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538 Broadway, Ste. B
Sonoma
CA, 95476
United States
Phone
8882404860
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Patrick Baker

Cloud Based Winery Management Software

An easy to use, powerful software for winemakers

vintrace is a sophisticated yet surprisingly intuitive business software designed specifically for winemakers. Easy to use and powerful, vintrace takes the guesswork out of making great wines and building a great business.

Throw away your paper reports; vintrace lets you capture and analyze the data you need to make the right decisions.

 

Making the Wine Business Fun Again


Software overview

Vintrace is sophisticated yet surprising intutive business software designed specifically for wine makers

Integration

Say goodbye to double entry forever. vintrace integrates seamlessly with Xero, TankNET, VinWizard, ETS Labs, AgCode, OenoFoss, Wine Scan, ChemWell and Thermo Scientific Gallery.

Upgrades and Support

With the monthly subscription plan, your vintrace package includes support and product upgrades.

Subscription

vintrace is available on monthly subscription and works with standard IT hardware. No expensive upfront capital outlay is required.

Plan and schedule

vintrace makes planning and scheduling your fruit intake and crush pad operations a cinch, keeping your winery running at its optimum capacity right through harvest

Smart work orders

vintrace will revolutionize your cellar - in just a few keystrokes; allocate work and keep track of additions, what's in the tank, barrel usage and analysis.

Sales and purchase

With vintrace, you can raise purchase orders directly with your suppliers and generate sales orders and email invoices directly to your clients.

Cover photo
Cover photo
Vintrace
Vintrace
The founders story

News Archive


Why a Winemaking Review Now Is Critical for Learning and Planning for Next Year
02 November, 2017

By Patrick Baker

After all the harvest scheduling, logistics, and chaos come to completion with fruit nice and safely tucked into the nooks and crannies of wineries, the real winemaking magic happens.

If you were in or near the California wildfires this season as we were, our hat’s off to you. The business of winemaking has been made even more dangerous and in some instances disastrous than any other year in recent memory. Like many, we were working to support our customers remotely as our office and homes were evacuated.

Donations can be made to wildfire relief here.

Most of us involved in the dayâtoâday winemaking process recognize now as the critical time to focus, skills honed, on the winemaking “season”. All the logistics, preâplanning for barrels, equipment and perhaps some technical experimentation are in action and full throttle. It’s a little daunting and there are still many risks at hand, namely; equipment failures, stuck fermentations, supply shortages, staff scheduling and a host of other potentials. You’re expecting some of these because you used last year’s team wrap up meeting to mitigate in prep for this year.

I’m guessing few of us were expecting wildfires and natural disaster declarations, so our wrap up meetings this year will definitely include some not so often discussed topics.

I’m a big fan of a full team meeting around the conclusion of the last pressings/barrel down, to
brainstorm what went right, what broke or needs attention before use again. It’s a time for everyone’s ego to be checked at the door so we can get a full candid report. This meeting usually precludes a sigh of relief as we near the holiday season and enjoy a brief respite before the new year and new growing season. This conclusionary meeting also provides a backdrop for winemaking and senior staff to consider what makes the cut for a potential shopping list for the next Unified Wine & Grape Show at the end of January annually.

As a winery GM I’ve always sorted the winery shopping list into two categories; things that make better wine, and things that improve efficiency and/or safety. It’s a balance to be sure, and with limited dollars I tend to research the heck out of options before I enter the tradeshow floor in January. The recent wildfires in California and past natural disasters (read, earthquakes) are an excellent reminder for emergency contingency planning to make the list. Grapes, wines and the winemaking season don’t pause for natural disasters, so having a good plan in place BEFORE an event is key. That means premeditated access to critical systems, equipment and data.

At vintrace we are helping customers daily with insurance claim wine asset information and reports, as well as assisting where we can with any customers and colleagues directly affected by the fires. We hope you’re safe and well this harvest and we look forward to working together as an industry to rebuild.

Donations can be made to wildfire relief here.

 

A little about me

After a successful career in corporate America, I transitioned to the wine industry and have become an industry veteran with 10+ years experience as a grower, winemaker, and winery General Manager.

My role as former General Manager for Carneros Vintners custom crush facility and sister facility Lodi Vintners, was the impetus for my investigation of winery production software options. My work with a variety of wineries exposed me to an array of winery software before deciding on the vintrace platform to run the custom crush facilities and since, a few small and larger boutique wineries. My hands on winery experience and real life use of vintrace are the foundation of my success representing the vintrace software platform in North America.


Vintrace UGM and Training Workshop on May 19th in Napa, CA
15 May, 2017

The Vintrace UGM and Training Workshop will be held on May 19, 2017 from 9am - 1pm at the SpringHill Suites Napa Valley.

Spend half a day with the vintrace crew in Napa, California for our annual user group meeting and training workshops. You'll have an invaluable opportunity to network with other vintrace users, have your questions answered and provide feedback direct to the vintrace team.

Meet co-founder Jamie Gilchrist, consult with Hillary Silva and AJ Garzoli at our very own 'Genius bar' and learn practical tricks of the trade from Patrick Baker, Sonoma local and industry veteran.

In celebration of the release of the vintrace iOS App, we have 3 x iPod touches to give-away on the day. And the first 100 attendees will each receive a free vintrace t-shirt.

