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Harvest is in full swing here in Sonoma County wine country. You bump into tractors and follow trucks stacked sky high with bins full of harvested fruit. It’s an exciting time. The promise of a whole new vintage.

We intentionally hold Harvest Summit in Sonoma County this time of year because it is not only exciting and beautiful as the leaves on the vineyards turn but farming and harvesting is a metaphor for what is required in business. We must plant the seeds of progress, seek new practices, test new tools, cultivate ecosystems and be mindful of the impact we have on the planet.

We can think of no better time than now to gather leading thinkers and innovators to Harvest Innovation. It is time to create the future of possible.

To give you a local taste, we reached out to one of our partners MacRostie Winery to get their take on innovation. Enjoy our conversation with Heidi Bridenhagen, MacRostie Winemaker, and Don Davis, MacRostie Sales, Marketing & Brand Director, below.

See you at Harvest Summit soon – An Innovation Field Trip Like No Other.

From farming to hospitality how does MacRostie define innovation?

MacRostie Winery has teams working hard throughout our organization and innovation is something we always prioritize and emphasize. The vineyards have been certified sustainable since 2008 long before this became the Sonoma County Standard. With Winemaking I take a deconstructed approach. Many of our fermentations occur in 1-ton fermenters so that I can play with extraction technique, nutrient and yeast additions and length of maceration. Deconstructing the 200 tons of Pinot Noir we produce into about 200 fermentations gives me a landscape of innovation. (Heidi Bridenhagen)

Upon opening the MacRostie Estate House in February of 2015, we sought to redefine the hospitality experience in Sonoma wine country. When a guest visits our property, they are on vacation, whether for an afternoon from San Francisco or a week from the East Coast. And we recognize the value, scarcity and importance of vacation and treat it with the specialness it deserves. We believe every single guest should feel like a VIP and be warmly and genuinely welcomed – every time. We put our customers at the heart of everything we do. We are in the business of providing immersive, exceptional and memorable guest experiences first and foremost. Each visitor is provided a seated tasting, where they can relax, sip, learn a little — and hopefully have time stand still while surrounded by panoramic vistas. We have also sought to bring fine dining level service to wine country in an appropriately laid-back Sonoma sort of way. (Don Davis)

So how do you define innovation?

Taking an approach in production to give more options instead of less. Not being afraid of trying new things, taking a risk. (Heidi Bridenhagen)

Never settle with the status quo, no matter how effective it may be at any given time. Always look to enhance and update our guest experience. We cannot control whether guests think we have the best wine, view or facility (we think all are really good, but still subjective!), but we can control our laser focus on providing exceptional and thoughtful hospitality every day. (Don Davis)

Where do you seek innovation inspiration or what other industries do you look to?

With the increased labor shortage, I am constantly looking at and reading about the tech industry and how it can apply to farming and winemaking. There is a pressure to mechanize a lot of aspects of the growing and picking operations. I believe in trialing mechanization of different aspects of canopy management and picking. As a winemaker having flexibility is key. (Heidi Bridenhagen) 

Look for leadership and innovation trends outside of the wine industry in other hospitality fields and luxury consumer goods – as well as by regularly listening to our guests. It is also important to continually be aware of what our wine industry peers are up to. There is a great spirit of collaboration in Sonoma and we regularly share all sorts of information with our like-minded peers. There is definitely a spirit of ‘all boats rise’ here. (Don Davis)

What wine industry innovations are you most excited about?

Cloud based inventory management and data. Having information about every vineyard, every ferment at your fingertips with an iPhone or iPad is a huge efficiency.  Mechanization in vineyard practices. (Heidi Bridenhagen)

The movement towards a hospitality first approach, with experience and story sharing equal stage with the wine. On the technology front, our industry is finally catching up to the many other industries — but that is beginning to now offer an array of new channels and a increased focus on understanding who your customers are and providing more personalized offerings. (Don Davis)

How has the industry changed?

We seem to be striking on a similar chord throughout this. I think the ways I have seen the industry change the most is in ways that technology has been able to weave its way in. Data management and communication in the vineyard and in the cellar, mechanization in vineyard practices. (Heidi Bridenhagen)

Making great wine is no longer enough. In an ever-growing sea of brands – some real, some manufactured — successful wineries must consider all customer touch points, build relationships and trust with their customers, and give authentic and memorable reasons for their wines to be regularly chosen on store shelf or at a restaurant — or their tasting rooms returned to. (Don Davis)


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