If you were making wine in California in 2020, you were hit with a double whammy: the COVID-19 pandemic and the wildfires that ravaged much of California wine country.
Like employees at many wineries, the staff at Signorello Estate in Napa found themselves with some unplanned downtime amid shutdown orders but made lemonade out of lemons, taking the opportunity to take continuing education classes.
Winemaker Priyanka Dhar French said she believed continuing education was something every business should implement.
“I think it helped tremendously to ensure employees felt secure and engaged at work,” said French, who became Signorello Estate’s winemaker in 2019. “We scheduled classes with the Napa Resource Conservation Department, which offers free classes in Spanish on a number of different subjects. Apart from this, we did a few trials of our own and incorporated education into it.”
The continuing education opportunity turned having downtime into a strength, giving staff an opportunity to gain knowledge on topics that could help promote the health of their vineyards.
“The crew felt more confident about their ability to pursue tasks, and we were able to identify diseases and pest pressure, and make key vineyard decisions more effectively as a team,” French said.
The wines released in 2021 will be the first for Signorello Estates’ current management team, which includes French, Consulting Director of Winemaking Celia Welch and Viticulturist Steve Matthiason.
“In spite of the pandemic, we were able to stay on schedule for vineyard and winemaking related efforts. We used some of the downtime to work on individual skills and to approach tasks with more focus and in-depth thought,” French said. “I think in the long run, this has definitely improved our focus on quality and methods to achieve them at the estate. Being able to work in spite of the pandemic and see our results has been encouraging and has really built up team spirit.”