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Thursday, July 30, 2015
July 30, 2015 | 10:17 AM
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
by Curtis Phillips | July 29, 2015 | 2:28 AM

Even though the Wragg fire near Lake Berryessa is currently 75% contained, that's just the start of the fire season. We’re pretty likely to have more wildfires near some of our major viticultural areas before all the grapes are harvested. In addition to the current drought, research looking at the long-term fire risk for the Sierra Nevada isn’t looking very promising. Research is published here.

With Kay Bogart’s permission, I’ve archived several of her smoke-taint in wine related links here. In addition, there have been a couple recent papers in the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture that those that have the appropriate access may want to review (ASEV membership required):

An Observational Study into the Recovery of Grapevines (Vitis vinifera L.) following a Bushfire

Glycosidically Bound Volatile Aroma Compounds in Grapes and Wine: A Review

Anyone may review the abstracts here and here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015
July 28, 2015 | 3:22 PM

Wine Institute, along with three of its member wineries - Chimney Rock Winery, the Miner Family Winery, and Staglin Family Vineyard - filed suit in Cook County, Illinois to fight a flood of predatory “Illinois False Claims Act” lawsuits. The defendants in the lawsuit are the Illinois Department of Revenue and the Illinois Attorney General.

The legal action comes in response to a spate of opportunistic lawsuits – 179 cases filed against wineries and more than 300 cases filed thus far – by Stephen B. Diamond, a private attorney. Those lawsuits claim wineries should have charged tax on shipping fees associated with online purchases delivered to Illinois. The suits take advantage of an Illinois law that allows “citizen whistleblowers” to sue in the name of the state and collect a generous percentage of any funds recovered for the state.

In a memorandum to members, Wine Institute said it explored administrative and legislative options for solutions to stop the actions against wineries.

“When these solutions were not forthcoming, we retained the services of ReedSmith, LLC in Chicago to represent us in the current litigation. Wine Institute appreciates the participation of the plaintiff wineries, as well as support from the Napa Valley Vintners which has provided assistance with expenses incurred in the litigation.”

“While our litigation will not immediately provide a remedy for those wineries already in litigation, our goal in bringing this action is to put a stop to IFCA lawsuits against wineries in the future and to clarify the confusion surrounding when/if a winery should be collecting taxes on shipping fees.”

For background on the "Qui Tam" lawsuits, see:

Illinois Qui Tam Lawsuits—Private Enforcement Of a State Claim: A Bonanza For A Plaintiff’s Lawyer And A Rip-Off Of Retailers

Illinois Attorney Targeting Wineries

and, Qui Tam Troubles Continue in Illinois


July 28, 2015 | 2:45 PM
July 28, 2015 | 11:17 AM

The Carneros Wine Alliance celebrated the 30th anniversary of its founding and the Year of the Ram ("carneros" in Spanish) at an intimate food and wine event over the weekend. Attendees enjoyed  a broad selection of Carneros wines from 20 wineries paired with locally sourced appetizers from Stag Dining, a food and wine pairing experience from Fine & Rare, live music from the Max Bonick trio, and prizes and art at the stunning di Rosa property in the heart of Carneros. A portion of the proceeds from the celebration benefitted di Rosa, a non-profit contemporary art museum celebrating the artists of Northern California.

Festivities also included art-walking tours of di Rosa’s renowned Bay Area art collection, a hands-on craft table led by Napa artist and curator, Kristina Young, for guests to create their own cork-based wine country art, and a blind wine tasting contest led by Jonathan Cristaldi, Editor-in-Chief and Instructor at The Napa Valley Wine Academy.

For all photos from the event, visit

All photos were taken by Allison Webber,

Monday, July 27, 2015
July 27, 2015 | 12:16 PM

The first California Wine Symposium in Havana, Cuba, taking place January 31 - February 3, 2016, is being organized in partnership with California Wine Institute, The Napa Valley Vintners, and Sonoma Valley Vintners.

Vintners will learn about doing business in Cuba while sharing their wines with sommeliers, restaurateurs, chefs and hotel managers throughout the island.

The event is being coordinated by Sonoma-based US Cava Exports, founded by Darius Anderson in 2014 to assist U.S. companies in negotiating contracts to sell agricultural and food products to Cuba. Over the last ten months, they've been working with local Cuban distributors, wine experts, and restaurant and resort managers assessing the market potential for California wines.

Relations with Cuba are warming. Amid the President’s recent modifications to the travel and trade embargo, Americans, Canadians and Europeans are visiting in record numbers. Some three million visited Cuba last year and tourism was up 20 percent during the first quarter of 2015.