To purchase tickets, please click here

 


Why Cheap or ‘Do-It-Yourself’ Software Costs You More in the Long Run
28 November, 2016

I’m aware of some vendors advertising fantastically low pricing supported by a ‘do-it-yourself’ setup and recorded video training, essentially leaving it up to you to figure out how their system fits your operations…or doesn’t. Let’s be honest, winery operations are not rocket science, but the reality is that things get complex quickly when working with growers & vineyard management, multiple lots, multiple protocols, logistics and LOTS of really important reporting and record keeping. Therefore, when we go through the effort to analyze a production software to help us with the onerous tasks of running a winery, it’s critical to determine the following:

  • Do they offer solid training on the specifics of software as it directly pertains to my winery operations – how we do work orders, labs, reports, and organize our workflow?
  • Do they assist with transitioning our current system (e.g. paper, excel, other vendor) to the new system?
  • What are their support options/times of service/can I call, email, text, etc., and if there is a charge for support, how much does it cost?
  • Do they have experienced winery staff that prevents me from explaining the wine business to them just to answer my seemingly simple question?
  • Is there a community of other users that I can also tap for peer reference on how to accomplish certain aspects of my particular nuanced operations?
  • ‘Easy’ and ‘intuitive’ are great marketing terms, but does the system reflect a real knowledge of the wine industry, or are they simply another software company trying to learn from me to fit their square peg into our round hole?
  • Lastly, are they building for the future as well, to stay ahead of the curve and offer the capabilities and interfaces that I haven’t thought to ask yet, e.g. new mobile platforms, new wine technology vendor integrations, etc.?

You can think of Vintrace as a partner in your business

Our setup process starts with our very first conversation with you. We discuss all the nuances of your business, e.g. multiple bonds/AP02’s, how the winery works with data currently, understanding lab work flow, grower interactions and logistics, bottling vendor procurement, and numerous other idiosyncrasies of how you run your winery.  Vintrace is dedicated to making sure there is a fit in both directions.  We don’t do a ton of advertising per-se, because our customers speak for us with their positive remarks and recommendations to colleagues to try it out.  Therefore, our marketing approach is to ensure a mutually good fit.

The vintrace setup process is extensive and rigorous but not onerous

We understand how much potential there is for disruption in your business – moving from one system to another. Our staff gets it too.  That’s why we take the time to get to know you, then setup a project plan that includes who/what/when that is realistic and comprehensive. Our trainers are former winery staff, and often provide on-site training using familiar terms – not software geek speak. We train on a database that is a copy of your new production database so your staff is familiar with the lot names, tank numbers and layout, etc.

Before we load a database with your data, we subject the data to vigorous data integrity tests to assure everything passes the ‘reasonable test’.  During training the support team is introduced and you’re encouraged to contact us. We make sure you are content with the training and offer follow up training to be sure, as well post -install training that’s accessible when it’s convenient for you. We actually encourage contacting our support staff… there is no charge to do so and we want you to ask us a question when it occurs instead of struggling unnecessarily.  Most importantly, our staff are from the wine business, so we really understand your point of view and make the best use of your time by getting you an answer as fast as possible.

Experience counts and our staff have it in spades

The bottom line is experience counts and Vintrace is there for you from the beginning and at every turn!  See a sample of some of our staff bios below:

Patrick – Management, – More than fourteen years as a grower, winemaker and GM for a few small and larger wineries.  His prior corporate business acumen, wine industry experience and also teaching wine business at Sonoma State University, provide a backdrop to closely relate to the real life needs and practical applications of vintrace customers, now and in the future.

A.J. – Account management – A.J. started in the wine business back in his high school days packing wine club shipments on the weekends for a fulfillment company. Since then he has been a bulk wine broker, worked in Direct-to-Consumer sales and software, and as a harvest intern at a custom crush facility, providing a full spectrum of experience from grape to DTC when assisting customers exploring vintrace options.

Hillary – Support/Marketing – Hillary has worked 7 harvests, bouncing between Marlborough, NZ and California; working primarily in the cellar she became well acquainted with using Vintrace, she also worked in tasting rooms to expand her experience. Her degree from Cal Poly’s Agricultural Business department, with a concentration in enology, allows her to dive deep into the world of winemaking with new vintrace clients.

Janet – Support – With a background in customer service management, database design, computer-based training and 5+ years in the wine industry (including production admin in a custom crush facility), she brings knowledge and experience together to assist our vintrace customers with day-to-day questions about working in the vintrace environment.


The Vintrace App – Available on the App Store
14 November, 2016

Winemaking is an ancient art, with many historians believing its existence predates even water (historians are known to over-imbibe, however). For thousands of years, we’ve been finding ways to improve our ability to make and consume wine, such as the wine industry pushing advances in biodynamic farming, movements from traditional glass bottles to boxes and cans, and of course use of divine intervention to turn water into something eminently more drinkable.

The team at Vintrace are passionate about both wine and technology. Forming in 2006, and drawing on their extensive experience in IT and winemaking, they’ve pursued their goal of delivering the most impressive digital tool kit to the global wine industry. Vintrace has successfully moved thousands of winemakers from away from a paper-based systems so they can docus more time on making great wine.

Vintrace has continued this evolution with the introduction of the Vintrace iOS mobile app – now available on the App store. With all the power of Vintrace in-hand, winemakers have everything they need to make timely decisions while roaming the cellar, walking the rows or raconteuring at the next wine dinner.

With the App, winemakers can quickly scan bar-coded tanks and barrels to look up current labs, composition and status. Recording lab data, such as Brix/Temp during fermentation, can be done while in the cellar, no more clipboards, no more spreadsheets.

