Wine Business Blog Wine Business Follow us on Twitter Wine Business Blog RSS Subscribe to Wine Business Blog by Email Wine Industry Blogs Wine Industry Classifieds Wine Industry Events Wine News Archives Wine People News Vineyard Weather Wine Jobs
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
September 17, 2014 | 9:59 AM
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
September 16, 2014 | 4:15 PM

The Vinitech-Sifel Innovation Award winners were announced September 11. The Innovation Awards highlight the most game-changing products in winemaking and fruit and vegetable farming—19 products, processes and technologies were chosen from more than 60 entries. Below is a sneak peek at some of the winners. Wine Business Monthly will highlight a wider selection of products from the show in an upcoming issue.

Vinitech-Sifel Bordeaux will be held December 2–4, 2014 at the Exhibition Center of Bordeaux. For more information visit

Special Jury Prize
Category: Vines, Orchards and Vegetable Farming

Mini-digger with pile driver

The mini-digger with pile driver is designed for trellis installation in the vineyard. The system is completely automated with GPS guidance to an accuracy of one centimetre. It enables an operator to work alone and greatly reduces the strenuousness of the task. Handling is reduced to a minimum; the operator only has to take the posts off the truck at the front of the digger and position them under the machine. The machine is also equipped with a decoiler for installing the trellis wires. This ground-breaking innovation represents a major development in precision farming, a cost-effective solution which also improves working conditions for dangerous tasks which put strain on the operator.

Gold Award
Category: Wine

CALIBAIE grape grader

CALIBAIE is a system for grading the grapes as they come out of an automatic sorting machine. It consists of a chain-driven roller table with parallel rollers which rotate towards the front of the machine. Carried by the moving rollers, the grapes are separated and spread out across the width of the machine. They continue to roll until they reach a gap wide enough to let them through without being compressed or crushed. Grapes larger than the size set are carried to the end of the roller table and fall into a tray, pump or lift. It is possible to adjust the machine according to the number of different grape sizes associated with the variety. Calibaie is a simple, efficient way to grade the harvest after prior sorting by stage of maturity (i.e. on exit from the Tribaie machine). It makes optimum use of the grape harvest by allowing different vinification processes according to grape size. The machine can be set to the appropriate processing speed to work autonomously in complete safety. The system is already fully operational and represents a real innovation which optimizes overall wine quality.

Gold Award
Category: Vines, Orchards and Vegetable Farming

EASY TURN steering system for grape harvesting machine

The Easy Turn steering system enables the operator to move to the row adjacent to the one just completed without any special manoeuvring; it also offers a significant productivity gain and better visibility. The innovation lies in the mechanical design: absence of tie rods, one reversing inner rear wheel and a 95° turning angle.

Gold Award
Category: Vines, Orchards and Vegetable Farming

GUIDALEX: Inter-vine tool chassis with automatic row guiding
and depth adjustment

GUIDALEX is a front-mounted tillage system designed for orchards that can have rows planted more than 5 metres apart. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that the positioning of the right and left mounted tools is controlled independently and automatically, enabling two half-rows to be worked simultaneously. The independent depth adjustment for each side is controlled either by a SOLTRONIC power regulator or a cylinder with integrated position sensor. The top speeds can be up to 5 km/h for unearthing and 8 km/h for earthing up.

Silver Award
Category: Wine

SMART GLASS: The first automatic liquid transfer controller for wineries

Smart Glass is an intelligent electronic monitoring system. The concept consists of distinguishing between liquids passing through a tube by means of a patented sensor based on impedance spectroscopy. Must, wine, must deposit, lees and water all have specific electrical signatures. Used during sedimentation, racking and flushing with water, the sensor detects changes in the liquid and controls the pump via a wireless connection. Smart Glass is the first automatic liquid transfer controller for wineries. It optimises winery operations and offers significant time savings. It is a remarkable development in precision winemaking.

