Another annual cycle is once again upon us in the wine business: harvest. AKA "crush". The predictions that have been floating around out in web postings for the past month state that this will be an early and big year for grapes here in Northern California. Early and big. Two words that when used in combination to describe the grape harvest tend to leave winery staff cringing. The unpredictable nature of the grape harvest definitely adds a level of excitement (or frustration) for those who have to deal with the tracking area of winery records. This means you if you are a weighmaster or manage data entry of harvest work orders and keep track of your wines as they become "produced". If this sounds like you do you know if all your records are ready? Do you know how you can tell?
After going through 15 harvests over the years where I was in these roles (weighmaster, recordkeeper) I learned a lot about setting up systems that made my job run as smoothly as possible during this potentially hectic time of year. It was really about learning survival techniques.
Here's how to assess your current harvest records for ways to make this early & big harvest flow smoothly. (As possible)
- Weigh Tag assessment steps: (1) Are they hand written or electronic? If you can create them in electronic form this is the way to go. The CDFA allows for this as well- so you don't have to do all that writing (or try to read someone else's) and sign your name countless times a day. (They allow for an electronic signature)
- (2) Are your weigh tags as specific as possible? Do they include the AVA name & vineyard name that may eventually be used on a wine label?
- (3) Are you accepting completed weighmaster certificates (weigh tags) that show up with a truck of grapes? (Instead of weighing the fruit again yourself)
- Data entry of harvest work orders steps: (1) Are you creating the work orders for your next day's activities the night before? This means you're coordinating with the winemaking crew on valuable information that comes from them.
- (2) Do you have a system for making sure you don't miss tracking any of your weigh tags? (or parts of them when they are split between tanks?)
- (3) Does your cellar crew know what information you need them to record on work orders?
- Recording "Production" of your finished wines: (1) Do you have a set system tied into your work orders for documenting when your wines are produced? (The TTB term for when juice becomes finished wine tracked by tax class)
- (2) Are you running basic analysis on your newly finished wines that includes alcohol- to be able to assign them the accurate tax class?
There is plenty to keep on top of during harvest. That's why I recommend creating and using systems to keep up with everything, especially in years like this one is predicted to be. As recordkeepers at a winery, systems are usually what save our sanity at the end of the day and give you the most reliable, thorough set of data afterwards.