By: Annie Klodd, University of Minnesota Extension
What role do you see precision agriculture playing in the world of viticulture, and how do we get over the growing pains to make it a reality? These were the key questions addressed during a recent Precision Viticulture Symposium co-hosted by the American Society of Enology and Viticulture and the National Grape Research Alliance.
For many grape growers, precision agriculture may be a totally new concept, while others have been using it, knowingly or unknowingly, for a while. It is an ever-growing field of technology where growers map data across their fields to manage crops more profitably and efficiently. Think soil moisture, plant vigor, pests, and soil nutrient content.
According to Rob Bramley, symposium speaker and a Senior Scientist at CSIRO in Australia, precision agriculture is built on the principle that land is variable. If a variable landscape is all managed the same, some areas will be profitable and others will operate at a loss.
So instead of managing an entire vineyard the same way, what if a grape grower could cater their management to the needs of each part of the vineyard? This is called “precision viticulture (PV).”
For example, a trained grower or advisor can create a vineyard map showing spatial variation in vine health, identifying low-performing areas that need extra attention and cutting costs on areas that need less help.
Simple maps can be created by plotting data that the grower collects on the ground, like from soil samples. In more advanced applications, maps incorporate data collected by satellites, drones, or sensors mounted to tractors and harvesters.
Research on PV has come a long way since the first juice grape yield maps of the 1990s. Still, it has a long way to go. Grape growers are just now starting to adopt precision agriculture, which is already widely used in row crops like corn and soy. The symposium speakers expressed that as the research advances, PV should become increasingly accessible to the average grape grower. To dig into how this might look, let’s start with some of the most promising applications of PV:
How is Precision Viticulture Being Used Today?
Today, researchers, consultants and farmers use app-based mapping software to create maps of important crop traits like soil qualities, yield, pest pressure, and plant health. Here are seven emerging or “future” applications that the symposium speakers highlighted for vineyards specifically:
Vine Vigor: Mapping vine vigor is one of the more basic uses of PV but does require access to drone or satellite imagery. Several companies offer drone and satellite imagery services for the ag sector.
Growers can use vine vigor maps to identify problem areas and improve canopy management.
Variable Rate Fertilizer & Pesticides: I have yet to meet a grape grower who thoroughly enjoys spraying. Growers could use nutrient and pest maps to apply only what is needed, and to vary what is applied across the vineyard based on need. This could be achieved by mapping vine vigor, soil qualities, foliar nutrient concentrations, and weed populations, among other things.
Mapping soil and foliar nutrient data is one application I would recommend for growers who want to dip their toes into PV – it is relatively easy to collect that data, and many of us do already. I talk later about app-based platforms you can use to plot data.
Early Pest Detection: Dr. Katie Gold, Assistant Professor of Grape Pathology at Cornell University, is using hyperspectral imaging to detect locations of key pests early so growers can target them more efficiently and effectively.
Dr. Gold leads a study that uses NASA’s AVIRIS satellite imagery to detect early signs of grapevine leafroll virus in California vineyards. She hopes this technology becomes accessible to growers and aims to expand it to other grape diseases like powdery mildew.
Precision Irrigation: Vinay Pagay and Bruno Tisseyre both discussed exciting research on precision irrigation. That is, mapping vine water status across the vineyard to apply irrigation by zones rather than applying the same amount of water everywhere. Pagay’s group is researching the use of crop water status index and drone-mounted NDVI sensors for this purpose.
Estimating Yield: Mason Earles and Jaco Fourie both spoke about ongoing research on image-based yield estimation. They are deploying sensors through the vineyard to capture images of clusters, to estimate fruit density throughout the vineyard and create yield estimation maps.
If the researchers are able to train the sensors to accurately recognize clusters and cluster size, this could enable more efficient yield estimation for larger vineyards where yield estimation by human crews is too time consuming.
Split Picking: Bramley described one intriguing use of PV, for “split picking.” That is, pricing fruit based on quality in particular areas of the vineyard. By mapping differences in fruit quality, anthocyanins, malic acid, and YAN across the vineyard, growers could identify their highest quality blocks and sell that fruit at premium prices. This is not currently a common practice.
Bramley argued that California wineries grade the fruit once it comes in, making split picking less relevant. However, I would also argue that it has potential in many wine-growing regions of the US where grading practices are not standardized. I could see it playing a role in Minnesota, where I am based.
UV light for disease control: Dr. David Gadoury, plant pathologist at Cornell University, has worked extensively to develop a method to control pathogens with UV light exposure during the night. Thanks to ongoing research efforts, this practice has come a long way over the last 30 years or so.
Currently, Gadoury’s team is finding excellent suppression of powdery mildew and mites using nighttime UV exposure. They have also had good suppression of sour rot based on one year of data. Their data also suggests that UV treatment can suppress downy mildew in a mild year but not a severe year.
They have found no evidence of harmful effects of nighttime UV application on the vine, and have found that it is effective across multiple specialty crops. Read more about this project here.
My personal take-home message was that UV technology is very promising, and equipment manufacturers will need to get on board in order for it to be widely adopted.
Where are we on Adopting Precision Viticulture?
Are you feeling intrigued but don’t know where to begin? You’re not alone. Not too many grape growers have embraced PV yet.
But many feel that this is just the beginning of PV adoption, and some of the speakers cited strong interest in their regions. They feel that the potential for these tools is strong, because of their ability to improve vine management.
Most of the applications described above are not yet fully available, as researchers work to develop them. However, some applications such as yield maps, soil fertility maps, and vine vigor maps are entirely possible for growers willing to give them a try.
One major obstacle is finding the expertise and technical support to make it happen, and learning how to map data on your vineyard. Fortunately, Researchers are also working hard to develop tools that will allow growers to more readily use it.
Terry Bates from the Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension Lab suggested that PV developers work on creating free, user-friendly web-based platforms that growers can use to get started. He and other speakers argued that working with PV-trained vineyard advisors would make this easier as well.
Bates works on the Efficient Viticulture Project and the myEV Platform (my.efficientvineyard.com), where growers can create accounts and collect, organize, map and interpret their own vineyard data. The goal is to make it easy and accessible.
According to Bates, many growers shy away from PV because of the learning curve. Bramley argues that avoiding PV due to the learning curve would be a “missed opportunity” for America’s grape industry.
I will add that some PV applications are much simpler than others, and growers can start small while learning the ropes.
Bates also recommends growers have a goal in mind for what they want to use PV for, rather than just generating (or paying for) cool vineyard imagery and then wondering how to use it.
For instance, if a grower is struggling with soil fertility, they could make it a goal to use PV to refine their nutrient management practices. They could do this by mapping soil and foliar nutrient data and vine vigor across the vineyard, and then altering their fertilizer regimen based on the needs of each zone. As emerging technologies become more accessible, such as the aerial-based nitrogen mapping described by speaker Alireza Pourreza, growers could combine that with their ground-level data to improve their level of information.
Ideally, they could find a consultant trained in precision agriculture to help them get rolling.
One of the biggest takeaways I got from the symposium was that trained viticulture consultants and perhaps even some Extension professionals will likely play a big role in helping growers implement PV in the future.
According to Bruno Tisseyre of L’institut Agro in France, trained advisors are key because they can become experts in the technology. They could provide the equipment and interpret the PV data it generates, allowing growers to focus on all of the other aspects of vineyard management.