Silver Award
Category: Vines, Orchards and Vegetable Farming

EcosatelYt inter-vine hoeing machine

EcosatelYt is an inter-vine hoeing machine which uses draft power to rotate a trihedral ploughshare support mounted off-centre. The blades stay aligned with the direction of travel, independently of the rotation caused by the wheel that supports the blade coming into contact with the vine stock. The work is finished by chains which break up clods and level the ground. A hydraulic system centres the machine in relation to the position of the row for each side independently. The current version of this machine is suitable for tilling vines planted between 1.5 and 2 metres apart.

by Cyril Penn | September 16, 2014 | 4:00 PM

What is biochar and is it useful?

Basically, biochar is charcoal that can be used as a soil amendment.

In a recent issue of Wines & Vines, columnist Cliff Omart concludes:

Given the potential of biochar to sequester carbon for a very long time, along with its properties of nutrient and water uptake and exchange with plants, I feel it is a product worth keeping tabs on as a potentially important soil amendment for vineyards in many situations. As more research is done and prices stabilize, it may prove to be an economically viable treatment option to improve vineyard soil quality

Sounds like we'll be hearing more. We hear rumors that some vineyard operators are looking into it - Monterey-Pacific in King City, Elieo Vineyards in Windsor, and possibly Paradise Ridge. Trials are underway. There are potential water savings to the extent that soil has more water holding capacity, and there's an expectation that the associated nutrients are good for the vines. Randall Grahm even thinks biochar helps intensify terroir. Here's a video posted by Ask a Winemaker where Randall Graham talks biochar.


September 16, 2014 | 12:02 PM

Grammy nominated singer Jewel performed an acoustic set at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville, Napa Valley as part of the Staglin Family's 20th Annual Music Festival for Brain Health, which raised nearly $3.5 million in 2013/2014 to benefit the IMHRO/One Mind Institute and ONE MIND™. See the full press release here.


Thursday, September 11, 2014
September 11, 2014 | 2:07 PM

In this month's issue of Wine Business Monthly, writer Theresa Dorr takes a look at point-of-sale systems for the tasting room and includes a detailed table of what many POS providers offer. We inadvertently left out Microworks in our POS Providers matrix. The table has been corrected and updated in our digital edition, which you can read here.

Here's a preview of Theresa's story: 

Once upon a time, the cash register, or point-of-sale (POS) system, was thought of as a tool that simply rang up sales. Over time, it evolved into a business management and marketing tool. POS solutions are expected to support staff members and optimize each customer interaction. They are expected to easily capture consumer information, help build lasting relationships, support marketing promotions, manage club memberships, provide status on wine shipments and real-time inventory and easily report out to accounting. The POS has become a one-stop shop for customer relationship management (CRM) and has evolved beyond a point of “sale” solution into more of a point of “service” tool. Newer features can help increase the average value of a sales transaction and even increase repeat visits to the winery, so it’s worth reviewing some of the newer features and how they can be leveraged in a winery.

Read the rest of the article, and much more, in the September 2014 edition of Wine Business Monthly.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014
September 2, 2014 | 2:12 PM

Paso Robles Wine Country is a region with no passwords, secret handshakes or other drastic measures required. Watch as Paso Wine Man explores this welcoming atmosphere in the latest Paso Uncorked video - No Reservations.

Thursday, August 28, 2014
August 28, 2014 | 10:29 AM
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
by Cyril Penn | August 27, 2014 | 7:00 PM

It’s not a he-said-she-said situation,” Thornhill said. “I haven’t said anything to you that I can’t show you on a contract or a document, or on the operating agreement or in an email.”

--Tom Thornhill

Tom Thornhill III, CEO, and owner of Mendocino Wine Company, contacted me late today about my post on Mendocino Wine Company settling its litigation with Paul Dolan. The post was based on a conversation with Dolan, one of the leading figures in the California wine industry.

Thornhill said I wrote a one-sided piece.

Dolan filed suit over the value of his stake in the Mendocino Wine Company in March 2012 before the company filed a cross-complaint.

