ETS puts wine consistency, value to the test

ST. HELENA -- With an early start for the winegrape harvest, the role of local wine labs in performing analytical tests has been extended. And one of the North Coast's longest-running specialty labs has been extending its capabilities.

More growers and wineries are relying on lab tests to craft a product that is consistent, and to help make strategic decisions during critical points in the growing season and throughout the wine making process, according to Gordon Burns, who with his wife, Marjorie, co-founded St. Helena-based ETS Laboratories (707-963-4806, in 1978.

"We just passed the peak of lab activity during the harvest, starting with picking the grapes to the stage where wine fermentation goes malolactic," said Mr. Burns.

[caption id="attachment_82553" align="alignright" width="308"] Gordon and Marjorie Burns, co-founders of ETS Laboratories[/caption]

"We're analyzing over 1,000 samples a day with extended hours and expanded courier service throughout the harvest. Our turnaround on juice analysis is less than seven hours -- often only two to three. We've seen demand for our services grow (at a double-digit rate in recent years) to include more than 9,000 clients. Despite our current scale that allows us to provide a level of service unmatched in the industry, we cherish the fact that we still serve most of our clients from over 35 years ago."

With a staff of over 50 employees, ETS serves five regions from labs in St. Helena and Healdsburg; Roseburg and McMinnville in Oregon; and Walla Walla, Wash.. Labs are open from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. plus extended weekend hours. Clients have 'round-the-clock access to online reporting tools.

The company also serves an expanding worldwide client list in Australia and New Zealand, China and Europe.

ETS lab technicians conduct over 265 different analyses. One or two new tests are added each year. Added in September was glutathione analysis, key to protecting the delicate nose of white wines.

"This test is important, since a low level of glutathione in grapes leads to lower levels in the juice and early losses of aroma compounds," Mr. Burns said.Big on R&D

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