In Fredericksburg, Texas, Becker Vineyards has grown enormously since it released its 1500 cases in 1995. And even after 25 successful years, people still ask, "you make wine in Texas?"
The Texas Hill Country winery now produces 110,000 cases split among 30 separate wines retailing between $22-40 per bottle. Rachel Fanning, Becker’s assistant winemaker and enologist since 2013, explained that what was once a simple operation has exploded into organizing wines kept in 80 tanks, 4500 barrels, and a case goods warehouse spread across six separate buildings. Not surprisingly, growth created complexity exceeding the capability of Becker Vineyard‘s tracking systems. Their old systems had limitations and translation issues.
In the Winery: Before adopting vintrace in 2017, when Becker’s cellar staff proceeded with barrel work, a few might be missing, leading to an instant game of “winery hide and seek” to locate them. Fanning and several staff members would stop whatever work they were doing to search through 6 buildings and several thousand hand-labeled barrels to find the few that went missing. Similar episodes occurred with bottling supplies. Fanning noted that before vintrace, “There was a lot of walking. I always got my steps in.”
In the Vineyard: With growth, grape sourcing became more complex. Becker has estate vineyards, but most fruit comes from the Texas High Plains AVA near Lubbock, a six-hour drive. The needs of each appellation differ: It’s humid near the estate, so vine health necessitates detailed supervision. At the same time, in the distant High Plains, monitoring means taking handwritten notes, then driving six hours back to the winery to transcribe them. That resulted in errors and data loss.
Like any growing winery, Becker Vineyards became a place where separate functions formed and grew, each with knowledgeable, experienced staff. Still, each uses a different language and system to do their work. Think of an environment where the winemakers speak only Russian, accounting speaks only Portuguese, and the lab speaks only German. No amount of experience and good intentions can overcome that language barrier. So, data became siloed, and any task that requires the participation of two or more functions was laborious and error-prone.
Fanning notes that with vintrace, “you have seven different ways to look at something. The lab worker, winemaker, finance have actionable data from whatever way they need to see it.”
Finally, in the vineyard, vintrace provides powerful solutions. Fanning enters data and notes in real-time. On her iPad, vintrace allows her to create an entirely new block while out in the remote High Plains AVA, or directly enter block-specific notes and photos related to vine health in a humid region.
Rachel Fanning, Enologist
Becker Vineyards, Fredericksburg, Texas
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