Thornhill asked rhetorically why Dolan received no compensation and walked away from the Paul Dolan brand if he had such a great case before getting into some details, adding, “We agreed to drop our case against him for breach of fiduciary duty and fraud.”

Then he addressed some of the details in the post:

It inaccurately reported that Dolan “left the company four years ago” while Thornhill pointed out: Dolan “was terminated for cause on January 20, 2012.”

It said Dolan entered into a partnership with MWC in 2004, though Thornhill clarified details: Dolan was an employee of an LLC and owned units, initially a 10 percent stake, later 30 percent when some capital retired. He said the company tendered units as required after the termination and that Dolan didn’t like the valuation.

Thornhill recounted how Dolan’s termination arose:

“We discovered Paul was sending by email, our financials, cost structure and marketing plans to his other business associates who we did not know he was actively involved with. He was out buying fruit for Truett Hurst, when he should have been buying fruit for us. He was working on designs for Truett Hurst. He had meetings with Safeway and Whole Foods for Truett Hurst when he was supposed to be president of Mendocino Wine Group. That is a gross breach of fiduciary duty.”

Thornhill took issue with a sentence in my post that read, “Dolan, a 40-year veteran, said it was well known that he was involved in other businesses,” calling it half true, because two businesses Dolan had been involved in were carved out in his employment contract: Sauvignon Republic, which later dissolved, and Premium Wine Storage, managed by Heath Dolan, Paul’s son.

“He went off and did Truett Hurst without telling us and never disclosed it until it showed up in 2011 in a Press Democrat report,” Thornhill said. “Then he lied to us and told us he was a passive investor – that he wasn’t really involved, that it was Heath’s company.”

Thornhill said during the holiday season of 2011-2012, the company accidentally discovered Dolan was emailing financial reports, marketing and sales numbers and inventory to other partners in Truett Hurst and to others. He said the company later determined Dolan was buying fruit for Truett Hurst, introducing them to customers, meeting with customers and was offering to meet with customers to sell their product.

“That’s the cause. That’s not a question,” Thornhill said. “He never fought that issue. He never contested the termination.

Another issue: My post mentions vineyards, including Lover’s Lane. Thornhill said that when the vineyard was offered for sale, Dolan as president advised against MWC buying it but at the same time pursued it privately for his son and brother, and that they bought it.

“We never would have gotten into any of this if he hadn’t sued us,” Thornhill said. “We never would have done discovery to go back through his email. It never would have happened. We didn’t know about most of this until he sued us and we had to go figure out what was really going on.”

“We have 90,000 documents and emails of what he was doing back to 2005 and 2006,” Thornhill said. This was not a joke, and it was not a small deal. We agreed to settle this, because, I agree, it was time to move on.”

“I think what happened was he really began to realize his liability for breach of fiduciary duty and fraud, which were real, were something he didn’t want to face,” Thornhill continued. “He offered to us he would walk away from all his units and quit fighting about the brand name if we would drop our counter claims against him, which we agreed to do. But we didn’t pick this fight.”

“It’s not a he-said-she-said situation,” Thornhill said. “I haven’t said anything to you that I can’t show you on a contract or a document, or on the operating agreement or in an email.”


by Cyril Penn | August 27, 2014 | 2:00 PM
“I had a great case but not the resources to keep up with the Thornhill's wealth. They accepted. I have no regrets. Onward and upward.”

-- Paul Dolan

Paul Dolan says he had a great run for about eight years growing and reinvigorating Parducci while creating a new brand, Paul Dolan. Now he’s ready to put that behind him while pursuing his passion for winegrowing, Biodynamics and regenerative agriculture. The main thing he wants people to know is that he hasn’t been affiliated with the Paul Dolan brand for three years and won’t be in the future.

Mendocino Wine Company announced yesterday that it settled its legal matters with its former president, saying Dolan will receive no financial compensation and that it will continue to own the Paul Dolan brand. Paul Dolan left the company four years ago (note, correction, two years ago).