The Precision Viticulture Symposium was co-hosted by the American Society of Enology and Viticulture and the National Grape Research Alliance. Funding was provided by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and sponsored by Turrentine Brokerage. The full speaker lineup can be found at https://graperesearch.org/asev-ngra-precision-viticulture-symposium/
By: Tom Payette, Winemaking Consultant
The positive response from the previous article on Cross-contamination has lead to this article as enforcement to the end goal of the possible elimination of cross-contamination. If that article was not on your reading list over the past few months it may be worth reviewing to help understand why sanitation is extremely important.
Winemakers often say winemaking is 95 percent cleaning. In successful wineries this is very nearly true.
This article will broadly cover the cleaning and sanitation principals that a winery should understand in order to keep the winery facility shiny, new looking and microbe free. Do recall as well that pathogens will not grow in wine so all we are doing is fighting off microbes that may affect the quality, aromas and flavor(s) of your wine.
The first principal to understand is that water is the major cleaning agent one has. The second principal is one must have physical cleanliness before attempting to sanitize or sterilize.
This article will go into detail about how water works, the ways to have physical cleanliness, and how to understand sanitation versus sterilization.
Water (non-chlorinated) can be used to physically clean an area. This can be done by using high-pressure water to remove deposits from the surfaces to be cleaned. The other property of water is that it dilutes and dissolves particles. Water has a low surface tension that makes it physically wrap around particles and carry those particles away from the surface to be cleaned. Water is also used to form steam to sterilize surfaces. As one can conclude – water is a major component and essential for proper microbe management!
The water quality must be proper. If the water contains many minerals or it has properties that do not allow the job to be done correctly – it may not work well and may even damage some of the winery equipment. We often add things to water to help it work better.
One example of this is soda ash. Adding soda ash (sodium carbonate) will raise the pH of the water and further lower the surface tension of the water helping it to perform its cleaning function. Always remember that when using a high ph cleanser with water to follow that action with a low pH rinse water. A common winery low pH solution for this application is a citric acid and water solution.
Equipment such as steamers may be damaged by high mineral loads in the water. As the steamer does the job of creating steam it will boil off pure water leaving behind the minerals. Over time and extended use, these minerals begin to build up causing the steamer to become inefficient.
It is for this reason the author recommends the use of distilled water in winery steaming units to eliminate mineral buildup. It is a small cost when one calculates that it takes about 3 gallons of distilled water, or less, to properly steam two 20-inch cartridge filter and a 12 spout filler. At $0.85 per gallon it will cost a winery roughly $2.55, in distilled water costs, to achieve sterility before bottling.
While pursuing a Food Science Degree, one will study sanitation in great depth. From this we learn that a physically dirty surface cannot be sanitized with sanitizing agents. To understand this, we must understand that a sanitizer reacts on the surface with whatever it comes into contact.
Let’s assume one has cleaned a surface but left behind some dirt that has remained on the surface. While one may achieve a brief moment of cleanliness using a sanitizing agent, it is not properly prepared to receive a grape juice or wine product. The sanitized microbes will slough off the surface of the viable bacteria and expose living bacteria ready to grow! For this reason we want to remove all physical dirt before using a sanitizer.
It is also for this reason that stainless steel has become such a large part of our storage vessels for wineries. Stainless steel is easily cleaned physically and it holds up to chemical cleaners. For this reason – please clean your tanks and enjoy the beauties of stainless steel.
Many chemicals come to mind when we want to clean. Be careful to select the proper chemicals.
Do not use soaps or detergents. Although they are great surfactants [lowers the surface tension of water], they are very difficult to rinse from surfaces due to how they lower the surface tension of the water and often residuals remain. These residuals can cause problems in wines and their flavors. Below are the categories of chemicals that are largely used in the wine business in no particular order.
Quaternary Ammonium is used mostly to clean winery floors and walls although sometimes it is used to clean tanks, hoses and equipment. Modern formulations have made these noncorrosive and heat stable while attacking a very broad range of microbes via disrupting their cell wall resulting in death of the microorganism.
High pH Cleaners
High pH cleaners will give the water a slick feeling. This is the action of the lowering of the surface tension making the water seem soapy. Common examples of high ph cleaners are: TSP (tri-sodium phosphate); soda ash (sodium carbonate); NaOH (sodium hydroxide). High pH cleaners will also kill certain bacteria by disrupting the bacteria’s cell wall. Once the cell wall is disrupted the bacteria may die. As mentioned earlier, if using a high pH cleaner always rinse the same surfaces that came in contact with the high pH cleaner with a low pH cleaner. This will prevent any of the unwanted cleaning agents from being introduced into the wine. A common low pH rinse for this application is a solution of citric acid and water. Be sure to rinse the citric from the same surfaces with just water after using that formulation.
Low pH cleaner
A low ph cleaner will also penetrate the cell wall of some bacteria causing them to die. This action happens at approximately a pH of 2.6. Very few low pH cleaners are used in the wine industry except to rinse away the high pH cleaner, usually with citric acid as mentioned in the paragraph above. Larger wineries may use a phosphoric acid solution for its low pH microbe killing power.
Ozone, a strong oxidizer, has strong killing power when used properly. Many vintners find it helpful when using it with barrels that have had a microbial infection. Most agree that once a barrel has a spoilage microbe inside, it is difficult to completely remove or kill the microbes beneath the surface of the wood cells. Ozone is very effective in killing all microbes when it contacts the microbe. Research and be very careful with Ozone use safety wise.
Commonly used in the wine cellar as an everyday tool, winemakers must realize this chemical does little to sterilize and is limited in its sanitizing power. It should always be used in combination with citric acid, as a cleaning agent, since the lower ph water will increase the effectiveness of the sulfur dioxide thereby releasing more sulfur dioxide in the “free form” to be reactive. Winemakers should continue to use this combination realizing it is just a good practice for everyday cleaning but it is gaining us very little toward true microbe killing power.
Iodine / Chlorine
Both of these are strong oxidizers. Caution is expressed when thinking of using these chemicals since they leave residuals when not handled properly. Chlorine has been discouraged from use in wineries due to the possible link with TCA. Iodine has been used in the past as a sanitizer. Rinsing must be performed diligently since Iodine has a strong aroma that may be detected in minute quantities in wine. The author does not use these and does not recommend their use.
Paracetic Acid (PAA)
Paracetic acid is a strong oxidizer that breaks down into water, oxygen and acetic acid. Its use started in the milk and beer industries and is now starting to be used in the wine industry. Special precautions when handling this strong oxidizer are recommended. For those wanting to explore this option, contact a chemical-cleaning representative for applications to the wine industry.
Hot water is a great tool for many applications of cleaning in the winery. An ample hot water supply is great for cleaning crush equipment, filters and tanks. One area where hot water may cause some problems is with pumps and hoses. It can be very hard on them and cause accelerated deterioration of the impellers in the pumps and discoloration and malformation of hoses.
Steam is an excellent sterilization tool prior to bottling but one must be very careful with its use. Steam is very effective in killing all microbes even below the surface of a possible colony buildup on equipment as discussed above.
Alcohol is a great cleaning/sterilizing agent that will kill microbes that it contacts. Most people purchase Everclear™ and use it directly from the container or with a spray bottle. Research has shown that 100% Everclear™ may actually embalm a bacteria or yeast allowing it to become active later when it is a proper media for growth and regeneration. When using alcohol, blend the Everclear™ with 30% water to make the application more lethal to a larger spectrum of microbes.