To experience Vintrace and the new App fist hand contact us here at sales@vintrace.com for a demonstration.


The Business of Wine. Cost of Goods Sold.
10 October, 2016

Only 10% of our time is spent actually making wine…

The reality of winemaking generally conforms to the 60/30/10 percent rule. Where 60% of our time is selling & marketing, 30% is paper work, and finally just 10% is what could be termed actual winemaking.  Depending on the size of your winery, a good portion of that paper work is to determine Cost Of Goods Sold (COGS) or reporting to finance so they can work it out. They need this of course so they can offset revenue to get to some form of gross profit (hopefully not ‘loss’). Quite often we apply a simple basic formula of total costs divided by total number of cases produced, and sometimes we even go so far as to break out some differentiation between red and white wines (e.g. barrel/storage costs) but not much more complex than that.

Why traditional cost tracking is difficult.

The challenge is tracking applicable costs in the first place and applying them in a consistent system that reflects all the costs involved in producing a case of your wine.  The most tedious tasks of cost tracking are generally at the lot/bulk wine level before it goes to bottle.  It begins with tracking fruit costs by weigh tag relative to actual grower contracts or accumulated estate farming costs by area, and is conceivably a little easier to apply when making bulk wine purchases…but then you get that trucking invoice thirty days after the bulk wine is received and you’ve already blended that bulk into three or more separate lots, making the application of retroactive costs harder to ascertain.  Then there are the consumables like KMBS or tartaric acid, or oak chips, etc. that conceivably are trackable by which lots we apply those too, but that’s a lot of paperwork and logistics to keep straight.  Of course the more finite the method for tracking and applying costs, the more conceivable time consumed and potentially even more costs for staff to administer the process – there has to be a better way.

Therefore, any system to establish COGS has to have at least three methods for applying costs to satisfy the real situations we encounter at the winery:

  • Apportioned costing spread over many applicable lots that apply to our ‘search’ for certain attributes, e.g. labor costs associated with wines in the cellar during a specific period – last month, or
  • Transactional costs that are accumulated as we perform certain functions in the winery, e.g. lab costs, additions and treatments like filtration or cold stabilization, etc., or
  • Ad hoc costs that apply only to certain instances like the bulk wine shipping cost mentioned above.

A better, faster way.

Starting with grower/estate fruit costs, Vintrace winery production software utilizes a console to maintain contractual costs tied to a grower/vineyard/block on a weigh tag, applied as fruit comes in with additional logic available to hit bonus payments for yield, quality, brix, etc. – automatically!  Those fruit costs are immediately available in the ‘Costs’ tab, Fruit category (with appropriate login permissions), displayed in the Block Overview, Seasonal tab, and via standard reports in Excel for reporting or additional analysis.  The main concept is this category of costs are applied AS the fruit arrives, i.e. instantly – no weigh tag tracking, no searching through paper contracts, and easily available in report format for management with a few clicks as often as needed WITHOUT additional production crew involvement.  I don’t know about you, but for some of the wineries I’ve worked at/run prior to Vintrace, this was an onerous task, often performed daily, that we likely saved until  the end of the day when all fruit receivals are in and we’re dog tired but looking for numbers and data equaling significant opportunities for errors,

Likewise, tracking consumables and transactional expenses has just been so onerous that we’ve left it up to accounting to do some gross allocations of costs, and in some instances allocating costs is completely justifiable.  So a tool to spread costs has to be accurate, refine-able, intuitive so we lessen opportunities to make mistakes, and easily discernible as ‘allocated’.   Vintrace’s Cost Allocation console does that and more.  This tool is so robust it deserves an article unto itself, but some key features are:

  • Apportioning by volume a) end of period, or b) times number of days to more accurately apply costs
  • Utilizes a strong filter search to get at just the applicable lots, and check-off for single lots for further refinement
  • Defaults to weighting by gallons or exportable to apply your own weighting methodology and upload with those weightings
  • Applicable to stock/finished goods, e.g. to apply offsite case good storage costs, etc.
  • Any many more attributes…

We also have to have the ability to apply costs as they attribute to a wine, e.g. trucking costs for a bulk wine purchase.  These ‘one off’ or ad-hoc costs usually show up in AP after the actual transaction has occurred.  It’s usually easy enough to find which lot of wine the cost applies too, but the real tricky part is now factoring how much of that cost applies to which wines that you’ve blended that bulk wine into.  In reality this scenario applies to all the above scenarios – which we need these costs to apply as of a specific date and for them to ‘follow’ the gallons to their current destination from the date incurred.  Fortunately, all COGS in Vintrace is set to a specific date, and the relevant costs apply to the gallons as of that date and ‘trickle’ into the current blend for an accurate COGS per gallon.  E.g. 1,000 gallons of bulk wine receipt on May 1 via Cherokee trucking costs $750, but the invoice from Cherokee arrives May 18.  We have since blended that bulk wine into three lots, with 500 gallons to blend A lot, and 250 gallons each to two other lots, blend B & C.  Accordingly, vintrace will apply $375 or $0.75 per gallon to the 500 gallon portion of blend A, and $187.50 total each or $0.75 per gallon to blends B & C as well – AUTOMATICALLY.  To be clear, this applies to apportioned and date specific transactional costs as well.  This manner of date specific cost application is a huge efficiency gain for your accounting staff and easily tracked vie the costs tab in Vintrace.

