Protecting California’s Historic Vineyards

Historic Vineyard Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of California’s historic vineyards. Educating wine consumers about the special nature of old vines and preserving their place in history as so many vineyards are ripped apart to meet trends or match yield demands.

Vineyards registered to this society must have been planted no later than 1960 and at least one third of the vines must be traced back to their original planting date. Those are pretty strict criteria to meet. However these are classic vineyards that should be protected for future generations around the globe to enjoy. I’m glad to see some of my favorites are being protected including Old Hill Vineyard, Sonoma’s oldest vineyard and the most complex field blend vineyard, arguably anywhere (Davis experts are still trying to identify plantings).

More at

Innerstave’s Binsert make “barrel” fermentation available to anyone

True barrel fermentations is a process that requires a lot of upfront cost and a staggering increase in labor. For winemakers that don’t startle from the words “alternative oak products”, there’s a new toy on the market that is worth your attention. Winemakers everywhere can now dabble with the concept of barrel fermentations.

Innerstave’s Binsert brings the barrel to your macrobin! 20 staves that are easily assembled to a steel framework. The product equals the same surface area (2.25 barrels) as if you were to use actual barrels. Setup appears to be simple enough and the final product weighing a mere 25 pounds. The staves are single use to yield their full extraction and a little hot water to clean the steel framework is all you need.

Winemakers looking to play with barrel fermentations should pay attention. This product eliminates the added cost of barrels, knocking off their heads, the added label and time involved and every other headache you hear about. This is an easy to get started with the idea and not change much, if anything, with your current process.

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VinoTrac Demos at the LVWA Spring Dinner

Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association members can see us at the spring dinner where we’ll be demoing our winemaking production software. We love working close with local winemakers and are eager to collaborate so we can continue improving our service.

We’ve released many new features including:
- importing notes from CSV and spreadsheets
- batch and wine reporting for TTB compliance
- supply notes
- blended batches

When: Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Where: Porters Restaurant at Poppy Ridge, 4280 Greenville Road, Livermore, CA, 94550

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New Features: Search Batches & Wines

We’ve been busy. Busy building features that our customers have asked for. We’re pretty excited about these and hope you find them as useful as we do.

Search Batch & Wines

Want to know how much wine you have from the 2010 vintage? Curious to know the total amount of 2011 wines above 14.5%? Wondering how much you’ve invested on your batches this year? Now you can easily get these answers and more with our new Search pages for Batches and Wines.

Mobile: Vessel Activity

If you’re one of the many customer who subscribe to our Vessel Tracking add-on, you’ll now see another tab from the scanned view on your mobile device. Seeing the activity on a particular vessel after you scan the QR code is no right there on your phone. Wondering when you last racked or made an addition? Scan the vessel code and the entire activity list for that vessel is right there!

More Settings

Got a LOT of active batches and the flyout menu is getting out of control? Check your Account settings now and you’ll see an option to hide the list of active batches and new wines from showing in those tabbed flyout menus.

Home winemaker’s competitions are here

There’s prominent amateur winemaker competitions coming up and the time to submit your bottles is now!

WineMaker 2012 WineMaker International Amateur Wine Competition
This is the biggest competition for home winemaker anywhere. Send in your bottles by March 16, 2012

Sonoma Home Winemakers Competition
Submit your bottles by March 10, 2012 and get feedback from a highly experienced judging panel.

I think this is going to be the year. I’ve never entered my wines into any competition for many reasons. The primary being, I didn’t think they would score well being how novice I am compared to everyone else. But admittedly, there’s no better to learn than having other people taste your wines and provide feedback. Time to step up and take the criticism… the good, the bad and the tasty!

Which wines are you going to enter?

Origination of “user-friendly” wines

Clark Smith of Wines and Vines magazine had a great article in the December 2011 issue titled Some Like It Hot where he goes into the history of California wines alcohol levels rose 2% since the ’70s, how the trend came about and where it’s heading.

In the late ’80s, wineries in California, Chile and the South of France turned to Australia expertise that they believed held the keys to marketable styles. Their technique was simple: Push for even greater maturity. Crop left long enough on the vine loses its reductive strength and mean-spiritedness and softens into fruit-forward, user-friendly wine that “makes itself” in the fermentor (…) Recent Davis studies indicate that hang time has no effect on pyrazines. Yet in a sense, the fix works because the raisiny aromas mask other flavors including, unfortunetly, varietal and terrior expression, making Cabernet, Zinfandel, Syrah, what-have-you, taste pretty much alike. (…) The hang time cureis a way to destroy the vigor and structure of a red so it behaves like a white wine: simple, fruity, easy drinking and pointless to age.

