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Thursday, May 18, 2017
May 18, 2017 | 12:53 PM

 Silicon Valley Bank's Rob McMillan leads an interactive discussion on the latest growth trends in direct-to-consumer wine sales and a review of SVB's 2017 Direct-to-Consumer Wine Survey. More than 800 wineries participated in the survey.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017
May 9, 2017 | 10:34 AM

In loving wine, you soon learn this universe has no center. Wine is this great confluence of history and innovation – a snapshot of ancient geologic moments, a bottling of a time and place, and a canvas for daring risks in the vineyard and cellar. In truth, making wine, serving it, or drinking it often leaves us with more questions than answers. Few winemakers celebrate this ineffability as gracefully as Randall Grahm.

Friday, April 7, 2017
by Kerana Todorov | April 7, 2017 | 2:19 PM

Napa Valley vintner Dario Sattui remembers walking up the hill behind his house one morning after a sleepless night a decade ago, all the way to Castello di Amorosa, the 13th century-inspired Tuscan castle he had built near Calistoga, gargoyles, watchtower, moat and all.

As he waited for the first paying visitor by the drawbridge, Sattui wondered if anyone should show up. Did he make a fool of himself?

“I mean who does (something) ridiculous like this,” Sattui said April. “’Will anybody actually come here?’
The rest is history. On April 6, Sattui invited 70 guests to celebrate Castello di Amorosa’s 10th anniversary where an estimated 400,000 people visit a year.

European artisans who had helped create the 136,000-square foot fortress set up demonstrations of their skills in the courtyard; wine writer and educator Karen McNeil led a wine seminar in the Grand Barrel Room; and a Michelin-star chef flown from Italy, Stefano Masanti, prepared a sit-down lunch served in the Great Hall, a banquet room decorated with Italian-style frescoes.

Sattui, a devoted student of medieval architecture, who estimates about 400,000 people come every year, purchased the 171-acre property in 1993.

“The castle wasn’t any one idea. It was a composite of everything I’d seen over a period of years,” Sattui told his guests. “It was my fantasy, my invention.”

At first, Sattui wanted to replicate a monastery.

But people don’t want a monastery, he reasoned. “They want a castle, right? And I was the same way. So after two, three years we changed the plan...started building a castle.”

Sattui, who has 29 acres planted, pursued his plans overcoming logistics, financial obstacle and self-doubt during the 15 years it took to build the castle, which features 107 rooms, including torture chamber, an armory and a chapel. Workers hand chiseled 8,000 tons of stones from two quarries in Napa County. About 70 percent of the building is underground.

In 2006, Sattui was running out of money. But in 2007, Napa County issued a temporary occupancy permit, allowing the first paying visitors to the castle and enabling Sattui to finish the project.
During the celebrations, MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible, led a vertical tasting featuring 10 years of Castello di Amorosa’s Il Barone Cabernet Sauvignon, beginning with the 2003 vintage.

Sattui spoke on his philosophy on winemaking, including his determination not to follow the latest trends.
“We’re striving to make flavor full, elegant, balanced, memorable wines, wines that aren’t over-oaked, wines that don’t have extra high alcohol,” he said.

MacNeil said the wines are “very European” in style. “It’s very masculine,” she also said. They are “more intriguing than I anticipated, actually,” she said later during the two-hour plus luncheon, which featured hand-made hen ravioli, roasted strip loin of beef, accompanied Il Barone Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley from 2013 and 2014 and other wines.

U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, sent his congratulations by video. Sattui also received a framed a resolution from California Sen. Bill Dodd.

As guests headed to lunch in the Great Hall, singers with Opera D’Amore sang pieces by Verdi, Rossini, Mozart and Puccini.

Among those watching the scene was visitor Mihai Ungureanu, He said he and his wife, Cristina, found the castle’s authenticity impressive. They expected kitsch, said Ungureanu, a Romanian who is moving with his wife from South Carolina to Palo Alto.

Instead he and his wife were really surprised. “(It) brings a lot of memories of home…unexpectedly,” Ungureanu said.

