It is challenging for many wineries to find cellar staff for harvest. Like most winemakers with too much to do and not enough support, harvest can often feel overwhelming.
On a mission to improve productivity
For Keith Emerson, Head Winemaker at Vineyard 29 in St. Helena, California, sleep deprivation and late night planning were a daily occurrence during harvest to stay ahead.
“After a long harvest day followed by kids’ homework and bedtime stories, sitting down to write the next day’s Work Orders was a battle,” Keith explained. “It was too easy to make mistakes while planning pump-over lists for a 350 ton winery when you’re tired and have 101 other things on your mind.”
With their current processes failing them, Keith and Assistant Winemaker Tim Mills set out on a mission to improve productivity through cloud-based winemaking software. Their wish list included data integrity and accessibility across all devices – anywhere, anytime.
Keith’s strategy was to eliminate unnecessary tasks and optimize processes wherever possible. He invested in automated pump-over technology and searched for software that eliminated manual calculations and improved record-keeping.
It was a lot to wish for; however, a solution presented itself in vintrace. vintrace has the experience, features, and support staff Vineyard 29 needed to leap to a modern, mobile-enabled winemaking system. vintrace’s software also communicates to TankNet through an API gateway that enables data to flow between the two systems, helping to reduce the risk of errors due to double-handling.
Getting started with vintrace was easy. Keith received a preloaded database with his bulk wine statistics, tank numbers and volumes, barrel types, lot codes and more. Tim was a fan of vintrace’s online tutorials, which he could study at his convenience. “Overall, we’ve found vintrace to be very intuitive,” Keith exclaimed. “And best of all, the vintrace support team is only an email or phone call away and are always ready to help with a live screen share if we need.”
From overwhelmed to organized
vintrace’s wine production software has contributed to an overall improvement in data quality at Vineyard 29. “We enter data into vintrace when it is fresh in our heads, making the process faster and more efficient,” Keith noted. Vineyard 29 can record data into vintrace from anywhere and on any device, including mobile and tablet. By doing so, they have significantly reduced paperwork and data entry backlogs that can be as much as one week’s work during the peak of harvest.
In the lab, vintrace improved Vineyard 29’s reporting by eliminating the need for their Lab Technician to create reports. “We enter data directly into vintrace as we run the analyses and see those results immediately,” Keith explained. “Even if I am offsite in the vineyard or elsewhere, I can see results as they are entered back at the winery. Tim doesn’t have to stop what he is doing to prepare and send me a summary – It’s a huge time saver for both of us!”
These time-saving efficiencies resulted in Vineyard 29 reducing their seasonal labor costs by around 50%. Keith breezed through harvest with two interns, compared to 4-5 in previous years, and still had more time to do valuable work in the vineyard and winery.
Better harvests with vintrace
Keith is investigating the advantages of vintrace’s other built-in integrations with lab equipment and outside laboratories to reduce data entry further. “Optimization is key,” said Keith. “The more we can improve our processes, the more time we can dedicate to winemaking while reducing harvest costs on expenses such as labor.”
“vintrace has given me more time to be a winemaker, to walk the vineyards, and to taste the ferments,” said Keith. “Issues can be addressed immediately, regardless of where I am. I can action tasks when they are fresh in my mind, and we don’t miss important details between a verbal request and a written Work Order.”
“With vintrace, we’ve reduced our harvest crew by 50%, from 4-5 interns down to just two, while giving ourselves more time to do higher value work in the vineyard and winery.”
Keith Emerson, Head Winemaker,
Vineyard 29, Saint Helena, California
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