle. More specifically, the systems will inspect the individual bottle’s complete outer surface, including the finish, threads, neck and base. If your line utilizes a liquid rinser before the filler, there is available technology to detect any residual liquid left from the rinsing function as well. When a rejection occurs, there are a number of options to how the bottling lines can manage that. FT System inspection units can push the bottle off of the line, or we can sound an audio alarm or, if desired, we can send a signal that would immediately halt the line. It’s the user’s preference. The most common way for systems to reject a defective glass situation from the line is by using a standing rejector to guide the bottles off from the line without knocking them over. The reject device is always a critical part of any overall inspection system.”

  Reardon said that because the wine sector traditionally uses round glass, the EBI systems are designed and optimized to manage that traditional round shape. But EBI systems will work on nearly any color or shape of glass bottle, including round, square, rectangular and flask shapes. FT System’s empty bottling inspection systems are flexible enough to easily change from one size or color to another while having the ability to store a large library of recipes to accommodate the different types of glass a winery will use throughout its production.

  Empty bottle inspections are just one of the many bottling line inspection systems available. “Inspection systems on the bottling line are typically stand-alone units at different locations along the line to perform whatever inspections are desired,” said Reardon. “Glass inspection is done before the filler to remove any defective glass before it is filled with product. Fill level and closure inspections are placed after the filler, capper and corker block. A system performing label inspections would be located after the labeler and a case inspector immediately after the caser or case sealer. FT System inspection units are modular, so they are easily added, combined and mixed to meet every client’s unique needs.”

  Operator and maintenance training is critical to the success of any piece of machinery on a bottling line, and Reardon said that the expectations for an automated inspection system are no different. But the level of operator and maintenance training varies depending on the inspection technology. While some systems, namely the fill level and closure inspection systems, can almost reflect a set and forget mentality, others require specific levels of training.

  “Covid has illuminated the need and challenge of consistently receiving and delivering quality support while using different yet still successful ways that are still efficient,” said Reardon. “FT System maintains a dedicated U.S. field service team located across the country so that in the event on-site training or service is needed, we have a team based in the United States to manage that, meaning our customers will never have to rely on and wait for international travel restrictions to ease or open up. Additionally, all FT System inspection units can be accessed remotely for real-time diagnostics and remote support, which is a huge benefit. We have also had a few inquiries from wineries that are considering reducing the number of line workers to meet their needs or successfully increase social distancing between line staff. If a winery is still using human inspectors, then systems such as ours will allow them to meet that need.”

  Reardon told The Grapevine Magazine that a common request he hears from wineries is to have the ability to identify minuscule pieces of glass inside a bottle after filling, seeming to suggest that this type of inspection requirement hasn’t been adequately accomplished or addressed. On the flip side, wineries are just not aware of the many needs they could easily meet by using automated inspection systems and the data they produce.

  “We are seeing a trend in how the resulting inspection data is handled and managed, and it has proven to be critical and extremely valuable information. FT System is releasing a system that tracks the supplier quality data as part of the overall quality management system versus having and considering glass inspection as a stand-alone component or a single quality control point. Then the data results can be fed back to the glass supplier for support in their own production process. A future release will begin applying artificial intelligence analysis with data from the inspection system to provide the winery with predictive information, allowing them the ability to improve both their line efficiency and product quality.”

  If a winery is looking to purchase and install a new automated inspection system, Reardon suggests they look past the simple return on investment analysis and include the resulting opportunities for improved line quality and efficiency. Always make sure that the inspection system has the flexibility not only to meet your current needs but at least some of your future projected needs as well. Then, make sure the supplier can offer and follow through with quality training and support, especially under less-than-ideal circumstances like those that we are all going through currently.

  “Any winery that relies on some form of human inspection can benefit from an automated inspection system,” said Reardon. “And many customers are surprised when they hear just how cost-effective an automated system is. Aside from the fact that the inspection system is more repeatable, consistent and reliable than a human, an automated inspection system will free up the affected manpower for other tasks.”