To mark the 10th anniversary, Sattui has written a book, “Castello di Amorosa A Labor of Love,” detailing the project’s history. As he signed copies of his book, Sattui said he had no idea the Castello would be the success it has been. Exactly what led him to build it? “It’s something inside of me (that) made me do it,” he said, before presenting a signed copy of his book to a guest.

by Erin Kirschenmann | April 7, 2017 | 1:43 PM

This is Rooted, wine in a reusable container featuring a plant kit within the lid created in the name of charity, specifically Growing Power, a non-profit organization and land trust that seeks “to grow food, minds, and community” through training, community food systems and a network of farms. Available in a white, red and Rosé, Rooted is targeted to consumers interested in sustainability, being outdoors and doing a small part to help create a better community—not in supporting corporations. Sales will start in the off-premise market, notably at Kroger and some other independent grocers, with some online, DTC sales as well.

Or at least, that would be the case if the brand existed.

Rooted was the winning creation in a competition amongst wine industry executives, marketers, educators and media to see who could build the best brand for a charity. While some focused on real charities and movements, others took the challenge in a more light-hearted way, creating a limited-edition scotch (sealed with a golf ball) for the golfer who just had too many problems in his rather entitled day.

Rooted's creators, the winning team of the brand development competition.

The competition was the newest installment in Nomacorc and Vinventions’ annual “A Model Wine” seminar. After spending the morning listening to experts in sustainability, sales and marketing, the off-premise market and branding, attendees were asked to put their new knowledge to the test by creating a brand complete with a package, path to market, social media strategy and charity to support. It was a fitting end to a day spent discovering new ways to be a better marketer.

Topics covered leading up to the competition included:

  • Creating value, led by William Silver, dean of the School of Business and Economics at Sonoma State University
     
  • Sonoma County’s sustainability efforts and the push to have all growers on board, led by Karissa Kruse, Sonoma County Winegrowers’ executive director
     
  • Innovative design concepts and thinking outside the box, led by Kevin Shaw, founder of Stranger & Stranger, who hilariously pointed out that “Darwinian evolution is faster than wine trade evolution.”
     
  • Current wine industry market trends, based on Silicon Valley Bank Wine Division founder Rob McMillan’s latest report.
     
  • A discussion of the process and evolution of Nomacorc’s Green Line series, a line of closures made of sugarcane.
     
  • Best practices for an effective off-premise retail strategy, hosted by Terry Creaturo, now-former adult beverage coordinator for Kroger grocery stores.
     

March 7, 2017 | 11:30 AM

Wine Clubs continue to flourish and have by no means reached a saturation point. In fact, wine clubs operated by U.S. wineries have been growing at double digits - they tripled over three years.

How do we know this?

It’s just one of the data points that emerged in last year’s Direct to Consumer Survey, conducted by Silicon Valley Bank and Wine Business Monthly.



As the chart below illustrates, for most small wineries, which means most wineries, DTC sales are everything.

So how does a winery benchmark itself to see how it’s doing while getting a handle on industry best practices?



By taking the 2017 DTC Survey, of course.

While topline data from the 2017 survey will be published in the July Wine Business Monthly, more detailed results will only be available to those who take the 10-15 minutes to complete the survey - time well spent. Take the DTC Survey Here

 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017
January 31, 2017 | 7:38 AM

 

A U.S. District Court judge this week denied a motion to dismiss Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars versus Treasury Wine Estates. 

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and parent company Ste. Michelle Wine Estates allege Treasury Wine Estates’ is exploiting the prestige of the Stags Leap District with “The Stag,” and is devaluing the prestige of Stags Leap District (see "Courtwatch: Is "The Stag" Devaluing the Prestige of the Stags Leap District?") 

Treasury Wine Estates denies those allegations and filed a counter suit 

In a statement, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates said it is pleased the court rejected Treasury’s motion to dismiss its complaint: 

"We are pleased that the Court has rejected Treasury’s motion and that our case is going forward. As has been clear from the beginning, Treasury launched The Stag for the purpose of associating a North Coast product with the prestige and reputation of the renowned Stags Leap District appellation and its legendary wineries. As the Court noted, “a reasonable inference arises that when TWE first began preparing to market The Stag, it had every intention of trying to evoke associations with the Stags Leap AVA.”