Sanitation versus Sterilization
Sanitation is a cleaning operation with a bacteria killing agent that will reduce the microbial population but it may not eliminate the complete bacterial load. This reduction may be enough for product stability at certain points of the production. Sterilization is the complete “kill” of all microbes and it is recommended for the bottling equipment, at bottling, to insure the product will remain bacterially stable.
With proper use of water, high ph cleaners, low ph cleaners, sulfur dioxide, 70% ethanol, steam and a medium grade oxidizer, the author believes great wines can be made, bottled and stored soundly if unsanitary conditions are not allowed to get ahead of the winemaker and the cellar staff. If a certain microbe or microbes are allowed to become established, the winemaker may need to review other more pronounced sanitation measures for several years to come. After several years it is possible to have the winery back to a state where one can go back to the normal sanitation measures. The simple message here: Don’t let your winery get dirty. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure or a little time now will save you a lot of time later. Keep up with your sanitation – it is worth it!
By: Becky Garrison
The United States Department of Agriculture defines a cover crop as “a crop generally recognized by agricultural experts as agronomically sound for the area for erosion control or other purposes related to conservation or soil improvement.” The USDA National Resources Conservation Service website offers this concise explanation of the multiple benefits of implementing a cropping system. “They can prevent soil and wind erosion, improve soil’s physical and biological properties, supply nutrients, suppress weeds, improve the availability of soil water and break pest cycles along with various other benefits. The species of cover crop selected along with its management determines the benefits and returns.”
While many vineyards have been utilizing cover crops for years, are they maximizing the poten-tial of this agricultural practice? During the 2020 Oregon Wine Symposium, held virtually from February 16 to 19, 2020, two panels delved into the nuances of what defines high quality soil and the role cover crops play in generating organic soil, focusing particularly on how to best utilize cover crops in the vineyard setting.
At the first panel, “Soils and Cover Crops: Back to Basics,” James Cassidy, Senior Instructor in Soil Science & Sustainable/Organic Agriculture at Oregon State University, opened with a short presentation on Soil 101. He described soil as “rotted” rock and decomposed organic matter. Next, he broke down soil into soil solids (mineral 45%, organic 5%) and pore space (air 20-30%, water 20-30%). Carbon from the atmosphere and energy from the sun transform these materials into soil courtesy of the billions of organisms present in a single pinch of soil.
“Internalize the idea that soil is habitat for everything that is alive on this planet,” Cassidy said.
During irrigation, rain or another precipitation event, gravity pulls the water into the soil’s macropores. As water flows through these macropores, it sticks in the micropores inside the soil and eventually fills with water. Then the soil drains, and there’s air in the soil.
“When the soil is draining, it’s actually breathing,” Cassidy said.
The rate at which water moves into the soil is impacted by various factors, including soil type (texture structure, aggregate stability, hydrodynamic characteristics), topography and morphology of slopes, flow supply (rain intensity, irrigation flow), and the initial condition of the soil’s humidity.
Currently, on Earth, a hectare of productive soil is lost every six seconds. While farmers can’t change their land’s soil type or topography, they can manage for stable aggregates, a wide pore size distribution structure and minimized compaction. Well aggregated, stable soil pulls in water. This means the water goes deeper into the soil instead of producing runoff, which carries away the small particles and organic matter that hold nutrients in the soil.
For every 1% increase in organic matter, soil can store up to 25,000 more gallons of water per acre. In Cassidy’s estimation, cover crops represent the easiest way to add organic matter to the soil. “Cover crops improve the soil structure by punching big holes into it with their roots. When those roots decompose, they stabilize the aggregates so those macro pores stay there a long time and can actually reverse compaction.” In comparison, tillage breaks up the macros, thus shredding all the organic matter that’s connecting and holding the soil together.
How to Choose Cover Crops
At the second panel on cover crops, “Digging Deeper into Cover Crops: What’s Happening in Oregon?” Gordon Jones, Assistant Professor, OSU, Southern Oregon Research & Extension Center, delved into the myriad ways to utilize cover crops in the vineyard. Before planting, Jones recommends that growers clearly define their goals. Is their intention to increase production or profitability, improve soil health or appeal to consumers looking for wines made using sustainable means? When viewed in conjunction with a given vineyard’s particular climate and soil, these goals will inform the type of cover crops that would lead to optimal results.
Perennial crops such as ryegrass and tall fescue have been bred for forage and high yield, and they do require frequent mowing. Legumes like fava beans, white clover and strawberry clover can add nitrogen to the soil. Be mindful when sharing the land with livestock, as Jones addressed a fungus – endophyte – that can be present in certain turf-type cover crop grasses and can be harmful to livestock if grazed.
From an environmental perspective, planting deep-rooted perennial crops can improve soil health and decrease runoff. These crops will sequester carbon that helps to address some climate change concerns and build soil organic matter.
The planting schedule for cover crops varies according to a given region. For example, in a state like Oregon, known for hot, dry summers, many cover crops are planted in the fall to establish their root system before the summer.
The way a field is mowed, irrigated or fertilized will result in different mixtures of species of cover crops dominating. While complex mixtures of cover crops are often planted, Jones said that generally, only a few species within a mixture contribute significantly to the cover crop’s biomass. Over seeding in alleyways can result in an improved cover crop, though one must be mindful that any existing cover crop or weeds can be quite competitive with the newly seeded plants.
When debating to till or not to till, Jones said that tillage could be hard on soil aggregation and the pores in the soil. “If you’re interested in maximizing infiltration and soil health, consider a notill system.”
He added that tillage and herbicide can be used to kill all existing plants, and they are important tools in many growers’ toolboxes. Once the soil is devoid of existing vegetation, one can more successfully establish a cover crop free from unwanted plants. Those opting to farm using organic and low-input means by not using pesticides may need to contend with other plants sprouting alongside their cover crops. Also, self-seeding or self-regenerating winter annuals planted in the fall that go to seed by May and sprout again in the following fall can afford minimal soil disturbance.
In conclusion, Jones pointed to preliminary research in Southern Oregon, Ithaca, New York, and South Australia that suggests actively growing cover crops directly underneath the vine can de-crease the need for under-vine herbicide or tillage. Which species of under-vine cover crop to plant in Oregon is still an open question. The ideal species would be low growing, competitive against weeds, but not too competitive with the vines. Further work needs to be done in evaluating undervine cover crop options before growers add this to their toolbox.
Those looking for professional guidance can hire a consultant such as Rebecca Sweet-Smith of Buzz Cover Crop Seeds and Corridor AgLand Consulting, who provides diverse and organic seed mixes for ecologically minded vineyards and farms in the Pacific Northwest. While not in-volved directly in growing grapevines, Steve Groff, founder of Holtwood, Pennsylvania’s Cover Crop Coaching and author of The Future Proof Farm: Changing Mindsets In A Changing World, can offer assistance to those looking to explore organic ways to mimic nature when growing cover crops.
Also, Amy Bartow with the USDA NRCS Corvallis Plant Materials Center presented an overview of the costshare programs available for cover cropping in vineyards along with examples of their projects to date. She recommended that interested parties get in touch with their local Soil and Water Conservation District to get information about specific programs available in their particular area.
