How California North Coast vintners are finding bottles, labor, way out of the pandemic
Without large staffs to help handle it all, these owners or operators of smaller wineries can tick off the problems they face these days from inflation, to finding bottles to fill and labor to fill their jobs.
The Business Journal asked several top executives at California North Coast independent wineries about the key challenges and opportunities they see ahead. The following are their responses, edited for clarity and brevity.
What are the three biggest concerns facing North Coast vintners? What are you doing about them? How do these challenges compare with those from previous business cycles?
Richard Bruno: Supply chain problems. Inventory management in wholesale distribution. Inflation.
We have had to make some bottle mold changes because of lack of supply and unprecedented price hikes.
Adopt a JIT (just-in-time) model for inventory management, and reschedule bottlings based on both. To manage inventory, we work with our marketing company and use Driver software to understand what our current inventories are in distribution. We had to raise our prices.
Raising prices on our wines became essential because I don’t ever think the price of gasoline for example will ever come down to pre-pandemic levels.
Remi Cohen: Climate change and its resultant impact on the wine industry is one of the most significant business concerns facing North Coast vintners.
At Domaine Carneros, we have a strong commitment to sustainability and to reduce our carbon footprint. In 2003, with the vision of founding CEO Eileen Crane, we installed the largest solar energy array of any winery in the world.
Now, we are amping up, pun intended, our commitment to solar by building a microgrid which will allow us to store energy we generate during the day for use at night and in the event of a power outage.
Our extensive recycling and reuse programs allow us to reuse our packaging boxes, having reused over 1 million boxes since its inception, and we have composted over 420,000 pounds of waste, diverting over 90% of waste away from landfills.
In recent years, we have experimented with and expanded our use of a lighter weight bottle to reduce the impact on shipping, and our direct fulfillment partner offsets all of its carbon emissions from shipping.
With staffing and labor concerns at the forefront of the industry, Domaine Carneros strives to create an engaging work environment with opportunities for career development and enhancement.
Our robust employee engagement programs include the practice of open book management, where we provide transparency to all employees about the company’s performance of key metrics, including net income, during our monthly company-wide meetings.
We believe this level of transparency helps employees to understand their roles in our success and challenges. We have a comprehensive onboarding program, and through our continual education program, employees are encouraged to learn about their own areas of responsibility but also about other areas including finance, winemaking, vineyards, technology, and sales and hospitality.