The marketplace is already showing signs of confusion as to the origin of The Stag. As members of the Stags Leap District continue to convey to Treasury, this product represents a threat not only to the Stags Leap District but to all wineries and grape growers throughout the Napa Valley." 

Friday, January 20, 2017
January 20, 2017 | 3:00 PM

Every year, when Wine Business Monthly creates our annual list of Top 10 Hot Brands, we look for vintners, growers, wineries and wines that are making a statement in our industry. Quality is always an important consideration, but Hot Brands is more than a list of the “best” or most interesting wines we’ve tasted during the year.

Through the years, the definition of “hot” has changed for us. When the list was first created, an oversupply of wine created a market full of “critter labels” and high-production, low-priced brands that would sell like “hot”-cakes. Eventually oversupply part of the wine cycle ended and so did that particular meaning of this list. Now, the Top 10 Hot Brands list delves into what it means to be a part of the American wine industry, part of the American wine culture. And that culture is increasingly more diverse.

This year, we’ve selected wines from pioneers, newcomers, long-standing winemakers and more. While each may grow a different grape or go about making wine in unorthodox ways, all the winemakers selected reflect the diversity that is the wine culture in the United States and all have an innate desire to produce something they, and the consumer, will love.

In the end, this list is comprised of wines that we here at Wine Business Monthly would serve to winemakers. We are releasing the Top 10 Hot Brands, one per day, in no particular order, leading up to the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium. Wine Business Monthly will be serving these wines to winemakers, grape growers and industry members at our annual gathering Bottle Bash during Unified on Tuesday, Jan. 24 at cafeteria 15L.

 

Sleight of Hand Cellars

2014 “The Conjurer” Red Blend
The Magic of Winemaking

Whether luck, intuition, knowledge or a combination of the three, the team at Sleight of Hand Cellars is making some stellar wine. Combining a love of music, magic and wine, Sleight of Hand knows that science should always come second to philosophy and artistry. As winemaker Trey Busch put it, “You should only know enough science not to screw it up.”

When Busch met Eric Dunham (the winemaker for Dunham Cellars) in 1998, he didn’t know that his world would be turned upside down. Through his friendship with Dunham, Busch found a way to escape his life as a buyer for Nordstrom in Seattle by moving to the Walla Walla Valley to become a cellar rat. At the time, Dunham Cellars was an emerging brand and, in exchange for informal winemaking lessons, Busch agreed to use his Nordstrom’s experience to help out on the sales and marketing side of the business.
 

The full story on Sleight of Hand Cellars ~ and all our Hot Brands ~ will be available in our February 2017 issue of Wine Business Monthly. You can come by our booth (#1620) at Unified and pick up a copy or click here to subscribe to WBM.
 

Thursday, January 19, 2017
January 19, 2017 | 3:00 PM

Every year, when Wine Business Monthly creates our annual list of Top 10 Hot Brands, we look for vintners, growers, wineries and wines that are making a statement in our industry. Quality is always an important consideration, but Hot Brands is more than a list of the “best” or most interesting wines we’ve tasted during the year.

Through the years, the definition of “hot” has changed for us. When the list was first created, an oversupply of wine created a market full of “critter labels” and high-production, low-priced brands that would sell like “hot”-cakes. Eventually oversupply part of the wine cycle ended and so did that particular meaning of this list. Now, the Top 10 Hot Brands list delves into what it means to be a part of the American wine industry, part of the American wine culture. And that culture is increasingly more diverse.

This year, we’ve selected wines from pioneers, newcomers, long-standing winemakers and more. While each may grow a different grape or go about making wine in unorthodox ways, all the winemakers selected reflect the diversity that is the wine culture in the United States and all have an innate desire to produce something they, and the consumer, will love.

In the end, this list is comprised of wines that we here at Wine Business Monthly would serve to winemakers. We are releasing the Top 10 Hot Brands, one per day, in no particular order, leading up to the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium. Wine Business Monthly will be serving these wines to winemakers, grape growers and industry members at our annual gathering Bottle Bash during Unified on Tuesday, Jan. 24 at cafeteria 15L.