By: Kemp Moyer and Sachi Danish, BPM LLP
For owner-operators of wineries and other closely held businesses, now may be an opportune time to maximize estate planning through the utilization of gifts of ownership interests. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 has been broadly seen as favorable to businesses, high-net-worth individuals and estates, including the temporary doubling of the lifetime federal exemption for gift, estate and generation-skipping taxes, which stands at $11.7 million in 2021.
However, the combination of a new administration, as well as increasing federal deficits in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic fallout and federal response, means the higher lifetime exemption may be in jeopardy. Many in the tax policy and preparation communities are expecting the recently elected Congress and administration to accelerate the rollback of the exemption increase. Sweeping changes have been proposed by the Biden administration and now it is widely considered just a matter of when and how much. Among the potential early targets is the larger estate tax exemption, which will sunset back to pre-TCJA baselines at the end of 2025 without further action from Congress.
Estate and Gift Tax Law
As noted previously, the current gift, estate and generating skipping tax (GST) exemption amount is approximately $11.7 million per individual. This exemption amount is currently required under the law to be cut by 50% in 2026, to about $6 million per person, depending on adjustments made for inflation. This reduction is built into current law, and it has created a use-it or lose-it opportunity for high-net-worth individuals. However, the following Biden proposals are even more dramatic:
• Reduce the estate and GST exemption to $3.5 million and only permit $1 million in tax-free lifetime gifts.
• Increase the estate tax rate significantly from 40% up to a 65% top rate.
• Eliminate the stepped-up basis rules at death. This would be a significant change as a carryover basis may create an income tax at death (“death tax”) or upon later sale on all appreciated property.
• Limit valuation discounts between family members.
• Include grantor trusts in the grantor’s estate and eliminate use of short-term grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs) and sales to intentionally defective grantor trusts (IDGTs).
• Limit duration of GST trusts.
The above proposals make it urgent to address your estate tax planning now, rather than waiting for what the future may bring, although planners must also consider the possibility of retroactive law changes.
Some estate and gift opportunities to consider under current law include:
• Use your annual exclusion gifts of up to $15,000 per person ($30,000 if both parents make gifts to that individual). Over time, these gifts can accumulate into significant amounts. These amounts could be on top of direct payments to a provider for medical services or educational tuition for anyone, related or not, which are not considered gifts.
• Make large gifts of assets with potentially depressed values and subject to discounts. Leverage the current $11.7 million unified credit amount with gifts of fractional interests in real property or ownership interests in a family or closely held business that qualify for valuation discounts. To protect against retroactive changes to the $11.7 million gift exemption amount planners should also consider use of disclaimers, formula gifts, and lifetime qualified terminal interest property (QTIP) trust elections as part of the planning with trusts.
• Make low-interest loans to children. Loans for homes or business opportunities are often very attractive, with August 2021’s Applicable Federal Rates (AFRs) at .19% for loans three years or less, 1.00% for loans more than three years and not more than nine years, and 1.87% for loans more than nine years.
• Gifts and sales to intentionally defective grantor trusts (IDGTs) can be used to transfer cash, securities, business interests, real property and other investment assets to descendants in a tax-beneficial manner. The sale or gift of assets from the parents or grantors to an IDGT is not subject to income tax, because the grantors are treated as having sold the assets to themselves. Only gift tax is due on the transfer. Assets transferred to the IDGT remain in the trust and grow outside the grantor’s estate, allowing them to appreciate tax-free.
Owner-operators of successful businesses likely already have some familiarity with the estate tax. This tax works in conjunction with the federal gift tax, which applies to transfers of property during one’s lifetime. In theory, both estate transfers and gifts made during one’s lifetime are currently taxed at a maximum marginal rate of 40%.
The gift tax annual exclusion allows individuals to gift up to $15,000 per recipient per year tax-free. The lifetime gift tax exemption currently stands at $11.7 million, and this maximum amount represents the sum of all taxable gift, estate, and generation-skipping giving allowed before taxes are due. The temporary nature of the current higher lifetime exemption has created a level of urgency in many estate strategies.
There are proposals in Congress to reduce the estate and GST tax exemption to $3.5 million and the gift tax exemption to $1 million, limit valuation discounts for family businesses, and trigger income tax when gifts and transfers of appreciated property exceed $1 million. Political analysts expect these proposals to be among the Democrats’ top priorities, not to just increase taxes but to redistribute wealth in our country. This puts some pressure on larger estates that may be affected, including many winery owners. To utilize the higher lifetime exemption before it expires, many high-net-worth individuals are acting urgently to accelerate their estate planning strategies to avoid a much greater potential estate tax burden.
Winery Ownership Estate Planning
Even in an increasingly corporatized wine space, many wineries continue to be family-owned businesses. Many owners of closely held wineries, desiring to keep their legacy in the family, already intend to pass down the business upon their death to their children or other inheritors. The increasing likelihood of a rollback on the lifetime exemption means winery owners may want to consider transferring at least some portion of their business in the near future via gifts, or sales to IDGTs rather than waiting until death. Gifts and sales of appreciated assets may trigger immediate to grantor trusts are
While certain wine industry segments have recovered to or even exceeded their pre-COVID sales, many closely held wineries are experiencing challenges such as reduced tasting room visits and lower sales to restaurant customers due to COVID-19, which often contributes to a lower business valuation. A lower valuation means a smaller gift in the eyes of the IRS, and less estate taxes or even avoiding them altogether.
The benefits of any reduction in business value due to the pandemic and the availability of the favorable tax rules related to grantor trusts may not be here for long. This is a unique opportunity for winery owners to take care of what they were already planning to do down the line, while taking advantage of historically favorable tax conditions. Estate planning is a process, not a one-time trust agreement, and as you become more educated in the process through your trusted advisors including your attorney, accountant, wealth and insurance advisors, your ability to make the key decisions in the process will become easier.
Kemp Moyer is Certified Valuation Analyst and a Director in the Advisory practice leading the Firm’s Valuations and Appraisals team at BPM LLP.
Sachi Danish is a Director in Tax Private Client Services and leads the Estate & Trust practice for BPM.
By: Susan DeMatei
We all have a love/hate relationship with online reviews. We get angry when someone points out our flaws on Yelp, but we look for multiple reviews when considering something on Amazon.
Four Reasons You Should Care About Online Reviews
Let’s start with your consumer. Chances are, if you’re a winery and you’re selling mid-priced wine, your consumers fall into the Baby Boomer and Generation X demographics. (The 2021 Silicon Valley Bank reported that Boomers and Gen Xers account for 71% of wine consumption.)
However, this won’t be the case for long. If you consider the SIZE of each generation, Baby Boomers are aging out, and GenXers aren’t that big of a group of individuals. The oldest Millennials turn 40 this year. So very soon – as in the next five years – our targets will be Millennials.
The shift is significant because of the vast difference in values between Boomers and Millennials. Boomers are the responsible generation and did what they could to justify purchases with tangible data like scores. They also liked outward recognition and status to validate that they made the right decisions. Millennials, on the other hand, tend to look for a purpose or meaning behind their products. Ideally, they search for companies and products with detailed backstories that offer intrinsic value to make them feel good about themselves and the purchase. And they care about what their cohorts think.
So, over the next 5-10 years, we will witness a massive shift in marketing, and one of the major transformations will be in the area of influence. While today’s wine consumers are widely influenced by the established press or reviews, the consumers of tomorrow care about what peers say – even if they’re anonymous peers.