As we hone the granularity of bulk wine COGS tracking, you start to see how those costs roll up to case good COGS.  Both bulk wine (Professional Base Module) and packaging costs (Advanced Inventory Module) COGS can be tracked depending on the modules you have activated in Vintrace.  You can also add the case good/Advanced Inventory module at a later date to extend bulk wine COGS tracking after the fact with retro dated costs.  The Advanced Inventory Module has many other beneficial aspects for building and tracking finished case goods, but as a GM in charge of Gross Profit, the ability to easily track COGS by case good for different bottling runs, or manufactured lots with different components, e.g. different glass, label or closure components, was such a huge time saver that didn’t require more of my time or production staff time to track.

The practical merit of a COGS tacking system is its ability to report out and sync with your accounting/ERP system.  Vintrace currently synchronizes with Xero accounting, and is easily exportable for asset and transaction costing tracking to other systems via spreadsheet format, with inclusion of your accounting systems account names and numbers

Final thoughts

Lastly, since this level of COGS detail has thus far been painful at best and impossible at worst to track, we always recommend that you initially implement Vintrace COGS abilities in a manner that you currently track COGS so you can easily discern ‘reasonability’ from COGS outputs.  After a period of time, perhaps a calendar or fiscal period to evaluate and compare COGS figures to establish a comfort level with the Vintrace produced COGS output, then you can increase the granularity of COGS tracking to include finer delineation of your costs down to a kilogram for additives, or separate cost tracking for filtration methods between in-house plate & frame pad filtration versus mobile cross flow filtration, etc.  With better data comes better analysis capability and true Return On Investment (ROI) capabilities to possibly justify or negate that future expensive crossflow filtration capital expense, i.e. unleash some Business Intelligence data for improved profitability.

A little about me

After a successful career in corporate America, I transitioned to the wine industry and have become an industry veteran with 10+ years experience as a grower, winemaker, and winery General Manager.

My role as former General Manager for Carneros Vintners custom crush facility and sister facility Lodi Vintners, was the impetus for my investigation of winery production software options. My work with a variety of wineries exposed me to an array of winery software before deciding on the vintrace platform to run the custom crush facilities and since, a few small and larger boutique wineries. My hands on winery experience and real life use of vintrace are the foundation of my success representing the vintrace software platform in North America.

 


The Business of Wine. Reporting and Compliance
21 September, 2016

In The Business of Wine Part 1 and Part 2 we reviewed benefits and concerns using MS Excel and traditional software to track your winery operations before exploring the benefits of having fast access to key information.

A particular aspect that we touched on was the efficiency of having single data entry touch point with multiple use output for different departments within your wine business. Keeping data up to date is key if we need to pull that data back out into meaningful reports. Lab data during fermentation for example, or tracking bulk and packaging inventory for an impending bottling are key data elements crucial to effective resource planning, e.g. tank turns, equipment utilization, crushpad capacity/throughput and bottling scheduling.

A little about me

After a successful career in corporate America, I transitioned to the wine industry and have become an industry veteran with 10+ years experience as a grower, winemaker, and winery General Manager.

My role as former General Manager for Carneros Vintners custom crush facility and sister facility Lodi Vintners, was the impetus for my investigation of winery production software options. My work with a variety of wineries exposed me to an array of winery software before deciding on the vintrace platform to run the custom crush facilities and since, a few small and larger boutique wineries. My hands on winery experience and real life use of vintrace are the foundation of my success representing the vintrace software platform in North America.

Meaningful reporting

Like any other business, we also need to generate more usual reports for inventory, movement and dispatch recording.  Ideally these reports be pre-formatted as PDF or exportable to Excel and easily reproducible for crew to generate and conduct physical audits from without having IT or Accounting staff involved.  vintrace has a bevy of standard winery reports organized by categories that can be downloaded or emailed to anyone you choose.

The real test of a comprehensive reporting system though is reportable AND actionable access to data not necessarily pre-configured, commonly called ‘ad hoc’ reporting.  Some might remember the old Boolean (true/false) search parameters to query older database back-ends with archaic verbiage and characters, and if you didn’t know how, you had to request a special report from the IT or other department that generally took a period of time to get for you…and it was usually not quite what you wanted but close enough.  That was then, but I’m still surprised at the limited ability for ad hoc reporting from the majority of current winery specific software.  Perhaps that’s why so many of us resolve to endure Excel.

 

Ease of custom searching

vintrace’s approach to complex ad hoc searches is to utilize key field filters with easy drop downs or wildcard text fields.  Since there are so many fields/data to search on, vintrace segregates searches by type; Lots, Inventory, Vineyard, Barrel, Tank & Dispatches for a more reasonable selection of filters to create your report.  Each search screen is displayed in 3 sections – filters on top, results of those filters in the body, and options for what you can do with the results at the bottom.  If you’ve endeared as many data management systems as I have, vintrace’s approach is magical in its forethought and simplicity, to easily produce and/or/between/and not, searches.  A great example is a search for all lots that S02 hasn’t been tested greater than one month.  From the search results you can print a spreadsheet, or order labs, or add the lab request to a work order, copy results to add back to other results, and most significantly Save Search.

Saving a search to easily reproduce the conditions of an ad hoc report is super smart, but vintrace goes a step further by giving you the option to share those saved searches with other staff and most significantly, to add it to the ‘My Searches’ dashboard box that is always available on your home screen.  Now you can monitor that ad hoc report without even running it, since the My Searches list constantly tabulates.