In closing, “a month on the vine doesn’t substitute for a decade in the cave”.

It will take time before consumers just get bored with these wines that all taste the same and actively seek something unique. Those winemakers honing their skills now and finding what works best for their land and grapes will be the ones on the forefront of truly artisan wines.

Primera’s label printer looks ideal if you can make the initial investment

Printing labels is always one of those last-minute jobs that always seems to have some sort of issue related to it. Ordering too few or too many labels is common. The dreaded fear of discovering a typo or grammatical error can cause ulcers at just the thought.

Personally, my quantities are small enough that commercial printers can run crack-and-peel labels on a digital press making the entire job somewhat affordable. I’m usually in the boat though of ordering too few or too many both (frsutrating) so I started to investigate label printers for my short-run wines.

There’s really only one manufacturer worth looking at that can create high-resolution, full color, label printers for wine bottles: Primera.

The one that caught my eye was Primera’s LX900 Color Label Printer. What I like most is that it’s a high-quality, fast printer with individual ink cartridges. That way, I only buy the ink I’m using and not wasting ink like those all-in-one cartridges. Primera makes some other label printers but LX900 seems to be the logical choice if you’re in the market. The downside is that this printer is far from cheap. While the return on the investment can be recouped, you’re looking to drop about $3k just for the printer. Amazon has it for just over $2k but regardless, that some serious coin for a printer.

Given my small quantities and constant change in bottled wines year after year, the idea of having on-demand label printing capabilities would be REALLY nice. Perhaps when I can start selling my wines legally, this could be a viable option but until then, the price tag keeps me from enjoying one more toy in my cellar.

If you have experience with this or any other label printer, tell us by posting a comment.

VinoTrac Joins the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association

In an effort to contribute to the ever expanding Livermore Valley, VinoTrac has joined the ranks of other local, industry-related businesses that serve this incredible winemaking region and is an official affliate of the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association.

Our goal is to work closely with Livermore’s winemakers, better understand their approach to winemaking and learn how we can better position our software solution to meet their needs.

Our mission is to help winemakers better manage production during busy harvest months. Staying organized and logging notes into an affordable, flexible system is a big step toward making great wines. If winemakers can spend less time dealing with operational tasks and focus on making the best wines possible, then our software solution has succeeded.

I look forward to the new relationships that will be forged in this new year as well tasting the results these passionate winemakers put forth in every bottle.

Bob Bennett: the savior to amateur winemaker’s

I’ve had the privilege to make fruit from Bennett Ridge Vineyard for two consecutive vintages and the fruit has always turned out fantastic wines. Of course, the wines would never had gotten to that point without a constant volley of question and answers between myself and owner Bob Bennett who has been helping home winemakers since he planted in vineyard.

Check out this article from the Press Democrate highlighting Bob and his dedication from the begininning.

Barrel tracking using QR codes is the latest feature to be released in VinoTrac

Barrel and vessel tracking in general is typically an expensive problem to solve. Not sure why really but I suspect it’s vendor who are holding your batch notes hostage and trying to shake every last nickel from your pockets. Sad.

Lately, the wine industry has been buzzing about QR codes and how to leverage the technology in their marketing efforts. Honestly, I haven’t seen an implementation that I thought made much sense but wineries continue to cram those square codes on anything they can think of. It did however, create the seed which turned into the latest feature offered completely free to any premium account in VinoTrac. If you make enough batches or use enough vessels in your operation, you know how important it is to label each vessel and track the actions and additions accordingly.

Our barrel tracking solution is simple. From the vessel page, you can easily print “tracking slips”. These are simply printer-friendly pages with the batch and vessel detail and a large QR code. Staple or tape these to your vessel. Using your modern cell phone or mobile device, download any QR code reader of your choice. Most are completely free. Use that to scan the QR code on your vessel which will launch you into VinoTrac on your phone’s web browser. Sign in and you’ll then see your vessel as confirmation and all the same great note adding functions of our system. Once you’re done adding your notes, you’ll see a simple confirmation meesage that it was received. Next time you’re looking at your batch notes on your computer, you’ll see all those vessel notes in your batch’s activity view.

There’s no special labels or ink needed. No expensive scanning devices. No additional fees or costs.

Here’s some pictures of the tracking slips in action, on my vessels:

This allows me to leave my laptop out of the cellar and use my iPhone to enter all those as they happen. Now, my notes are accurate as to when they occurred and saves me the time and effort of entering in my notes later in the day.

I really hope everyone enjoys this feature and finds it as useful as I have since it’s release. We’d all love to see how you’re using them in the cellar and of course, your feedback so we can continue to improve things.

Happy Winemaking!