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Thursday, March 19, 2015
March 19, 2015 | 9:27 AM

We received a statement from Wine Institute, folllowing the CBS news coverage of a proposed class action lawsuit claiming wines have high levels of arsenic.

March 19, 2015

As the association of 1,000 California wineries, Wine Institute is very concerned with the health and safety of consumers who enjoy wine.

We have learned of possible litigation alleging that certain wines pose a risk to consumers because they contain trace amounts of arsenic. Although we are not privy to the contents of the litigation, we believe this allegation is false and misleading and that all wines being sold in the U.S marketplace are safe.

Arsenic is prevalent in the natural environment in air, soil and water, and in food. As an agricultural product, wines from throughout the world contain trace amounts of arsenic as do juices, vegetables, grains and other alcohol beverages. There is no research that shows that the amounts found in wine pose a health risk to consumers.

The U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), the agency that regulates wine, beer and spirits, monitors wines for compounds, including arsenic, as part of its testing program. While there are no established limits in the U.S., several countries, including the European Union, have established limits of 100 parts per billion or higher for wine. California wine exports are tested by these governments and are below the established limits.

We are concerned that the irresponsible publicity campaign by the litigating party could scare the public into thinking that wine is not safe to consume which is patently untrue. We will continue to keep consumers, the media and industry informed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015
March 11, 2015 | 1:30 PM

If you’re a grape buyer judged on how well you’re able to meet demands for your wine company and you think supply is tight, that you might be disappointed and not get what you need, or that prices are going up in the next couple years, you’re going to want to lock in today’s prices with a longer-term contract. On the other hand, if you think there’s plenty of supply or that you might be able to obtain grapes at lower prices going forward, you’re going to keep your contracts shorter.

Wineries increasingly entered into long-term contracts for grapes during the last three years, but the trend has now reversed itself in 2015, with a growing number turning to contracts of less than two years or opting for the spot market, according to survey results to be released tomorrow during the Central Coast Insights event.

“Our feeling is it’s a result of three big harvests and an ample bulk wine supply,” said Silverado Group chairman David Freed, who will present the findings. “Why tie it up in a long-term contract if you’re not overly concerned about getting adequate supply? People seem to be more comfortable.”

Increasing Production, Not Retail Pricing
Sixty percent of survey respondents said they are planning to increase production while 20 percent of the group expect production to increase by more than 10 percent—a sign that 2014 and 2015 were sizable harvests.

But half of the wineries said they have no plans to raise prices in 2015, and those that said they did are planning modest price increases—a sign that margins continue to see pressure.

“I think it’s a truism that the wineries are not really able to raise suggested retail prices. As a grower I can tell you that grape prices continue to ratchet up,” Freed said, “whereas the bottle prices of wine are not.”

Revenues Up

With more grapes produced and wine moving through the system, nearly one out of four wineries surveyed said that revenue increased by more than ten percent between 2013 and 2014.


The survey also asked wineries what they plan to use capital on. Vineyard redevelopment ranked first, followed by barrel storage capacity, visitor centers, and fermentation capacity.

There was a softball question of note for the bankers too. Asked, why they are “happy” with their lenders, respondents cited rates, credit availability, and length of loans most highly.

“We’ve come a long way in terms of educating lenders and getting them comfortable with our industry," Freed said. "Probably a third of the attendees (during Central Coast Insights) are banks, or from private equity, etc.”

Tuesday, March 10, 2015
March 10, 2015 | 12:21 PM

For the first time, four acclaimed winemakers who have apprenticed under the nationally renowned DeLille Cellars executive winemaker Chris Upchurch, joined together with their mentor and his current winemaker, Jason Gorski, to celebrate the DeLille Cellars Legacy Winemaker Dinner. Held at Seattle’s World Trade Center on March 5, the evening featured a six-course dinner paired with wine crafted by the DeLille Cellars winemaking team.

Kit A. Singh, Lauren Ashton; Chris Upchurch, DeLille Cellars; Jason Gorski, DeLille Cellars; Chris Pederson, Avennia; Ross Mickel, Ross Andrew; Greg Lill, DeLille Cellars. Not pictured: Mike MacMorran, Manu Propria


The wine line-up

Friday, March 6, 2015
March 6, 2015 | 2:10 PM

Iowa wine growers on Friday attempted to set a record for the longest flight of a sparking wine cork! The winner popped a cork that flew just over 45 feet, 9 inches.

Monday, March 2, 2015
March 2, 2015 | 3:57 PM

The Wine Business Monthly staff spent the day at Charles Krug Winery setting up for Innovation + Quality, a new forum for ultra-premium wineries focused on cutting-edge innovations that advance wine quality. This day-long event will take place March 4, 2015 at Charles Krug Winery in the Napa Valley. Pictured below is inside the 30,000 sq. ft. tent that is taking up the entire parking lot at Krug. This is where the tradeshow and trials tasting will take place.