“Most challenging for me is not to be able to continue to build on the opportunity of the Paul Dolan brand,” Paul Dolan told “I was really looking forward to transforming it from an organic to a leading biodynamic winegrowing example. My greatest hope is the new owners will recognize the opportunity to bring back the quality which we originally created.”

"My greatest hope is the new owners will recognize the opportunity to bring back the quality which we originally created.”

-- Paul Dolan


Dolan said he proposed the settlement because ongoing litigation was a heavy financial drain and he couldn’t match the financial resources of the company’s owners, who prolonged it. “All I was doing was trying to get a fair shake on what the valuation of the business was and they were not willing to acknowledge any of the experience or knowledge I put in,” Dolan said. “I had a great case but not the resources to keep up with the Thornhill's wealth. They accepted. I have no regrets. Onward and upward.”

Dolan, a 40-year veteran of the wine business, entered into a partnership with the Thornhill family in 2004 at Dolan’s invitation when Parducci’s owner put the winery up for sale. Under Dolan’s leadership, the company revived the Parducci brand as sales grew. A disagreement with the Thornhills involved whether Dolan had the right to be involved in other ventures while being part of Mendocino Wine Company. Dolan says it was well known that he was already engaged in several different ventures when he started with MWG and that the wording of an agreement with the company clearly allowed it.

Dolan began his winemaking career at Fetzer Vineyards, where he worked his way to president. He is a leader in sustainable, organic and biodynamic farming, is a past president of the California Wine Institute, was a co-founder of WineVision, and wrote a book, “True to Our Roots: Fermenting a Business Revolution.” Dolan and his family retain ownership in three vineyards that have supplied grapes to Mendocino Wine Company, and others. He is also on the board of Truett Hurst Vineyards, which recently expanded, going public.

Dolan’s 50-acre Gobbi Street Vineyard, which sells Chardonnay grapes to such wineries as Ferrari-Carano, Jackson Family Wines, and Truett Hurst, was recently protected under an easement with the Mendocino Land Trust. His Dark Horse Vineyard, which has been farmed organically and biodynamic for some time, previously supported Paul Dolan Wines. His most recent vineyard investment is with the Lovers Lane Vineyard in Ukiah, which he says makes truly top Cabernet (“Yes, top-end Cabernet in Mendocino.”)

Among other things, Dolan is joining the board of Demeter, which provides a certification process for biodynamic farming.

Meanwhile, Paul Dolan’s son Heath Dolan and winemaker Matt Duffy are opening a new winery this week, RED, a newly designed and constructed custom crush winery, focused exclusively on red wines - just in time for the 2014 vintage.

“You can always look for my wines without my name, to enjoy” Dolan said. “Wines to look for are those that have the Dark Horse Vineyard designation: Campovida Grenache, Truett Hurst GPS, Pacific Star Petite Sirah or Navarro Grenache and Syrah. You can also enjoy the great wines from Truett Hurst in Dry Creek Valley.”

Tuesday, August 26, 2014
August 26, 2014 | 4:09 PM

Across this newdesk today is an earthquake update from the Napa Valley Grapegrowers:

The County of Napa has prepared a brief survey to gather information related to the earthquake damages that you may have sustained. The information will be important to estimate the countywide impacts, and to potentially seek out additional resources and assistance that may be available.

Please submit responses by close of business on Tuesday, August 26, 2014. Your responses is key to the county's recovery efforts. Please share this information with other wine industry partners that may not have received this message.

Click here to take the survey

Note: To avoid duplication of results, each business only needs to complete this survey one time. Also, this inquiry will not take the place of an actual claim for losses, it is only to estimate losses at this point.

If you have buildings or structures that need to be inspected in the unincorporated areas of the County, please contact (707) 253-4417, Napa County Emergency Operations Center, Public Information Team, on behalf of Larry Florin, Director of Housing and Intergovernmental Affairs.

For ongoing updates and resources, you can refer to the City of Napa homepage at

Got a tip? Tell us
Search WB Blog
Recent Posts
A listing of all the blogs monitored by our editors on a daily basis.
Email your comments to