As an added bonus, you can set conditional logic to change the search text if the results exceed a threshold; e.g. If I’m responsible for the bottling line and I have a saved search monitoring stock of a certain glass mold and that stock dips below 30,000 bottles, I set the text to color orange, and below 15,000 it changes to red – for a visual indicator that I need to order more, pronto!

Compliance

Of course winery reporting is particularly different from traditional business relative to the numerous compliance reports for various regulatory and tax bodies.  We spent some time on TTB reporting ease via vintrace in the previous article The Business of Wine Part 1.

While some other systems provide adequate ‘702’ data reporting (albeit arduous to get to), Vintrace goes a step further to easily and simply ‘mass declare’ your wines on a specific ‘702’, e.g. December/4th Quarter.  For those of us that do the ‘702’ reporting and keeping track of what needs to be declared, and when, this particular tool is a boon for compliance ease and once again exemplifies the theme of a single data element (gains/losses) being smartly accessed to make winery staff that much more efficient.  If you’re the person responsible for ‘702’ reporting you have to see this tool in action!

Other compliance reporting for harvest/crush report and excise tax gallons delineated by tax class, are also key reports that usually take considerable time to collect and compile from a mass of Excel worksheets, and then reconfigure to paste into the required reports.  These are standard reports in vintrace that compile the data for you to simply copy into the regulatory Excel report/forms.

The last couple of necessary reports we constantly work ‘around’ are composition and audit report.  These aren’t usual reports per se, so different than all of above, but yet are significantly important to maintaining our bond and peace of mind.  We’ll spend more time on these report topics in future articles, but relative to our current topic, these are reports critical reports that vintrace produces that keep us out of hot water and provide credence during an audit.


The Business of Wine. Accessing Key Information.
17 November, 2015

In The Business of Wine Part 1 we reviewed benefits and concerns using MS Excel to track your winery operations.  We also laid out some attributes to compare systems focusing on working smarter for the things we have to do, so we can get back to the things we want to do, namely, make and sell wine.

A little about me

After a successful career in corporate America, I transitioned to the wine industry and have become an industry veteran with 10+ years experience as a grower, winemaker, and winery General Manager.

My role as former General Manager for Carneros Vintners custom crush facility and sister facility Lodi Vintners, was the impetus for my investigation of winery production software options. My work with a variety of wineries exposed me to an array of winery software before deciding on the VINX2 platform to run the custom crush facilities and since, a few small and larger boutique wineries. My hands on winery experience and real life use of VINX2 are the foundation of my success representing the VINX2 software platform in North America.

Access key information to make more informed decisions

DashboardIn this article we are reviewing how VINX2 provides immediate access to key information.  Our focus again is realizing efficiency gains from a system that is intuitive and easy to use. In comparison if you are a slightly advanced Excel user, you may have linked data from several tabs or even several workbooks to amalgamate information in a snapshot or ‘dashboard’ view, e.g. to see all fermenting vessels brix between 18 & 22 so you can make yeast nutrient additions.  While Excel can be relatively good at displaying multiple key data, it’s often challenging to setup and the data is usually suspect if a particular linked sheet or workbook hasn’t been updated recently…or correctly.

VINX2’s desktop dashboard (Professional version) is specific to a user and simple to setup for the items you want to see most often in data or graphical formats. Having reliable data available in a number of formats that are easily configured is key to helping you work smarter, and perhaps faster, e.g. getting the right additions done at the right time. It’s all in the Cloud as well so you can access your information from anywhere. 2015-11-17_15-48-03

Additionally your system should work for you – your preferences, related to your job roll.  If you are in charge of the bottling line for example, you’re unlikely to want a quick view of fermenters, but willappreciate knowing if a certain glass bottle supply dips below a preset level you set.  If you’re the Cellar Master you may want to easily see all outstanding work orders listed by assigned staff name, or if you’re the Winemaker/Assistant, perhaps all available remaining new oak by cooper/nationality to select for a series of barrel down work orders, or maybe you’re responsible for finances and want to have your thumb on the pulse of current COGS/costs by vintage, varietal or program in real time. Indeed, the VINX2 dashboard is a powerful tool to unlock the data you’re already capturing to help you work smarter right from the login screen.

2015-11-16_16-07-11

The other predominant reasons we access key information is to;

  • answer a question,
  • make a decision or
  • prepare/record work to be done to a wine.

Conceivably you should be able to access everything you want to know about a certain wine lot, including what tank(s)/barrel/group a wine lot is in regardless of where it’s stored or even offsite. That’s a tall order for any system and even more complex with Excel depending on how you’ve set it up.

VINX2’s overview screens for wine lots, inventory and sources of fruit, provide an amazing amount of detail organized in narrative tabs. The tabs concisely show information for labs, composition, additions, fruit sources and history, as well as costs and bottling information. The Product Overview (pictured) is the screen I see up most on wineries using VINX2 as it not only shows culminated data, but is also an intuitive interface to do everything from creating work orders to dispatching case goods with BOL’s.  And when/if that audit team shows up at your winery door, you’re confident that every step of every wine is completely detailed and available for review with an audit trail report.

2015-11-17_16-06-47

Lastly, the two potential log jams at varying times seem to be scheduling the crush pad pre/during harvest and managing flow in the lab.  Even if you’re not running a 6,000 ton custom crush facility, it’s reassuring to easily review scheduled and processed fruit in VINX2’s Fruit Console. With the totals auto calculated at the bottom of the screen you can immediately see if one more 10 ton lot next Saturday is doable while you’re on the phone with the grower/winemaker. Similarly for the lab you are able to gauge your day based on what’s been ordered via work orders, monthly maintenance or pending results from ETS.