  As the canned wine business continues to grow, FT System is fielding an increased number of inquiries regarding similar types of automated inspection systems for canning lines. FT System does offer inspection solutions for wine canning lines to include empty can inspections, fill level inspections and leak detection systems. FT System has also recently developed and patented a solution that makes it possible to precisely and accurately assess whether the cap has been properly screwed onto 100% of bottled production, eliminating the possibility of finding bottles that are difficult to open or prone to leaking.

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

Credit: Vintrace

By: Cheryl Gray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defining the Best Single-Vineyards in the Niagara Peninsula

By: Alyssa Andres

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How To Get The Most Out Of A Virtual Trade Show

By: Susan DeMatei

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Overall Tips For Attendance:

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

•    Introduce yourself in session chats.

•    Contribute to discussions and ask questions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Fining Agents

By: Thomas J. Payette, Winemaking Consultant

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

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

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

Equipment Needed for Fining Trials

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

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

2.   Accurate scales

3.   500 ml  beakers

4.   500 ml Erlenmeyer flasks

5.   Stir plate with magnetic stir bars

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

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

8.   Pipettes:  1 and 10 milliliter serological pipettes

9.   Wine glasses – never forget the wine glass!

Some Common Fining Agents

and Their Projected Uses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Helpful Tips with Fning Agents

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

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

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

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


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

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


Have You Fortified Your Workers’ Compensation Program?

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

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

•   The physical work environment

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

•   Machinery, processing and substances used

•   Work practices and systems of work

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

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

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

•    How frequently do safety incidents arise?

•    How will our management deal with them?

•    Who is responsible for mitigation efforts?

•    What costs are associated with each event?

•    What costs are associated with initiatives to mitigate them?

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

•    What are the training and recordkeeping requirements?

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

•    Management Leadership

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

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

•    Worker Participation

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

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

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

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

•    Hazard Identification and Assessment

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

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

•    Hazard Prevention and Control

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

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

•    Education and Training

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

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

•    Program Evaluation and Improvement

      a) Control measures are periodically evaluated for effectiveness.

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

•    Coordination and Communication on Multiemployer Worksites

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

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

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

Understanding Workers’ Compensation Basics

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

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

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

Important Wording Within These Laws Include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fundamentals of Managing Workers’ Compensation Safety Program

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

Claim Investigation

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

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

Claim Reporting

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medical Control/Provider Selection and Management

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


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

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

Know your Experience Rating or Experience Modification

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

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


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

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

© 2020 Markel Service, Incorporated.  All rights reserved. 


Lodi’s Hidden Gem

By: Nan McCreary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Protecting & Preserving Wine Through Chemical Reaction:

Wineries Turn to Nitrogen as the Superhero of Industrial Gases.


By: Cheryl Gray

Nitrogen use in winemaking is a carefully orchestrated and scientific process. Its chief role is to guard against the adverse effects of oxidation, which diminishes both the quality and shelf life of wine. Consider the vinegar-like taste of a wine left opened or unfinished for too long and immediately understand why wineries use nitrogen to prevent oxygen exposure during production and storage.

  While multiple inert gases are available to prevent oxygen from coming into contact with wines, experts say that the choice of which industrial gas to use is linked to cost, availability and the type of wines produced. Nitrogen is a popular choice because it is in ready supply, making up roughly 80% of the Earth’s atmosphere. That means it is available at an attractive price versus other industrial gases.

  Penelope Gadd-Coster is Executive Director of Winemaking at California’s Rack and Riddle Custom Wine Services. She told The Grapevine Magazine that cost and efficiency are the reasons her winery opts to use nitrogen.

  “It is an inert gas, inexpensive…and there are generators for nitrogen, so outside gas companies are not needed,” she said.

