Union Wine Company is future-proofing its business in two essential ways: innovation and sustainability.
The company is well known for its trailblazing leap into still wine in cans well ahead of hard seltzers’ meteoric rise and the resurgence of RTD canned cocktails. Founder and owner Ryan Harms’ insight into the younger, digital-native demographics was critical in driving the growth of canned wines.
“Cans were the big innovation that launched us into a huge growth phase,” says Meredith McGough, Director of Supply Chain and Vineyard Operations. “But as we have grown, we have needed to find a way to focus on sustainability in both our raw materials and our workforce.”
McGough is a firm believer that a winemaker must understand all areas of the winemaking process, from the vineyard to packaging. So, to her, the social aspect of sustainability means an emphasis on education and cross-training, an approach that resonates with the Pacific Northwest ethos and younger generations’ concerns about the environment.
“We want our cellar crew to get a full picture of the process from start to finish,” McGough explains, “to make sure they understand we’re not just paying lip service when we say that great wine is made in the vineyard.”
To help her accomplish this goal, she is leaning on their winemaking technology, vintrace.
From overwhelmed to organized
McGough was delighted to find vintrace already in operation when she joined Union Wine Co. in 2020 since she had made the same choice when vetting new winemaking software at a previous job. vintrace is an intuitive cloud software solution that helps winemakers run a smarter winery. A key asset is moving wineries from paper-based work orders and field notes into a centralized repository.
“vintrace folds into our cellar and makes the day-to-day work easier for our cellar staff,” says McGough. “They can track their work using vintrace on an iPod Touch rather than having a bunch of paper lying around the cellar. Plus, the cellar staff on the floor can see any updates our assistant winemaker makes on work orders in real time.”
The benefits are clearly visible during the busy harvest period. With vintrace, winemakers gain a clearer understanding of what’s due when and weather conditions. If it starts raining and everyone wants to bring their fruit in on the same day, they can quickly and easily adjust the schedule so the team isn’t overwhelmed at the crush pad. Then, they can use vintrace to let growers, pickers and anyone else know what’s changed instead of making hundreds of phone calls.
Regaining valuable time
“Winemakers at any size winery can spend most of their day living in the cellar’s red tape instead of testing wines and making quality decisions,” says Josh Abra, vintrace’s Founder and CEO. “With vintrace, they can shift focus to wine and production quality and planning. Information becomes available to everyone through the app or the web, no matter where they are, and that results in efficiency gains and headcount reductions.”
For McGough, time gained by using vintrace goes beyond cross-training to eliminate silos in vineyard vs. lab vs. cellar vs. packaging jobs into giving her time for innovation, the heart of Union Wine Co.’s success.
“We gain time to focus on R&D and new product development, improving wine quality and delivering value,” she says. “I can also spend more time in the vineyard where we have 50 acres under development. We’re looking at planting to a trellis system for mechanization, which is less common here than in California, and exploring varieties that are non-traditional for Oregon.”
Hot take on winery tech
Harmonizing technology, data and people is central to keeping a winery moving forward.
“Being able to leverage one source of truth is helpful,” notes McGough. “The larger an organization, the more challenging communication becomes.” Being able to quickly convey critical pieces of information in real time to everyone who needs to know is vital. For example, when out in the vineyard, McGough can capture observations, have her lab upload data and analysis from a sample, and review it.
“For us, it’s about adapting and helping wineries from micro to the world’s top wine producers,” Abra explains. “One corporate customer is using vintrace to transform their outdated and overgrown IT department. vintrace reduced the massive inefficiencies of running disparate legacy technologies and integrated with the back office to streamline TTB compliance, bringing them into the 21st century.”
If your winery needs greater efficiency and more time to make quality wine, reach out to vintrace at vintrace.com.