Doing what we love all day, then heading into the office to ‘beat up excel’ is not ideal. To be fair, you still have to get the data into the system, but it is ideal when you can quickly access accurate data at any moment to keep your winery operations efficient.

Author: Patrick Baker, VINX2 North American Sales Director


The Business of Wine. Moving beyond Excel.
07 October, 2015

Wine production sounds more glamorous than it really is. The day to day functions, logistics, monitoring and maintenance are constant and intensive at times. Harvest, especially, is not for the faint of heart. Therefore a great system for handling the ‘business of wine’ is paramount to maintain sanity and keep the business functioning. You can then focus on the wine business: the wine making and sales passion that compels us vintage after vintage.

A little about me

After a successful career in corporate America, I transitioned to the wine industry and have become an industry veteran with 10+ years experience as a grower, winemaker, and winery General Manager.

My role as former General Manager for Carneros Vintners custom crush facility and sister facility Lodi Vintners, was the impetus for my investigation of winery production software options. My work with a variety of wineries exposed me to an array of winery software before deciding on the VINX2 platform to run the custom crush facilities and since, a few small and larger boutique wineries. My hands on winery experience and real life use of VINX2 are the foundation of my success representing the VINX2 software platform in North America.

Working smarter

The key ingredient to tackling the business of wine is working smarter where we can. The way to do that is to

  • reduce paperwork
  • minimize processing and logistics time
  • preparedness for TTB audits
  • avoiding bond/capacity challenges
  • ensuring COLA label compliance; and
  • maintaining backups of everything... just in case.

Fortunately we have software tools at our disposal, some of them great, some good, and some are potentially disastrous.

Excel

In all fairness, Microsoft Excel has been the workhorse of our industry to track and report at a minimum. For small ‘Mom & Pop’ to large industrial complex wineries. It works well most of the time and depending on complexity of your records and Excel familiarity, you can keep a lot of info organized in the manner that you like to see it in and maybe organized enough to report for compliance.

I’ve run a 150,000 case winery on Excel but I wouldn’t recommend that for anyone. The problem(s) with Excel start with backup/redundancy and worsen quickly if multiple users need to enter/extract data from the same files. Cloud sharing of Excel files has helped a little bit, but the integrity of the data and often disparate multiple worksheets become ominous to work in and the opposite direction of working smarter. Let alone, some people just aren’t versed in excel and don’t want to start with a blank spreadsheet to track what’s necessary just to comply with compliance requirements.

Beyond Excel

So some of the key attributes of a system that maximizes efficiency and reduces effort must include:

  • Ease of Use/Intuitive (easy to find functions and fast input)
  • Immediate access to key information (faster and more reliable than log books or spreadsheets, and has to be accurate)
  • Easy reporting (both internally and external compliance requirements)
  • Scalability (capability and capacity that grows with you)
  • Dependability (time proven development, backup servers, support staff)
  • Affordability (comparably - how much winemaker salary am I paying to enter lab info from ETS?)

We’ll go into each of the above attributes in future articles with further detail and examples. The focus for each analysis point is real efficiency gains versus amount of effort or simply ‘working smarter’, and added value or bonus potential keeping the ‘business of wine’ in check so we can focus on the wine business. This edition will focus on Ease of Use/Intuitiveness.

Ease of Use

Intuitive systems have one thing in common – they just make sense.

I’ve worked with every popular winery production system available in one capacity or another as a winemaker, cellar master or GM of some small wineries and also very large custom crush facilities.  As mentioned previously I am rather skilled at making Excel work wondrous calculations in addition to creating/tracking work orders, labs and 702/TTB/ABC reports, but the challenge with most of these systems, and especially Excel is usability, or lack thereof.

Tracking Lab Work

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Using labs as an example, you should be able to easily add lab metrics for a lot or barrel with a simple search or visual of the lot/vessel. A good system will display the last metric value so you can easily compare ‘reasonableness’ of your most recent entry, e.g. does the latest Alcohol entry unintentionally change the lots tax class? Perhaps the wrong lot was selected – good thing the last value gave some indication.

An even better system will allow skipping the lab results data entry process entirely by importing them from an offsite lab such as ETS or lab equipment, directly into the system. This concept is truly an efficiency gain, and also alleviates occasional typographic mistakes. A bonus to the download method is a system that allows for download and the ability to ‘verify’ results IF you so choose, even those downloaded from ETS.

VINX2's Lab Console is a great example of efficient and thoughtful design to enter/download labs. VINX2 has been working with ETS since 2007 for a seamless integration and links to many other systems including OenoFoss, Wine Scan and Thermo Scientific Gallery.

TTB Compliance

2015-09-28_13-56-03Having a single point of entry for all wine gains and losses is paramount to every winery. Total gollonage, head space and composition should all be updated in real time with necessary movements fed directly into the 5120.17 ('702') TTB compliance report.

As the incoming General Manager to several wineries I have inherited 'systems' where there are at least two disjoint spreadsheets– one for tracking lots, and another for the monthly/quarterly TTB reports. I’ve spent countless hours reformatting and maintaining links between these spreadsheets only to have the file corrupted and one one occasion, my winemaker's laptop was stolen with the only copy of the previous year’s TTB reports on it! As the DirecTV ad goes, ‘don’t be that me’.