The second compelling reason is the sheer number of review sites and our reliance on them for purchase validation. It’s already evident that we’re groomed to look for ratings and reviews before we buy. Here is a brand-new ranking of the top 10 review sites based on searches. You can see here that these sites get millions of views a month.
A third reason to care about online reviews is Google. Reviews appear in, and help, Google search ranking. And incidentally, they also appear in search results by Alexa in voice-search. The number and quality of your reviews directly contribute to, or inhibit, people’s ability to find you and your products.
The best strategy here is to harvest Google reviews. Google supports Google. Google wants you to use its tools. So, it makes sense that Google cares if you have your Google My Business Page set up and that you’re collecting reviews. In addition to nepotism, it’s good business because Google will see that you’re a valid business and will have more credibility returning your company and product in search results.
The fourth reason you should care about review sites is because your customers care about review sites. 92% to 97% of customers look for or read a review before doing business with a company. 80% of us trust reviews by strangers just as highly as a reference from our friends. 72% of us look for only positive reviews, and 86% will not do business with those with negative reviews. (Clutch.co)
And it is surprising how quickly comfort levels fall when you go from five to one-star ratings. 94% of us will use a business with a four-star rating, but only 14% will consider a two-star rated business.
My advice is to be familiar with what people say about you. Search your brand. Know where you and your wine show up and what feedback you’re receiving.
Tools to Help
Ok, but how can you efficiently monitor all those online review channels. Especially when you already have your hands full trying to run your business’s day-to-day without scouring Yelp and Google for new posts. Fortunately, there are some reputation management tools you can use to help out.
The easiest tool for tracking any mention of your company or product online is Google Alerts. This is a free search that lets you create daily alerts for any mentions of your brand online. Enter the name of your brand or product in the search bar to see who is talking about you. Then you can create a constant alert to get results emailed to you. The downside is it can be tough to filter the information out in an intelligent way. For instance, when I worked with Opus One, I was reminded daily how many products and companies contained “Opus.” That said, it’s a free, easy tool. If you’re a small winery on a time crunch with a limited budget, Google Alerts is worth your time.
ReviewPush is an excellent tool if you do have a small budget and want to take it one step further. With this service, for $89 a month you can create alerts for over 20 different review sites and have them sent to your inbox. Even more timesaving is a feature that allows you to respond direct to reviews from within those email alerts. This alone might be worth the cost. You can also involve an extended team with distributed reports and access to dashboards. So if you have multiple players in your tasting room or wine club, this might be an efficient way to have the entire team monitor and response quickly.
There are many other tools in this space that also fall into reputation management. So in addition to looking at reviews, they can monitor what anyone is saying about you on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. These are pricier options and typically involved working out your needs with a sales rep.
So hopefully this gave you some incentive to include reputation management as part of your marketing strategy, and some tools to help. In the next article we’ll talk about how to work with your tasting rooms to request reviews – it’s not as scary as it sounds. But until then, start to pay attention to where your customers are trying to communicate about you. Start thanking and replying to them if you aren’t already and take the view that feedback as gift to help you improve and delight future customers.
Susan DeMatei is the President and Nathan Chambers is an Account Director at WineGlass Marketing, a full-service direct marketing firm working within the wine industry in Napa, California. www.wineglassmarketing.com
By: Nan McCreary
When John and Sandra Zahoudanis founded Demetria Estate near Los Olivos, California, in 2006, their goal was to honor John’s Greek heritage and family tradition of farming and careful stewardship of the land. To achieve that objective, they committed to farm sustainably and biodynamically, using phases of the planets and the moon to govern farming practices. These practices, and a natural approach to winemaking, have led to highly-rated wines and a reference to Demetria Estate as “one of the hidden jewels in California.”
While biodynamic farming principles are not new—the Old Farmer’s Almanac has been recommending “planting by the moon” since 1792—Demetria Estate was one of the first in Santa Barbara County to embrace the concept. “Biodynamic winemaking is our passion,” the Zahoudanis’ son, Alexis, who now runs the winery, told The Grapevine Magazine. “We are trying to put back in the earth what we’ve taken out, and we’re doing it in the most natural way possible while incorporating the lunar calendar.”
Demetria, named for John and Sandra Zahoudanis’ daughter, sits on 213 picturesque acres above Foxen Canyon in the Santa Ynez Valley. The altitude of the property ranges from 1,100 to 1,450 feet, making it one of the highest in the appellation. When the Zahoudanises purchased the hillside vineyard from the well-respected Andrew Murray Family, it was planted exclusively with Rhône varieties. Today, the family farms 43 hillside acres of Rhône grapes, including Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Picpoul Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Cinsault, Counoise, Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, plus small plantings of Tempranillo and the Greek Assyrtiko. Demetria also produces Burgundy-style wines, sourcing organic Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris grapes from select cooler-climate vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley.
From the beginning, the Zahoudanis family has farmed sustainably and biodynamically. Their first winemaker, Michael Roth, now of Lo-Fi Wines in nearby Los Alamos, was a big proponent of natural wines, as is current winemaker Ryan Roark. Philippe Armenier, the renowned biodynamic expert from the Rhône Valley, guides Demetria’s farming practices. They treat the vineyard as a living organism, with soil, plants and animals working together to promote health and vitality. Farming is entirely organic, meaning no chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides. For example, sheep on the property eat weeds and fertilize the soil during late winter and early spring when the vines are dormant. Demetria also plants cover crops, including nitrogen-rich legumes and daikon radishes, to protect the topsoil and nourish the vines. The major pest, according to Zahoudanis, is leafhoppers, which are controlled using natural predators such as ladybugs and organic, biologically-approved pesticides, including sprays containing fermented and herbal teas.
From pruning to planting to harvest, vineyard tasks are determined by a biodynamic calendar, which categorizes days into four groups—flower, fruit, leaf and root—based on lunar cycles and astrological signs. Each day also coincides with one of the four elements of nature—earth, water, fire and air. Root days, for example, are when the moon travels through any of the Earth signs (Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo) and are best for planting, replanting and pruning. Fruit days are associated with the Fire constellations (Aries, Sagittarius, Leo) and are ideal for harvesting crops. For some, planting according to lunar cycles is somewhat of a mystery, but proponents consider this an attempt to harmonize with nature to maximize yields and keep the vineyard sustainable.
“Our consultant, [Armenier], works with our vineyard manager and vineyard foreman to care for the vines,” Zahoudanis said, “and I let the wines speak for themselves. The fruit is really gorgeous and expresses itself beautifully as a more natural product.”
Demetria applies the principles of biodynamics and sustainability in the cellar as well as in the vineyard. “We know our vineyard well, and we know when to pick so we don’t have to manipulate the fruit,” Zahoudanis said. “We use minimal sulfur, and we don’t add acid or tannins. We don’t want a chemical experiment going on in our winery.”
Demetria relies on native yeasts to start fermentation and does not inoculate for malolactic fermentation. Zahoudanis said they filter their wine simply by racking and will only apply fining if the tannins are too harsh, and then they will use bentonite, a natural product. Ultimately, he explained, the goal is to “produce wines that are complex, while being food-friendly and approachable, not just for the connoisseur, but for the everyday wine lover that lives in all of us.”