  Like Gadd-Coster, proponents of nitrogen use in winemaking point to multiple benefits derived from deploying nitrogen gas generators, which allow wineries to produce nitrogen gas on demand. That, in turn, can help boost productivity. The use of a nitrogen gas generator also eliminates the safety risks associated with high-pressure gas cylinders. Additionally, those in-house generators bypass vendor issues that might include price increases, long-term contracts, delivery schedules, surcharges and tank rental fees. 

  There is also the benefit of low energy use, resulting in more stable long-term costs. The option to expand is attractive, too, since, with nitrogen gas generators, there is room for adding extra capacity to accommodate a winery’s growth.

On Site Gas Systems, Inc.

  One of the global leaders in gas generating technology is On Site Gas Systems, Inc., based in Newington, Connecticut. Its President and Founder, Francis X. Hursey, was among the veteran scientists and engineers who developed pressure swing adsorption oxygen technology for NASA’s Project Apollo space program, which sent the first humans to the moon. Hursey has received multiple patents in non-cryogenic gas technology, medical products and nitrogen applications. After developing PSA oxygen technology for the Apollo Breathing Air Team, Hursey would use that same core knowledge to launch On Site Gas Systems in 1987.

  Michael Montesi is Sales Manager of Commercial Products for On Site Gas Systems. He told The Grapevine Magazine about the design and features of one of the company’s latest nitrogen generators for on-site use.

  “We offer a newer unit called the Nitroblast that is specifically designed for the beverage industry,” he said. “The main innovation of this product is the compact size and all-in-one product integration. That is very cost-effective for the small user that might have been prevented from purchasing a nitrogen generator in the past.”

  Montesi said that nitrogen systems manufactured by On Site Gas Systems are based on continuous innovation, which ensures that the company is not only staying ahead of the curve but also defining it. He pointed to a research and development team whose members have decades of experience knowing how to deliver innovation without making it complicated.

  “We specialize in systems designed, sized and built for the correct purity, pressure and flow for each application,” said Montesi. “Our philosophy is to keep the simple processes simple and make complex processes less complex. This way of thinking has formed the basis for our product reputation–safe, continuous, flexible systems that provide cost-saving, reliable gas generation.”

Parker Hannifin

  Parker Hannifin is another global industry front-runner manufacturing compressed air treatment and gas generation products. The company produces a wide range of membrane module and pressure swing adsorption nitrogen gas generators. It’s been selling nitrogen gas generators to the wine industry for three decades.

  Randy Peccia is Product Sales Manager for Parker Hannifin in its Industrial Gas Filtration and Generation Division, based in Lancaster, New York. He explained how both membrane and PSA technologies allow users to generate on-site nitrogen gas with a compressed air source. 

  “Membrane technology uses bundles of hollow-fiber contained within a tube. The fiber walls selectively separate compressed air by permeating oxygen, water vapor and other waste gases to the atmosphere,” Peccia said. “Nitrogen molecules are retained within the walls of the fibers resulting in the delivery of nitrogen gas of 90-99% purity to the application. Some membranes are capable of achieving 99.5% purity. With no moving parts, membrane modules are a cost-effective, reliable and safe solution to on-site nitrogen gas generation.

  “PSA is a regenerative technology that uses columns filled with carbon molecular sieve to separate compressed air,” he said. “In the ‘online’ columns, oxygen and other waste gases are selectively adsorbed by the CMS, allowing nitrogen gas of 95-99.999% to pass through to the application. The CMS in the ‘offline’ columns is regenerated by releasing the pressure in the columns and venting the waste gases to the atmosphere. This constant swing in pressure between columns is why the technology is called pressure swing adsorption.”

  Peccia told The Grapevine Magazine that PSA technology is the primary candidate for wineries because of the purity levels it allows users to achieve. He added that depending upon the amount of nitrogen used at a given winery, Parker Hannifin’s PSA nitrogen gas generators can deliver, at minimum, a 12- to 18-month payback with low energy usage and stable gas costs. Peccia detailed the most common uses of nitrogen in wineries: sparging, flushing and blanketing.

