vintrace's "New School" Technology Helps L’Ecole 41 Keep Producing Superior "Old School" Wines

"vintrace made it very easy to navigate and visualize my cellar. It's opened up time for us to do more winemaking things instead of data entry." -- Marcus Rafanelli, Winemaker, L'Ecole 41, Walla Walla, Washington

Since pioneering the Walla Walla appellation in 1983, L’Ecole 41 has become one of Washington State’s most prominent and successful wineries.

Winemaker Marcus Rafanelli and his team annually produce 45,000 cases of 20 different wines priced from $14-65 per bottle.

Even with all this growth, L’Ecole 41 is committed to using traditional old-school, small-lot winemaking practices. They bring in grapes from 30 vineyards to ferment 90 separate small lots aged in 2,000 barrels. All reds are still punched down by hand in 1.5-ton fermenters.

L’Ecole 41With so many individual lots, there is an enormous amount of data to collect and keep organized. Prior to switching to vintrace, L’Ecole used three data collection systems, each providing a partial picture.

  • Wine Tracking: The L’Ecole production team used several spreadsheets to trace bulk wine and barrel movements. While this worked, it required a tremendous amount of manual data entry.
  • Lab Data: All historical winemaking and lab data were kept in hand-written, calendared lab journals. This retained data, but nothing was searchable. As Rafanelli described it, “It took some time to find the harvest Brix or fining treatments from a lot five years ago.”
  • Compliance: Historically, they had used an outdated but functioning legacy software to compile monthly 702 reports and other compliance-related activities.

So while Rafanelli had all the needed data, working with it in three separate systems became increasingly cumbersome. It was time for a comprehensive, integrated system.

L’Ecole 41 selected vintrace, as it both met their immediate needs and could grow with the winery.

 

Superior Lab and Winemaking Data Collection and Reporting

Rafanelli now has strong winemaking, lab analysis data, and compliance reporting all in one place. vintrace’s lab and winemaking tools make those hand-written lab journal entries obsolete, or as he says, “why do everything twice”? With mobile access via a Samsung tablet, he can display Brix and sampling data numbers come in at the moment they are entered.

For the upcoming harvest, Rafanelli will integrate the 50-100 daily analyses from his automated Oeno Foss analyzer. And new barrels are entered digitally upon arrival to include cooper name and toast level, with bar codes replacing hand-written entries.

 

Ease of Getting Started

vintrace allows a new user to begin with whatever features they need first. L’Ecole 41 chose to start with lab and wine data. With ease, vintrace staff guided Rafanelli through the how-tos of setting up wine lot codes and beginning balances. They suggested he start with bulk wines, which enabled him the flexibility to include bottled wines when he is ready.

Rafanelli is pleased with vintrace’s error correction and Rollback and Reply feature. Rather than having to figure out a fix, vintrace asks, “what do you want to go back on?” and takes the lead. The program effortlessly corrects mistakes, including simple 2019 vs. 2018 typos.

 

Using vintrace at L’Ecole 41

Training, Customer Service, Flexibility, and Online Learning

The vintrace team trained Rafanelli and advised him to create a structure, e.g., “How do I best organize 2000 barrels?” Their customer service team remains engaged throughout the entire journey, giving him access to real-time answers and applicable practices when needed. Located in the US and Australia, vintrace is available anytime to help.

 

Start Where You Wish

Rafanelli appreciated the flexibility of starting “anywhere” and adding modules over time with vintrace. He began with lab analysis and wine composition data and is now adding harvest features. vintrace advises, “You don’t have to fill in every box when you start. You can add capabilities when you are ready to use them.” After the 2020 harvest, L’Ecole 41 plans to add lab journal data from previous vintages to their wine database.

 

Practice Makes Perfect

Rafanelli made productive use of the vintrace “sandbox,” which lets users perform operations in a live database copy. He recommends that new customers use the sandbox extensively before starting one-on-one training to get more out of the training time.

Every growing winery faces the challenge of increasing production while maintaining high quality, small-batch standards. At L’Ecole 41, vintrace helps them do both.

“vintrace has real tech support.”

Marcus Rafanelli, Winemaker,
L’Ecole 41, Walla Walla, Washington

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