Demetria has achieved that goal. Its wines—and its beautiful Mediterranean-style winery with panoramic views of the vine-covered hills—have received enthusiastic reviews from critics and everyday consumers alike. Recent awards include 2016 Rosé – “Year’s Best Rosé! Wine & Spirits Magazine; 2014 “Cuvee Sandra” Pinot Noir – 94 points, Wine Enthusiast and 93 points, Wine Spectator; 2014 “North Slope” Syrah, 91 points, Wine Enthusiast; 2013 Estate Chardonnay (Santa Barbara County) – 93 points, Vinous; and 2013 “Cuvee Matia” Grenache – 91 points, Wine Advocate.
Even with a barrel full of awards, Demetria is not resting on its laurels. Since establishing the Demetria Estate, the family has been changing the composition of the vineyard, uprooting much of the once-predominant Syrah, and planting grapes such as Mourvèdre to produce more interesting blends. A favorite is Cuvee Constantine, a red blend styled after the famous Chateauneuf du Pape reds made from Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Syrah. Another favorite is Cuvee Papou, which includes Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Roussanne. The name “Papou” is Greek for grandpa and honors Demetria’s founder John Zahoudanis, a grandfather who passed away in 2020. Demetria also releases a sparkling version of the Cuvee, produced at Rack & Riddle in Healdsburg, California. “We really like the sparkling wine,” Zahoudanis said, “but it’s not our forte. It’s too time-consuming. We might as well give our grapes to folks who know how to make it.”
Demetria has recently begun producing a wine from the Rhône grape Picpoul, which is gaining traction among wine aficionados all over the world. Beton Blanc (beton means “concrete white” in French) is 95% Picpoul Blanc and 5% Assyrtiko and is aged and fermented in concrete eggs. “Concrete is a neutral vessel, so you don’t get flavors like you do from oak barrels,” Zahoudanis said. “But because it’s semi-porous, you do get oxygenation, which enhances the minerality that already exists in a lot of varietals.”
According to Zahoudanis, wine can be made quickly in concrete eggs: the Beton Blanc is ready five months after harvest and can be bottled by February.
Currently, Demetria makes 6,000 to 9,000 cases of wine annually. “We can’t plant more because we’re limited by geographical constraints,” Zahoudanis said. “We sell some of our fruit, so we could scale that back and produce 10,000 cases, but generally, we’re good where we’re at(sic).”
Zahoudanis does envision planting more.
Tempranillo, a grape that’s doing exceptionally well on his property. Whatever he endeavors to do, if the past is prologue, the future looks very bright for Demetria Estate. “We’re just glorified farmers,” he said. “We’re beholden to Mother Nature, and yes, winemaking requires knowledge and art, but it’s not rocket science. If you don’t over-manipulate it, you can make very good wine.”
To learn more about Demetria Estate, visit…www.demetriaestate.com
By: Gerald Dlubala
The grapevines that a grower depends on for their livelihood are vulnerable to temperature changes that can damage the buds, fruit and even the vine. One of the most unfavorable temperature conditions is frost. Most frost conditions are radiation frosts, characterized by dry, cold air masses that settle into an area with the dangerous combination of no noticeable wind or cloud cover with a low dew point. Temperatures can be relatively warm throughout the day, with the ground retaining heat. As the sun sets, the ground warmth radiates to the upper atmosphere, allowing colder air to fall and settle into the pockets of space now available at lower elevations. Proper frost protection measures can help avoid damage and make the difference between a profitable or unprofitable year.
Shooting The Breeze And Fighting Vineyard Frost
“Wind machines play a major role in protecting your vineyard from the elements of frost,” said Dean Hauff, Marketing Manager for H.F. Hauff Company Inc. “It only takes about 20 minutes before frost starts to damage to your vines, and it’s absolutely critical to protect the primordia bloom. It’s the difference between successful and unsuccessful yields. The primary bloom produces the highest quality fruit, and wind machines help protect the high-quality grapes needed to make premium wine.”
Hauff told The Grapevine Magazine that his Chinook wind machines work independently without any other means of auxiliary heat about 90% of the time. The only time a wind machine, or any protection strategy, struggles to be effective is in the rare occurrence of an advective freeze condition. An advective freeze happens when large, arctic air masses replace the warm air and are associated with moderate to strong winds, no temperature inversion and low humidity.
“Warm air rises, and cold air sinks,” said Hauff. “We all know that, but at some point, the warm air stratifies in the atmosphere, creating an inversion layer that holds in the warmer air. Wind machines work by pulling the warmer, more buoyant air from that inversion layer and mixing it with the colder, denser air on the ground floor. The fan shaft of the Chinook’s top gear head is built with a six-degree angle of attack, enabling the fan to pull the warmer air from higher altitudes, estimated to be approximately 350 feet up into the atmosphere. The movement of air combined with the mixing of the warmer and cooler air raises the temperature three to five degrees Fahrenheit on average, a notable difference.”
H.F. Hauff’s Chinook wind machines are useful year-round in vineyards. They help protect the fruit buds in the spring, the leaf structure in fall, allowing for the continuation of Brix development in the grape berry, and they help protect the vine from excessive cold in winter. The first commercial wind machines were sold in 1937. Since then, research and development have continued to improve coverage, serviceability, performance and ease of operation.
“They really are a lifetime investment,” said Hauff. “Wind machines are long-lasting, require only minimal service, yet they retain a high resale value if needed. They’ve allowed vineyards to expand their crop production by transforming frost-prone areas of their farms into fully useable crop-producing areas. Using wind machines in the vineyard lessens the burden, anxiety and stress that goes along with the risky business of growing crops. And with tighter profit margins, it’s always important to produce a marketable crop every growing season.”
Today, wind machines are more economical and easier to maintain and service than ever before. They’re considered one of the best tools in protection against radiant frost, lessening and sometimes eliminating the need for extra heaters, smudge pots and water. Wind machines work to bring up the overall vineyard temperatures on average three to five degrees Fahrenheit above the critical temperature point, even in winter temperatures of -15 degrees Fahrenheit or less. Critical temperatures vary depending on the varietal and the stage of development of the vine. The more advanced the stage of development, the less the plant tissue will handle below the 32 degrees Fahrenheit mark.
“Our Chinook wind machines use propane, diesel, natural gas or electric,” said Hauff. “The propane units burn about 13 gallons of fuel per hour, and the diesel units use about five and a half gallons per hour. One Chinook wind machine effectively covers 15 acres of fruit and trees and up to 18 acres of vines or vine plantings. They can start and stop automatically and can even be controlled and monitored remotely through telemetry via your cell phone, computer or tablet, no matter your location.”
Wind Where You Need It
“As to placement, we map out and locate each of our wind machines individually, either on paper or in person,” said Hauff. “Our goal is to maximize fan coverage in the vineyard without going outside of the specified boundaries. We protect the lowest ground first, as the coldest air will naturally settle there. Then, we account for natural drift and locate our wind machines 40 to 60 feet into the direction of that natural drift. We also feature special models for uniquely contoured or sloping grounds. Our Chinook fan propeller extends coverage an additional 100 to 150-foot radius beyond competing products, and the unique and exclusive trailing edge wedge of our Chinook fan propellers increases the velocity of the air and widens the sector angle of coverage from 47 to 49 degrees out to 80 degrees.”
Hauff said that ice nucleation begins to form after four minutes of no air movement under normal radiation frost conditions. Chinook fans start protecting the fruit bud and plant after three and a half minutes. In addition, Chinook’s more comprehensive sector angle coverage mixes air in the horizontal and vertical plane, providing additional plant tissue protection from the ground up in even, uneven or up to four degree sloped areas with no special add-on equipment needed.