Every off the shelf system should be able to at least dual role a loss/gain entry, but that’s not the case even with some of the expensive ones. The issue emanates from the original design and data architecture and some popular systems still treat loss/gains separately from tracking and compliance reporting. The issue is even muddier when considering composition and COLA compliance but we’ll address that when discussing Scalability.  A properly engineered system will exploit the efficiency of a single data entry for multiple uses. The bonus comes with a system that also can easily report all those loss/gains for easy review AND audit track who/when/what-why they occurred – when the TTB asks you during an audit.

VINX2's work orders have an inbuilt fail safe to ensure losses and gains are recorded appropriately, regardless of your login permissions.

There are an abundance of additional specific examples we could explore, like; easy corrections/undo/reverse options without calling tech support, creating custom searches/reports and saving them for one click access, clickable dashboard displays, export of nearly everything to Excel (we can’t fully wean ourselves from it), produce a completely filled in TTB report with 1-click AND see the individual lots that totaled on the report AND be able to fix and redo on the fly, and much more...

I'd be happy to talk to you about your specific needs and how I can help, just request a free demo and let's get started.


Introducing VINX2 Version 5.1
13 August, 2015

Version 5.1

The roll out starts next week

We're excited to announce our latest major release of VINX2 with some terrific new features.

This release has improved Product, Stock and Block overviews and a raft of fixes and performance improvements.

This release also adds support for the much requested multiple tab support in VINX2.This was the Number 1 feature request on our feature request forum. It goes to show the more you vote the more impact you have on the future direction of VINX2! If you haven't already make sure you navigate to that forum and subscribe.

For those customers currently in North American harvest, this release will be delayed unless you opt-in by requesting the upgrade early.

Click here for the full list of changes

New Product, Stock and Block overviews

The most widely used screens in VINX2 have been completely overhauled to provide you with even more information at your fingertips.Explore these amazing changes to the Product, Stock and Block overview.

Import and Export your setup data

Now you can import and export your own data either as part of our new Setup wizard or by using the Import/Export options in Winery setup. This new feature is great if you regularly need to import new barrels or other data. You can also use this feature to export existing entries, make changes in bulk in Excel and upload those changes back in. More details.

TTB Compliance can be simpler. Here's how.
09 February, 2015

Government compliance is a necessary part of every winery operation whether you are producing 500 cases or 5,000,000 cases. The requirements do not change based on the size of your operation which makes adhering to the myriad rules somewhat daunting for the small producer. And since the government collects taxes based on the information supplied by wineries, they have an incentive to make sure things are reported correctly.

30 years ago there were limited options for all but the largest wineries, leaving smaller businesses tracking everything on paper. This made it difficult to provide a detailed audit trail to the government of all cellar activities in the event of audit. In many cases the justifiable response of the winery was that there just weren’t enough hands on deck to work in the cellar and maintain a paper trail.

Now though, all the government agencies involved in compliance are well aware that detailed records can be tracked and they expect wineries to comply with their rules in a timely manner. This usually means using an outside compliance agency, a specialized software package, or general purpose software like spreadsheets to track your wine production. It is a very rare winery that isn’t taking advantage of one of these three options, and usually it means that the winery hasn’t yet had a discussion with the TTB!

OK – you decide to start tracking things, where do you begin? What are the most important pieces of the production puzzle to track?

Let’s start with the grapes themselves. You need to be able to account for all the grapes coming into the winery and where they ended up. You need to record when they arrived, what varietal they were and from what vineyard and appellation. If you kept each batch completely separate and then bottled that as its own product, then proving the validity of the information on your label is a piece of cake. However, if you do any blending or topping between batches it can start to get messy because you need to account for where all the grapes went regardless of how many products it went into, even if it’s a tiny percentage of the final product. Here’s where things start getting difficult in using spreadsheets. It’s difficult to track tiny percentages of wine moving around from barrel to barrel when blending or topping. Yet this is just the tip of the iceberg in compliance.

Then there’s the reporting requirements that must be met that account for any gains or losses, wine used for or produced by other processes, and you must do this by tax class, which can change over time or because you blended two wines together from different classes. And if you are adding any sugar, or spirits, that too must be tracked. Oh yeah, and if you are producing fruit wines, that must be tracked separately from grape product.

So now you’re thinking – I’m going to get my accountant to track and report all this stuff, which is great. Except that you probably aren’t sending him every work order you’re writing to see what wines are used for topping other wines and what wine volume changes are happening at each step of production. All this can have an impact on how you report your gains and losses and how your varietal percentages are changing. So when they go to reconcile by doing a physical inventory, invariably numbers don’t add up and now someone has to figure out why. And that someone will probably be you.

This isn’t a horror story, this is the typical process that every winery deals with at some point when they say “Isn’t there anything out there that can help me manage this without costing me a full time person to track what’s going on”. The answer is, yes. You need a powerful tool in your arsenal to allow you to satisfy the government compliance requirements. And there are a whole host of requirements you need to satisfy including:

Wine Composition by Variety, Vintage and Appellation (and usually Vineyard) and is it Produced by you or just Prepared by you

Inventory tracking by Tax Class and type of product (Grapes, Fruit, etc.) - gains and losses, used and produced

Finished Goods Inventory tracking - breakdown of adjustments (breakage, used for testing, used for tasting)

Additives - tracking by lot number and what are the allowable levels

Barrels - which barrels have been used in which lots?