  “During the fermentation process, oxygen will naturally dissolve into the wine. Sparging is a process where very fine bubbles of nitrogen are passed through the wine to remove dissolved oxygen. It is important to note that red and white wines differ in chemistry, and because of this, the use of nitrogen gas sparging may differ in production. For example, some wines require a certain amount of CO2,” he said. “To avoid removing CO2 below the required level, a mixture of CO2 and nitrogen is utilized for sparging. This is most common in production of white wines but required for some red wines.

  “During production, wine is transferred between multiple containers via pumps and hoses before becoming a finished product and sealed into a bottle. This adds the risk of oxygen exposure. Nitrogen is used to flush out oxygen within storage tanks, barrels, transfer pumps, hoses and bottles to prevent unwanted oxidation. Flushing is also used during bottling before a bottle is filled with wine.

  “Nitrogen can be used to blanket the ullage, or headspace, of partially filled containers used throughout the production process. Headspace is the result of not filling a container from top to bottom. This space helps to compensate for the expansion and contraction of the wine due to changes in ambient temperature. Headspace is also a factor during bottling where there is a space between the bottle seal and the wine. Blanketing the headspace of a container before a bottle is sealed helps to eliminate oxygen exposure,” said Peccia.

  Bars and restaurants use nitrogen gas in wine dispensing, reducing the risk of oxidation in a bottle of wine before that bottle is empty. That means those businesses can stretch the shelf life of a bottle of wine for one to two months instead of throwing out spoiled wine and, in the process, losing money on an unusable product.  

Necessary Caution

  Safeguards are a must when it comes to using nitrogen. Rack and Riddle’s Gadd-Coster explained why wineries have to exercise caution to protect their workforce. “It does displace air in enclosed spaces and so is dangerous in that respect. Enclosed space protocols need to be respected.”

  Suffocation is a genuine threat to workers if a nitrogen gas leak goes undetected. For this reason, most wineries use gas monitors, portable sensors and other gas detection technology designed to protect workers from oxygen depletion. Illinois-based PureAire Monitoring Systems services a vast array of food and beverage clients, including wineries. The company has a wide range of monitors for specific needs with features that promote ease of operation and longevity, such as a digital screen displaying an instant-read of oxygen levels and a zirconium oxide sensor cell. Its dual oxygen/carbon dioxide model includes both the zirconium oxide sensor cell and a non-dispersive infrared sensor cell.

  The use of nitrogen gas is a part of nearly every food and beverage processing industry, including winemaking. For a product whose optimal result depends on the right combination of artisanship and science, wineries are using nitrogen to heighten the taste and quality of their wines as well as their profits.

There’s a Closure for That:

Variety & Customization Enhance Wine Closure Options

By: Gerald Dlubala  

The choice of closure options and accompanying customizations that awaits today’s winemaker can be mind-boggling. As has been the norm, the tried and true cork still holds the title of most requested. However, due to evolving technological advances, performance enhancements and environmental and safety issues, alternative options in closure choices may be just as viable and sometimes the more economical and efficient choice to preserve and market wine. Every aspect of packaging contributes to the overall cost, and closure choice is no different.

“Capsules and closures are pretty standard to our industry, serving as both a key element to the packaging while also providing any evidence of tampering,” said Melanie Thomas, sales and business development professional for Janson Capsules, a leading Napa-based manufacturer of capsules and screwcaps for the wine, spirits and gourmet foods industry. “Costs for capsules differ depending on what they are made of and the type of packaging needed, including stock or custom colors, decorations, size, embossing, hot stamping, etc. Generally speaking, Polylam capsules can be between $40 to $60 per 1000 pieces, while PVC choices will run the winemaker between $25 to $40 per 1000 units, and then tin capsules come in between $275 to $450 per 1000 pieces. Screwcap choices include factors like liner choice, finish, decoration and sometimes specific knurling needs that influence their price point. Their pricing runs between $85 to $200 per 1000 pieces, depending on those factors.”

