It’s harvest time in California wine country! In fact, the 2021 grape harvest began early this year. I live in Sonoma County, and harvest time can be exciting. As fall colors begin to change and the air turns crisp, we see truckloads of grapes making their way down winding country roads. Floodlights light up vineyards at night so workers can see while picking grapes, and everyone is talking about the weather and how it may affect the fruit.
For the past couple of years, I’ve have the opportunity to provide translation services for the wine industry in Napa and Sonoma counties, as well as for a family-run winery in Spain. I’ve translated things like employee manuals and safety guides, especially for the Covid-19 workplace. I’ve also translated tasting notes and social media posts. Staying up to date on wine industry news and trends is important to me. Here in California, the industry is facing big challenges—and big opportunities.
Some questions among vineyard and winery owners are: How do we adapt to a changing climate? How can large-scale operations work well with conservation groups and neighbors? What needs to happen to ensure worker safety? How is the customer base changing?
The “State of the Wine Industry Report 2021” from wine industry investor Silicon Valley Bank highlights recent trends in the U.S. wine industry. This year’s report discusses the importance of online sales, how wine marketing campaigns can appeal to millenials and other younger consumers (such as more diverse, multicultural messaging), and how local tourism will be key to business during this time when international travel has dipped.
“Fire season” is really a thing here in the West. Luckily, an oversupply of grapes helped to ease some of the pain caused by natural disasters like wildfires, and last year’s harvest quality was good. The report also discusses labor supply, which is limited and has increasing costs. Vineyards and wineries must try new ways to reach out and support new and potential employees.
Supporting agricultural workers in wine country has been front and center for labor groups and organizations such as the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation. For example, the SCGGF set up the “Farmworker Resiliency Fund” to help workers pay for housing and other needs after wildfires. Clear communication in Spanish is also a huge need for these operations. I can tell you stories of OSHA presentations where workers didn’t understand the content because presentations and materials were only in English. Not good!
For his article in North Bay Biz, author Tim Carl states: “Creating a work environment that is welcoming and accepting to all is not only the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense….Doing so means you and your organization have spent time thinking about how to engage those not normally in your sphere of experience. It also demonstrates you’ve been rethinking the very framework your company has used to engage with others in the past.”
You can access the full Silicon Valley Bank report here, and learn about support for vineyard and winery workers here. In the meantime, here’s hoping for a successful 2021 harvest.