Special processes – accounting for de-Alc processes, sugar additions, spirit additions and water additions

Finally, there have been discussions about furthering the requirements to include full ingredient tracking like most food products do already. And there’s the concern about allergens in wine and should there be more stringent requirements for record-keeping when using certain products in wine production. Government Compliance rules don’t usually move very quickly, but they do change over time and it’s not likely that they’ll get looser in the process.

The good news is that there’s already a solution that covers every one of these issues – VinX2. A software solution that is already doing this for hundreds of wineries throughout the world. Backed by our stellar support team, we concentrate on the things that makes your life crazy to free you up to get back to the cellar.


Author, Doug Campbell is an Advisory Board Member of VINx2 Winery Software. Doug has over 25 years of experience in the wine industry as a software designer and developer. He was the creator of PC Blend, one of the first network-capable PC-based software systems for the wine industry that focused on wine production. With the expansion of his customer base across the US and Internationally, he became a valued consultant and speaker on many topics at industry symposiums focusing on government compliance, cost accounting and software integration.

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Top reasons it makes dollars and sense to move your systems to the Cloud
22 December, 2014

It took us some time to move to the Cloud for our own internal systems but we're glad we did. Now we're helping wineries of all sizes make the transition to VINx2.

For a number of years we used accounting software configured on a PC within our own network.  When travelling we weren't able to get access to key accounting information to answer even the simplest of billing inquiries. All requests had to go via the office and tied up another staff members time.

You may have the same problem when visiting a distributor, customer or custom crush client. It's often critical to get your hand on account status, inventory levels, wine composition and analysis in order to make decisions and close deals. The Cloud gives you that advantage.

When Xero, a Cloud based accounting package, was launched we didn’t take too much convincing to move all our accounting needs over to their platform. Now we have anytime access to our information and can effortlessly link accounts with our CRM and Quoting tools all of which are Cloud based. A quote can now be delivered to a customer in minutes instead of half an hour. It was one of the best decisions we made.

Imagine getting the same results with your TTB/compliance filings, management reports or sales and purchase orders. You too can leverage the Cloud for simpler compliance and traceability and here are the top reasons to make the switch:

 

Zero capital costs

Cloud applications are typically pay as you go instead of traditional capital intensive software purchases. Businesses get a lower start-up cost and predictable operating expenses.

According to a 2013 US study by Microsoft Trustworthy Computing, 70 percent of SMBs have reinvested money saved as a result of moving to the Cloud in areas such as product development, innovation, marketing and expanding into new markets.

 

Disaster prevention and recovery

There are thousands of non-descript and secure office buildings around the country housing data centres with teams of people in place to ensure uptime, reliability and redundancy. Your risk of data loss from a computer crash is practically zero. By leveraging the Cloud you no longer need complex disaster recovery plans.

The Aberdeen Group found that businesses which used the cloud were able to resolve issues in an average of 2.1 hours, nearly four times faster than businesses that didn’t use the cloud (8 hours).

 

Work from anywhere

In the wine industry its common to have staff on the road at small tasting events and meetings with large distributors. Imagine being able to quickly and easily check your bulk and bottle inventory levels from your tablet or enter a sales order on the spot with confirmation emailed directly to the customer. With the Cloud all you need is a device like a tablet and Internet access and your staff can work from anywhere.

This flexibility improves productivity and empowers your road warriors to find information themselves without needing to call into the office.

 

Security

Over 8,000 laptops are left in just 7 of the largest US airports each year. That can have a huge financial impact but when everything is stored in the Cloud you'll only have to replace the device and not the data. 

According to a Microsoft study, 91 percent of SMBs said the security of their organization had been positively impacted as a result of Cloud adoption.

 

Environmental benefits

Cloud computing uses less electricity and reduces your carbon footprint. By using the Cloud and sharing infrastructure instead of managing your own you get fantastic economies of scale while also saving on energy use.

According to Google, a switch to Cloud computing for office applications alone will save between 68-87% on energy use, compared to managing the applications internally, while also reducing a company's carbon footprint by a similar amount.

 

Automatic and regular software updates

Cloud computing vendors such as VINx2 provide all the server and backend maintenance themselves including security and regular software updates. This frees up your reliance on IT staff to manage traditional computer infrastructure.

Updates to VINx2 for example are all part of the subscription, don't cost any extra and are installed for you.

 

Lower people costs

Good IT people are expensive. According to the Microsoft study, SMBs that leverage the Cloud spend half the time managing IT and a saw 50 percent reduction in internal IT resources. With staffing costs always a large item on your balance sheet this saving can be better invested into your marketing budget.

 

Better collaboration between staff, vendors and customers

Using VINx2 as an example, winemakers are able to communicate in real time to growers using email alerts as fruit is weighed at the winery. Sales orders can instantly be emailed to customers confirming their purchase and purchase orders centrally managed for any vendor inquiries. Custom crush clients can log-in and view their own winemaking history instead of phoning or emailing your staff freeing up valuable time.

 

 

Author, Joshua Abra is Managing Director of VINx2 Winery Software and has more than 10 years' experience helping wineries transition to the Cloud using VINx2.

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Title Name Email Phone
General Manager North America Patrick Baker patrick@vintrace.com (707) 927-1950
Operations Director Joshua Abra josh@vintrace.com 888-240-4860
Sales Director Jamie Gilchrist jamie@vintrace.com 888-240-4860