Hauff also offers a model that raises and lowers to the ground via hydraulic cylinders to eliminate the need for climbing and allow more accessible and safer servicing and maintenance. Annual recommended preventative maintenance consists of changing oil, checking the gearboxes, and greasing the tower and fan. Hauff said that this is usually accomplished in under an hour and requires no specific skill or unique expertise.
Grapevines In The Mist: Battling Frost With Misting Machines
Another method to thwart the harmful effects of frost is through a technique involving misters and targeted directional spray. Resource West, Inc. offers humidification systems to optimize and maximize operations and serve multiple purposes within many industries, including vineyards and wineries. Their thermodynamic humidification systems protect vineyards from adverse weather conditions ranging from extreme heat through frost and freezing temperatures. The units add humidity into the air when needed or provide cooling for crops during extreme heat situations. These humidification systems give vineyard managers better crop control while providing winemakers better aging control over their products. The system can be successfully used indoors in barrel and aging houses and outdoors throughout the vineyard.
“Our humidification systems work by 3x convective dilution (thermophoresis), velocity control for droplet trajectory and droplet size control,” said Robert Ballantyne Jr., Senior Vice President, Principal Engineer, and Atomic and Molecular Spectroscopist for Resource West Inc. “Our larger, outdoor systems offer surface tension control for proper wetting of soil or foliage to fit the current environmental conditions and offer protection from frost, damaging cold or extreme heat.”
Ballantyne Jr said RWI’s humidification systems get positioned in a vineyard’s higher elevations, allowing the cooling process to cascade down the slopes. “We cover large acreage, but for the best use, a civil engineering plan should be worked out to discover the best placement of the units to realize the greatest effectiveness of the systems. We determine the optimum number of units to locate within your vineyard through thorough questionnaires and detailed weather analysis.”
A misting humidification system allows water droplets to freeze and coat any new or green exposed plant tissue, providing a protective coat for that new tissue against frost conditions. Experts recommend providing a steady or continuous stream of droplets for maximum protection when conditions remain below freezing.
“In addition to frost protection, our units provide a nice cooling effect from the evaporation that naturally takes place,” said Ballantyne Jr. “Heat relief from our systems protects crops in temperatures ranging up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. And since the cooling process is physics-based, the success rate is 100%. The decision to do it at that point is usually a cost-benefit decision, based on cost and the amount of acreage covered by the units.”
Easy To Own, Easy To Use, And Easy To Maintain
Ballantyne Jr. said that many clients prefer a rent-to-own option when choosing a humidification unit. RWI always performs the analysis and engineering tasks needed before purchase, but the systems are fully functional and generate benefits on a year-round basis. The number of benefits gained by year-round use varies based on the client’s geographic location.
“Maintenance and training are non-factors in choosing our systems for your vineyard,” said Ballantyne Jr. “We recommend that our units get an annual power washing, and the training involves understanding your vineyard’s elevation changes and how cooled air will flow and sink with varying increases in density. With RWI’s systems, you gain a partner in crop protection and enhanced product quality. If you are a client, we work with you to continuously improve performance and maximize your return on investment. We are proud to offer the most efficient systems on the market, and our engineering staff is always available to help ensure the highest return for our clients.”
Inside the winery, where humidity is also critical, RWI’s humidification systems aid in controlling the barrel aging process, giving winemakers better control of the quality of their final product. Benefits of increased control are more effective management of angel share losses, improved barrel loss conditions, and enhanced quality and consistency of wine, ultimately leading to better financial performance.
Like a Warm Hug: Wrapping Vines as Protection from Cold
Can something as simple as wrapping your vines in a cover protect them from frost? Two estates in the Anjou-Saumur region of France have participated in frost protection trials, using a common backyard tactic for protecting tender vegetation. Monitored by the National Institute for origin and quality, grapevines were wrapped in a P30 type winter cover to determine if it protected the vines in frost conditions. Complete frost protection was reported in the 2020 growing season. In 2021, Mother Nature provided even more opportunities to test the process as recorded temperatures dropped below freezing several times over four weeks. Again, the results were very positive, as the wraps reduced frost damage significantly. Unprotected vines suffered nearly a 90% loss, whereas protected vines experienced only a 10% loss. Another grower used a double layer of fleece as their wrap of choice and again showed success, recording up to a four-degree difference in the covered vs. uncovered areas.
However, the Institute warns that although it looks promising, more research is needed to understand the full scope of how wrapping affects the grapevines, not only externally but also within the vines’ structure, before they issue a recommendation on the future viability for this type of protection on a widespread basis.
It is important now more than ever to promote your winery to both potential clients and other industry professionals. Promoting your winery in your community can increase your exposure and bring in more business. We’ve put together a list of a few ways to reach out to potential clients and partners in your community.
5 promotional ideas
By joining local organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, the Visitor Bureau and other business groups in your area, you can attend events and meet other business owners. This gives you the opportunity to start developing important networking relationships that can lead to more business. You can host an after-hours event at your venue for members of these organizations to showcase your space and offerings.
Invite leaders at corporations and small businesses to visit your venue. On the invitation, highlight your venue has ample space and is equipped for luncheons, company parties, team building, and meetings. Host a networking luncheon for these executives, so they can learn more about your venue while also meeting other leaders in the community.
Seek out organizations such as Events in America and join conversations. You can self-publish an article regarding relevant industry information for venues. You can then share it on your website, in your email newsletter and on social media. This increases your credibility and positions you as an expert in the venue arena.
If there are convention centers, exhibit halls, museums or other venues that hold large trade shows and other events in your area, develop a relationship with key leadership at those places. Find ways you can host an off-site luncheon, dinner or after-hours event at your venue for attendees of events held elsewhere. You can even suggest catering for the event.
Establishing relationships with event planners can propel your business forward. Event planners can be your key to booking more events. Invite the top event planners in your area to experience a night in your space. At the event, give tours of your venue, present live cooking demonstrations, offer wine and specialty drinks, serve dinner and provide a delectable dessert bar. This evening just may be a catalyst to future conversations with event planners and possibly lead to you becoming a preferred venue for many of them.
We hope these tips help you attract more clients to your venue who should also think about event insurance.
Markel® offers event liability insurance to hosts and honorees, providing coverage such as property damage to the venue or injury to a guest. Up to $2 million in event liability insurance can be purchased by your client from Markel any time at least 1 day before the event. Policies start as low as $75.
By offering Markel Event Insurance, it will not only help protect your clients, but it can also help protect you by potentially decreasing your own business liability risk for accidents due to negligence of the event host or honoree. Markel Event Insurance is an easy and affordable solution for your clients – a free quote takes only a few minutes online or on the phone – turning you into a one-stop-shop for your clients.
To learn more, please visit markelinsurance.com/event or call 1-855-480-9757.
This document is intended for general information purposes only. The content of this document is made available on an “as is” basis, without warranty of any kind. Markel does not assume any obligation to update any information herein, or remove any information that is no longer accurate or complete. Furthermore, Markel does not assume any liability to any person or organization for loss of damage caused by or resulting from any reliance placed on that content.
Coverage is underwritten by Markel American Insurance Company and policyholder services are provided by the underwriting manager, Markel Service, Incorporated, national producer license # 27585, in California d/b/a Markel Insurance Services, license # 0645481. Terms, conditions, and exclusions apply. Insurance and coverage are subject to availability and qualifications and may not be available in all states.
