Q&A with Priyanka Dhar French, Signorello Estate

This is part of a continuing series of Q&As with members of the American wine community from across the United States. Vintner Magazine will share business and personal insights from winery owners, vintners, marketing managers, sales directors, QCQA staff and others each month to help you get to know each other better in the industry and learn more to better develop your own brand. Originally from Mumbai, Signorello Estate winemaker Priyanka Dhar French holds a Master of Science in Viticulture and Enology from University of California, Davis. 

VINTNER: How has your business strategy evolved to help grow and stay competitive?

FRENCH: In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of businesses had to pivot strategies in many areas. For the safety of our team members, we switched to work from home for the initial weeks. We created staggered shifts and changed strategies as more information about COVID was made available. As an essential business, we had to put safety measures in place early on, and these included, sanitizing stations, individual tools, masks and separating tasks to allow everyone to work separately. We also used the time for education and focused on taking time to understand the goals and aspects to ensure quality control at all levels.

VINTNER: What has your winery changed because of the pandemic that you feel will stay long term and be a benefit for the company?

FRENCH: One of the first things that we did was split up our vineyard and winemaking crew to be able to assign individual work orders to help keep everyone isolated and safe at work. By doing this, we discovered specialized skills in each of our crew members that bring more value to the team. By assigning and dividing jobs to individuals based on their skills, we found that our productivity and efficiency improved. Moreover, everyone started taking ownership of their tasks and with due diligence, so overall team results are great. I think allowing this opportunity of growth has been a long term benefit and we will continue to operate our teams in the same way.

VINTNER: Who is your mentor in the industry and why? What have you learned from them?

FRENCH: I consider a few people to be my mentors, but I’m fortunate to be working with Celia Welch who is our Consulting Winemaker. I value her work ethic and her ability to see positive in the face of adversity. She has been an invaluable source of support through this year. 

VINTNER: What idea did you or your team come up with lately that has been a big benefit to how your winery functions?

FRENCH: We have a big organizational board that assigns tasks and responsibilities to each person. Making this process more transparent has improved team dynamics and we are able to schedule work out more efficiently as well. It also helps with keeping everyone accountable. 

VINTNER: If you had one business strategy that you could implement to better the wine industry, what would it be?

FRENCH: I would say continuing education for your employees is something that should be implemented by every business. We scheduled education classes for our crews to account for the days that we were working from home. We also created a communication system to ensure that all our employees were getting updated regularly and promptly when new information about the pandemic was released.

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