FDA Surprise Inspections – How to Prepare & What to Expect
Wineries, both big and small, along the Pacific Northwest have received unexpected visits from the FDA inspecting for compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act. These surprise visits are likely to happen more frequently for wineries that have failed to register with the FDA. Below are a few tips to ensure success in the case of a surprise FDA visit:
• Documentation—appoint 2 staff members who know where to find key documents ar a moment’s notice.
• Animals—keep pets away from production areas; use techniques to keep birds away from outdoor crush pads.
• Bottling Lines—keep ozone on hand and have clear processes for sanitized processing equipment.
• Pesticides—keep in separate area from yeast and any additives that may encounter juice or wine.
Labor Shortage—Immigration Regulation, Marijuana, and Cherry Crops to Blame?
Many vineyards face the fear of lost crops if they cannot find enough labor to pick at harvest. The growing demand for Cannabis could be to blame. Marijuana cultivation requires similar skillsets to that of vineyards, and as a commodity, producers can afford to pay more to cultivate it. This year’s cherry crops are high, and are attracting workers to less demanding labor. H-2A visa program also requires vineyards to jump through multiple hoops to hire Mexican workers for a 10-month period and may be too time-intensive and costly for vineyards to attempt.
Local Inmate Labor Offsetting Shortage; Consider Mechanical for the Long-Term
Contact your local Sheriff’s department and the Department of Agriculture to see if there are any inmates eligible for supervised work details. Also consider a mechanical future. With labor shortages continuing to decrease, mechanizing your harvests may be a future necessity.
Wine Country Economics—Premiumization is the National Trend
Premiumization is the dominant trend in the wine industry with sales of under $9 bottles falling and higher priced wines increasing. The trend of direct-to-consumer sales is accelerating from 49% (2012) to 59% (2016) of an average winery’s sales. One method to reduce reliance on distributors is to set up tasting rooms and recruit new members for your wine club.
Tobacco Virus Found in WA Wine Grapes for the First Time in the Pacific Northwest
An unnamed Washington vineyard has discovered parts of their vineyard are infected with Tobacco Ringspot Virus (TRSV). There is a knowledge gap on the virus, how its transmitted, and its effect on vineyards, but scientists and experts are working on the best response to the virus and best practices to avoid it. Experts say there’s no need to panic over the virus, but recommend vigilant testing of soil when switching crops and using certified virus-free plants.