© 2021 Markel Service, Incorporated. All rights reserved.
By: Cheryl Gray
Inside every grape is the flavor upon which crush season depends. Capturing that flavor is a skill that every vineyard around the world strives to master.
From traditional methods to the latest technology, wineries have a singular goal in mind: extracting the very best from a grape crop nurtured during the past year.
The Pellenc Group is a global manufacturer of equipment and tools used in viticulture. Its subsidiary in the United States, Pellenc America, is headquartered in Santa Rosa, California. The company’s technologically advanced products make it a leader in the industry and help wineries get the most from their grape crops.
One of Pellenc’s innovations is Smart Glass, a connected sensor used to transfer wine, automatically shutting off when complete. The Smart Glass receives information either from a remote control or Pellenc’s pump pilot module and alerts the operator whenever there is a change in the liquid. Applications include not only liquid transfer but also blending, cold settling and gas detection. Smart Glass touts cost-effectiveness in that it improves productivity by facilitating automated transfers, freeing up workers to do other tasks. It also promotes reduced water consumption and wine loss. The product’s year-round multiple applications, including water flushing and flotations, also help save time and money.
Another time-saving product from Pellenc is Smart Oak, is an automated tool with a user-friendly interface. Instead of the weeks it normally takes to complete oaking, Smart Oak is designed to reduce that to just a few days. The system includes a soaking vat, pump and built-in sensors, the latter of which manages the speed, control and successful repetition of the entire oaking process. Smart Oak allows wineries to use wood chips, staves and blocks to achieve the finished wine product. It also eliminates the need to purchase and store barrels.
Pellenc’s Flash Détente is a two-step thermodynamic process that reduces fermentation time from two weeks to three days and increases yield by 3 to 4%. The first step heats grapes, juice, wine or lees to 170 F, allowing wineries to eliminate pyrazine and any green pepper taste while achieving enhanced color extraction. The grapes are then pushed into a vacuum chamber, where the water inside the fruit quickly turns to steam, instantly blasting the skin, which releases tannins and anthocyanins.
Finally, the Pellenc Smoke Taint Mitigation protocol is a combination of Flash Détente operations and enzymatic macerations. Combining the two gives wineries the ability to treat tainted berries before fermentation without stripping the finished wines of their character and flavors.
While new technology is helping wineries reduce costs and maximize crop yields for crush season, the deadly coronavirus and lingering drought continue to be tough challenges even for the most experienced winemakers.
Just ask Penelope Gadd-Coster, the award-winning winemaking consultant for Rack and Riddle Custom Wine Services in Sonoma County, California. She said that many of the safety steps Rack and Riddle put in place last year to protect against COVID-19 remain.
“Well, just when we thought we might be over masks, they are back! Many things will be similar to last year: masks indoors, visitors will need to be masked, still need an appointment for meetings, Zoom will still reign as the communication tool.”
These are just a few of the strategies that Rack & Riddle has deployed to operate safely during the pandemic. With the tonnage of grapes it processes each year, the company has incorporated technology to accommodate some of its workloads.
“Rack & Riddle has invested in some automation that is allowing us to keep steady staffing. For example, tirage bins are filled by robots. This was a task that was done by seasonal workers in the past,” said Gadd-Coster.
As for the drought plaguing California and elsewhere, Gadd-Coster told The Grapevine Magazine that growers are being forced to take drastic measures to conserve water for this year’s crush season.
“The drought is a bigger change as Healdsburg is having to drop [usage] by 40%. Businesses are having to come up with ways to make this happen as well. For the vineyards, [it’s] either recycled water or no water for vines unless the growers filled reservoirs before the restrictions. Many thought that harvest would be early due to the drought, but it is actually coming later than average in many areas.”
Other grape-growing regions, including the Pacific Northwest, have also suffered from extreme heat. Richard Hoff, Director of Viticulture for the renowned Mercer Ranches in Washington State’s Yakima Valley, said that the high temperatures have impacted their crush season schedule.
“As far as harvest impacts, due to the 110 F, 115 F heatwave we had, grapes are ripening quickly, and we expect a somewhat early harvest.”
Gadd-Coster added that supplies and equipment are harder to come by as the businesses that provide them are tackling some of the same obstacles as their vineyard and winery clients.
“Equipment and supplies are taking longer. That still hasn’t changed much yet. And some things are just not available–long wait times. This was the case with some of our winemaking additives, some packaging items.”
John Derrick is Vice President of Vineyards for Mercer Ranches. He says there has been significant lag time for other pieces that are critical to a successful crush season.
“The supply chain for parts is just as bad for grape equipment and supplies. Finding and hiring new employees is definitely a big struggle this year. We are lucky in that we utilize H2A and do not foresee any people issues at this time.”
The H2A program allows American companies that meet strict regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the U.S. to fill temporary agricultural jobs. Many crush seasons depend upon these workers. However, some wineries are increasingly looking to technology to replace manual labor for specific tasks.
Sorting fruit is one of those jobs where technology can step in to help maximize results. John Felice, Vineyard & Winery Equipment & Product Specialist for Pellenc, points to the manufacturer’s Vision Optical Sorter as a solution.
“The Vision-2 features the best optical eye in the industry combined with the best software to produce the highest level of quality consistently throughout the harvest. The cleated belt holds the fruit from moving around and allows the Vision-2’s optical system to determine what it keeps and what it rejects. You can set the Vision-2 to keep or remove raisins and remove fruit that does not meet a certain size or color level. With today’s labor shortage, the Vision-2 will control up to six other machines on the receiving and sorting line. This level of automation allows you to run the optical line with one to two people.”
Developing a Crush Pad
Equipment and supplies for crush pads are critical components for a successful crush season. Experts say that coordinating with knowledgeable companies makes a big difference for wineries developing a crush pad.
The Vinter’s Vault helps wineries of all sizes solve the dilemma of exactly how to execute a crush pad. With two locations in Paso Robles and Temecula, California, and a third in Texas, the company’s reach is global, including clients located throughout the U.S. and in Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, China, Nova Scotia and Indonesia. The Vinter’s Vault works with several manufacturers to provide wineries with equipment such as destemmers, presses, tanks, lift conveyors, sorting and vibrating tables. Ryan Horn is the company’s President.
“We do full crush pad set-ups and often help clients with their designs. We commonly do full design layouts for new and expanding wineries where we can design and plot the flow of work for their view and to fit their needs, desires and location,” said Horn. “For crush pad equipment, we are most known for the Athena Presses, which are very state-of-the-art central membrane presses that are faster, more gentle and more efficient than any press on the market. Our IMMA crush pad equipment is also well known.”
Pellenc also deploys a design and sales team to work with wineries worldwide to develop crush pads, including wineries in California, Texas, the eastern United States, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and South Africa. Felice said that Pellenc is there from beginning to end.
“Pellenc design engineers and salespeople will work with the winery team to gather the necessary information and put a proposal together with CAD drawings to meet the demands of the winery with throughput and efficiency in mind.”
Companies that provide equipment and supplies for crush season agree that there is no cookie-cutter approach to servicing their vineyard and winery clients. Among other things, 24/7 service and technical support are high on the list of reputable firms. Experts say those are the companies that understand that fruit won’t wait.
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