  “Pricing is certainly a factor when choosing closures, but it’s usually not the only factor,” said Bobbi Stebbins, Director of Marketing at Waterloo Container Company, a premier supplier of wine bottles, caps, corks and closures to eastern North America. “It’s important to let your packaging provider know upfront what the important determining factors are in your closure choices, including things like recyclability or where products are manufactured. Knowing these factors upfront can help narrow down your closure choices. Manufacturing processes and standards are not the same from product to product or from country to country, so we can filter down your closure options and limit them to the available product options that you will be proud to have associated with your brand.”

  Both Stebbins and Thomas agree that a skilled and experienced winemaker will usually know what they want in a closure based on their brand characteristics, identity, price point and winery’s bottling equipment. On the other hand, newer crafters may have no idea where to begin when faced with such a vast selection of closures and options. Both Janson Capsule and Waterloo Container offer experienced, qualified customer service to provide suggestions if needed. Janson Capsules will work directly with a company’s marketing and purchasing departments to find the best closure solutions. Waterloo Container Company employs a closure specialist to ensure that the products sold will work well with each other functionally while providing consistency in brand recognition.

  Kenny Hall, Waterloo Container’s purchasing and closure specialist, told The Grapevine Magazine that Waterloo Container offers every type of closure a winemaker could need, with over 500 SKUs and over 50 million closures in stock. He said when choosing the appropriate closure for your bottle and project, attention to detail is critical. “Every closure is designed to fit with a specific bottle finish and product, so referencing closure technical data sheets is important. Taking the time to match this information with bottle drawings and finish ensures fit and performance.”

Put a Cork in It

  Cork is the traditional and most popular choice for wine closures, especially for those wines that age well. Cork is a natural and sustainable product with an innate ability to swell and form a tight seal within the wine bottle neck, thereby only allowing a minimal amount of oxygen transfer over extended periods of time. And now, thanks to modern processing, risk of the dreaded cork taint has virtually disappeared.

  When it comes to cost, natural cork runs the gamut. Punched, or high-grade natural cork, has the highest price point, while other options like an agglomerated natural cork can have the lowest. As a natural product, cork can have many variations that must be accounted for in its use as a closure.

  Synthetic cork is a popular, cost-effective alternative. It’s more predictable than natural cork when it comes to performance over the long run. However, it can include petroleum-based ingredients that may not be sustainable or recyclable and, if left in the bottle for too long, can impart a detectable aroma, according to some wine professionals.

Wine With a Twist

  “It’s true that corks are still the most requested closure amongst our customers,” said Stebbins.  “But skirted screw caps have jumped from 19% to 36% of our closure sales over the past four years. We feel that’s due to the skirted screw caps being well suited to the shorter timespan from production to consumption of popular East Coast varietals, including Rieslings and other sweeter white varietals.”

  Similar opinions prevail on the West Coast, with Thomas telling The Grapevine Magazine that, “Screwcaps are great for spirits but also increasingly popular for white wines like Sauvignon Blanc and the lighter Pinot Noirs. Oregon winemakers are using them more and more frequently.”

  “Screw capsules provide immediate ease of opening and reclosing capability,” said Stebbins. “With standard liners, both taste and freshness are preserved, so the wine you put in is pretty much the wine you pour out. The roll-on pilfer proof short or longer skirted styles require machine application, meaning there could be additional financial investment and technical expertise required, either in-house or by way of a mobile bottler. To help offset this, Waterloo Container offers a skirted option that can be hand-applied, which is a great fit for smaller craft winemakers.”

Bar Top

  Bar tops – sometimes referred to as t-tops – offer the widest range of customization options, including top and shank materials. Waterloo Container offers newer co-injected synthetic styles to alleviate the known problems of break-offs and general difficulty removing them from the bottle. Bar tops are gaining popularity for specialty wine products and allow for machine or hand application. They are generally easy to open and repeatedly reseal the bottle, making them a popular choice in spirit packaging.