Wine Business Monthly’s editors believe that trials are the embodiment of a winemaker’s pursuit of quality, and have selected 20 trials to feature at IQ. The winemakers who conducted these trials will be there pouring their wines, so you can walk around, taste the wines and connect with them personally, and provide feedback directly.

We look forward to sharing IQ with you on Wednesday! For more information, visit

March 2, 2015 | 2:22 PM

Wine Business Monthly's March 2015 digital edition is now available. You can view within your web browser or download a PDF. Click here to view the March issue.

Inside March 2015 you will find:
IQ 2015: Innovation+Quality Awards
2015 Winery Equipment Survey Report
Phenolic Analysis in Winemaking
Variability, the Enemy of Quality

Friday, February 27, 2015
February 27, 2015 | 2:26 PM

Innovation + Quality (IQ) 2015 is a new forum for ultra-premium wineries focused on cutting-edge innovations that advance wine quality. This day-long event will take place next week on March 4, 2015 at Charles Krug Winery in the Napa Valley.

We are already starting to set up for the event today. Today is also the last day to pre-register online. We have a lot of great sessions and winemaker trial tastings that we are excited to share with you at IQ! Many of these sessions have sold out already so sign up today to reserve your spot.

See you next week in Napa!

by Curtis Phillips | February 27, 2015 | 5:00 AM

There is nothing new with adding things to wine. The practice is probably as old as the winemaker’s craft itself. Herb, resin, salt, citrus, seawater, or you-name-it and someone has added it to wine at some point. The Greeks and Romans ridiculed the Gauls and Germans who drank their wine unadulterated. The ritual of adding herbs, resins, water and the rest was seen as a signature act of being civilized. Drinking wine straight was something only those "barbarians" beyond the limes Romanus would do. 

I wasn’t terribly surprised to learn that Audacia has introduced a rooibos wooded wine. Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) is more commonly known as “Red Tea” or "Bush Tea".

Aside from the fact that the plant is a legume, and therefore fixes nitrogen, there’s nothing particularly special about rooibos. It has decent, but not particularly exceptional, levels of polyphenols but with lower tannin levels than tea (Camellia sinensis) and no caffeine. This has made rooibos popular source for herbal tea. Unfortunately, as anyone who remembers therecent resveratrol hullabaloo, all one has to do is mention polyphenols and the consumer lifestyle press goes nuts about the “new” miracle food.

Certainly, polyphenols can be decent antioxidants, but adding them to wine when most red wines are already nearly saturated polyphenol solutions isn’t likely to yield any of the benefits the more silly portions of the consumer press tout.  There’s nothing wrong with making a rooibos infused wine. It is a great marketing hook for a South African wine. However, I wouldn’t expect the polyphenols from a rooibos extraction to behave significantly different from grape, oak, or wormwood polyphenols except organolepticly due to the lower tannin content.

Friday, February 20, 2015
February 20, 2015 | 1:24 PM

“We were inadvertently throwing away good fruit with hand sorting, and with 2 percent more Opus to sell, it made payback on the equipment very quick.”
-Mike Silacci, winemaker, Opus One

From the article “Product Review: Optical Grape Sorters,” page 108 in the February 2015 issue of WBM. Click here to subscribe to WBM.

February 20, 2015 | 7:14 AM

Rack & Riddle Custom Wine Services, one of the largest custom crush operations in Northern California and one of just a handful in the nation specializing in sparkling wine, co-hosted a sparkling winemaking seminar with Laffort USA on Wednesday. Approximately 120 guests attended the event, including many distinguished winemakers and winery owners from across the Sonoma and Napa winegrowing region.

The seminar, held at Rack & Riddle’s Healdsburg facility, featured presentations by Laffort Spark Range Manager Francois Botton on “Méthode Champenoise Production: How to Improve Mouthfeel in Sparkling Wine” and by Rack & Riddle Executive Director of Winemaking Penny Gadd-Coster on “Méthode Champenoise Sparkling Winemaking.” The seminar ran from 9:30 a.m. to noon, and ended with a Champagne and Cava tasting trial of five sparkling wines, led by Botton, as well as a tasting of Rack & Riddle’s award-winning sparkling wines available for private label.

Laffort Spark Range Manager Francois Botton presenting on méthode champenoise winemaking to
about 120 attendees at the “Sparkling Wine Seminar” co-hosted by Laffort USA and Rack & Riddle
on Wednesday at Rack & Riddle’s Healdsburg custom crush facility.

Laffort USA General Manager Shaun Richardson pours a sample for attendee Tom Atkin, a
Sonoma State University Wine Business Program professor, during the educational tasting trials
of Cava, Champagne and sparkling wines during the seminar.

Rack & Riddle Executive Director of Winemaking Penny-Gadd Coster discusses sparkling winemaking
techniques with winemakers attending the Laffort USA and Rack & Riddle “Sparkling Wine Seminar.”
Pictured here, attendees tasted through trials of Cava and Champagne, as well as Rack & Riddle
sparkling wine available for private label.



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