Although wine is part of the hospitality culture of Cuba, access to wine there has been limited - though that is changing. Demand is increasing along with increased private sector investment and international tourism. California sent its first agricultural trade mission to Cuba in 2008 while the California Wine Institute sent a delegation to Cuba in 2009.

Last July, Anderson’s non-profit Californians Building Bridges, in partnership with Wine Institute, Napa Valley Vintners and Sonoma County Vintners, co-hosted the first delegation of 18 sommeliers from Cuba, who received travel visas to participate in a professional research, cultural exchange, and wine-buying trip. The week-long tour exposed them to wineries and associations throughout Napa and Sonoma.

U.S. food sales to Cuba have been allowed since 2000 under an exception to a trade embargo Washington has maintained since 1962. As an agricultural product, wine qualifies for this exemption.

US Cava Exports recently gained approval from the Department of Commerce to begin negotiating direct sales and shipping of wines from California to Cuba, in an effort to meet growing demand.

Space for the 2016 trip is limited with priority going to vintners who traveled to Cuba in January 2009 with the Wine Institute and those who participated in the Cuban Sommelier Summit in 2014.

Click here for more information on the symposium and costs and here for the schedule.

Steve Burns of O'Donnell Lane LLC, a strategic planning, marketing and communications firm assisting U.S. Cava in organizing the trip, said he expects at least fifty wineries to be represented, if not more.

Burns said there’s been a lot of interest with early sign-ups from such names as Schrader Cellars, Silver Oak, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Schramsberg Vineyards, Silver Oak, and Francis Ford Coppola.

“Everybody else has already been doing business there, you see French wine and Spanish wine,” Burns said. “Everything is changing by the day, but the U.S. embassy is open. Two years ago there was nothing. In the last six months it’s evolved and there are about ten wine importers.”


Thursday, July 23, 2015
by Curtis Phillips | July 23, 2015 | 2:09 PM

Depending on how you define them, screw pumps are everywhere in the US wine industry, but they are seldom recognized as such. This is simply because most pumps used to move must are fed by helical-screw “augers” (AKA Archimedes screw) which could be considered a type of screw pump. However, the term “screw” pump is usually reserved for pumps where the helical impeller is fully enclosed inside of a pump cavity. The resulting pump looks rather like a progressing cavity pump on the outside and the term "screw pump" is often used interchangibly for the two different designs.

The impeller of a screw pump is different form that of a progressing cavity pump, however. I’ve seen a lot of screw pumps in use in European wineries, but see them only rarely in US wineries despite their wide availability and generally gentle handling of the wine.

Netzsch Screw Pump video

Contrast the screw pump’s operation with our more familiar progressing cavity pump. Not the two universal joints connecting the helical rotor with the pump motor.

Netzsch Progressive cavity pump animation


For those interested, here's a slightly more detailed explaination of the Archimedes screw.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015
by Curtis Phillips | July 22, 2015 | 2:45 AM

Centrifugal pumps are very common in larger wineries, but they are really only useful for tank-to-tank wine transfers. They move wine by using a rotating disc-impeller. This design does not rely on the displacement of the fluid within the pump cavity. Instead, the angular momentum of the impeller is imparted to the wine as it moves across the disc from inlet to outlet port. These pumps need a continuous liquid column within inlet the hose in order to work. This means that, for the most part, they are not self-priming. It is generally best if the pump itself can be placed below the level of the tank outlet.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015
July 21, 2015 | 8:06 AM

The Missouri Wine and Grape Board commissioned an economic impact study and found that the local wine industry has grown just over 150% in the last decade. See more results from the study in the infographic below.

Click here to read the full report.

Monday, July 20, 2015
July 20, 2015 | 2:29 AM

Rotary lobe pumps are a type of positive displacement pump. The internal structure of the pump generally consists of two intermeshed, counter-rotating, gear-like rotors in an ovoid chamber. Typically the lobes are equilateral trefoils, but bi-lobed, winged bi-lobe and helical lobe designs are available. The tolerances between the two rotors and the chamber are tight, but usually not airtight. This means that, unlike flexible impeller pumps, most rotary lobe pumps are not self-priming.

The rotary lobe pump design is considered to be one of the most versatile pumps in the winery. The rotary lobe design moves wine (or must) at high flow rates while subjecting it to a low amount of shear and cavitation. They can also be used to lift wine for pump-overs or for filtration. In addition, they can be combined with a decent control system and variable frequency drive, both standard features that can be used for filling barrels. Rotary lobe pumps can even be used to pump destemmed must, provided that the pump is sufficiently large. The rule of thumb is that only three-inch pumps or larger (meaning that the inlet and outlet ports are at least three inches in diameter) should be used to pump must.

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