  “Polylam capsules are the most commonly requested closure and are suitable for any type of wine, including premium wines,” said Thomas. “They are a cost-effective alternative when needed, or when the winemaker just wants to upscale from the PVC capsules… Tin capsules are better suited for the super-premium or exclusive wines that generally use heavier bottles and higher-end packaging. Tin is a great choice because of its unique texture and soft feel. Tin capsules bring a very elegant and expensive look to your wine bottle.”

  “As an East Coast distributor, we get more requests for PVC heat shrink capsules than for Polylam or tin capsules,” said Stebbins. “This may be reflective of the typical price points seen here in the east as compared to the west. Other bottle closure treatments, like heat shrink PVC capsules, are an easy and economical way to finish off the tops of wine bottles while helping the product get noticed on the shelf and provide tamper evidence. Sizing is important in these situations because the tear tabs used in these applications must be properly aligned to fit the type of bottle finish and closure combination.”

Sustainability and Recyclability

  Stebbins told The Grapevine Magazine that Waterloo Container has seen an uptick in environmentally conscious clients requesting specific information on its products’ recyclability and sustainability. Unfortunately, while the technology is available to recycle almost any type of closure, the reality is that the infrastructure to recycle is not readily available to all in the United States. All major vendors make claims and provide reports regarding the sustainability and recyclability rates of their products on their websites, and depending on different factors, those rates vary. For example, Amcor STELVIN screw caps boast an 80% recycling rate in Germany, while Europe’s overall rate is reported at only 40%.

  Janson Capsules offers fully recyclable products, including their E-Cap, manufactured from aluminum-based materials. Thomas said that more wineries are starting to consider this type of product based on market demand. They are an excellent alternative to the standard Polylam capsules that contain a layer of polyethylene, a non-recyclable component. Their tin capsules are fully recyclable and printed using water-based materials.

Thoughts, Trends and Innovations

  Thomas told The Grapevine Magazine that Janson Capsules is currently working on innovations in capsules and closures. Without getting too specific, they are looking to align their products with new technologies, environmental protection standards and new ways to consume wines.

  “I really believe that due to the unprecedented COVID-19 situation we are all living through, the way the wine closure industry has to operate to succeed will be tied to the local, sustainable and surely the digital world,” said Thomas. “Having full access to great support with excellent technical knowledge when needed is extremely important to our customers. We have to adapt to our customer’s needs and demands while also matching the bottle mold evolution and bottling equipment technologies.”

  Stebbins said they see a strong trend towards customization. “At trade shows, the first thing potential customers want is to be different. In an industry where the containers themselves are often a commodity, the closure becomes an effective way to stand out or differentiate your product. There is increased interest in shape, texture and customization, including changing from a simple one-color logo to more elaborate multi-color decorating and embossing. Enhancements to the actual bottle finish that work with the closure are drawing interest as well. For example, we have a new lightweight Bordeaux bottle that is made in America and features an innovative accessory bead that is added to the finish. The bead facilitates a more accurate screw cap closure application and helps to prevent pull-offs.”  Affordability and versatility have become even more critical in this unprecedented year.

“Because of the COVID-19 situation, we saw an expanded need to provide inexpensive closure options of all types to home winemakers, smaller wineries and even for the hand sanitizer market,” said Stebbins. “As a result, we now stock several new closure solutions, including a hand-applied skirted 30X60 mm capsule and some tamper-evident continuous thread options. These allow smaller producers to offer the convenience of resealable closures at more manageable, lower minimum order quantities without the increased cost of additional application equipment.”

  “The bottom line is one size does not fit all,” said Stebbins. “The bottle finish and contents will ultimately determine what your closure options are. It is important to procure closures from a reputable and knowledgeable vendor who can ensure this compatibility to protect your investment.”