Senses Wines

2014 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
The Occidental Boys

Ask 10 people in Sonoma County for a new or exciting wine recommendation and at least one will mention Senses Wines. For the last few years, Senses has been the talk of the town, the love of their brand spreading like wildfire in a drought. When looking to choose this year’s Hot Brands, WBM asked friends, family and neighbors for suggestions, and more than a few chose “the Occidental Boys.” It’s been incredible to see that so much community support—in a heavily saturated wine region no less—spread in such a short amount of time.

“The word-of-mouth is insane. The amount of sign-ups that we get to the mailing lists, the amount of buzz we have on social media, all that’s organic. We haven’t done any advertising at all,” said Chris Strieter, one of the founders.
 

 

The full story on Senses Wines ~ and all our Hot Brands ~ will be available in our February 2017 issue of Wine Business Monthly. You can come by our booth (#1620) at Unified and pick up a copy or click here to subscribe to WBM.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017
January 18, 2017 | 3:00 PM

Every year, when Wine Business Monthly creates our annual list of Top 10 Hot Brands, we look for vintners, growers, wineries and wines that are making a statement in our industry. Quality is always an important consideration, but Hot Brands is more than a list of the “best” or most interesting wines we’ve tasted during the year.

Through the years, the definition of “hot” has changed for us. When the list was first created, an oversupply of wine created a market full of “critter labels” and high-production, low-priced brands that would sell like “hot”-cakes. Eventually oversupply part of the wine cycle ended and so did that particular meaning of this list. Now, the Top 10 Hot Brands list delves into what it means to be a part of the American wine industry, part of the American wine culture. And that culture is increasingly more diverse.

This year, we’ve selected wines from pioneers, newcomers, long-standing winemakers and more. While each may grow a different grape or go about making wine in unorthodox ways, all the winemakers selected reflect the diversity that is the wine culture in the United States and all have an innate desire to produce something they, and the consumer, will love.

In the end, this list is comprised of wines that we here at Wine Business Monthly would serve to winemakers. We are releasing the Top 10 Hot Brands, one per day, in no particular order, leading up to the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium. Wine Business Monthly will be serving these wines to winemakers, grape growers and industry members at our annual gathering Bottle Bash during Unified on Tuesday, Jan. 24 at cafeteria 15L.

 

 

Presqu’ile Winery

2015 Pinot Noir Rosé
Finding the Right Freshness in Rosé

 

The Murphys have long been fans of some of the best Pinot Noirs in the world—from those made in the illustrious Old World Burgundy region, to the (relatively) new Californian wines. The attraction to the grape is based on a lure toward wine with freshness, and the family found that Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noirs are much preferred.

“I’ve worked short stints at wineries that were pulling Pinot Noir from all over the state and even from Oregon, and I noticed that the balance of the savory and spicy quality we got from the Santa Maria Valley were super interesting. I love the cinnamon elegance,” said co-founder and president of Presqu’ile Winery, Matt Murphy.

So, in 2007, the Murphys acquired 200 acres just 16 miles from the Pacific Ocean and planted 73 acres to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah. Led by Madison and Suzanne Murphy, their three adult children, Matt, Anna and Jonathan, and their daughters-in-law, Amanda and Lindsey, Presqu’ile Winery was formed on the basis of creating the best cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that California could offer.
 

The full story on Presqu'ile Winery ~ and all our Hot Brands ~ will be available in our February 2017 issue of Wine Business Monthly. You can come by our booth (#1620) at Unified and pick up a copy or click here to subscribe to WBM.

by Cyril Penn | January 18, 2017 | 7:00 AM

Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) released its annual State of the Wine Industry Report today and the report forecasts sales growth of 10-14 percent.

The report’s author, Rob McMillan will be discussing the annual report in a live videocast online this morning. If you’ve missed the live broadcast, a reply will be available later. No doubt there will be press reports today and over the next few days summarizing the findings.

Here’s a link to a press release and another to download the full report: http://www.svb.com/wine-report/
I always look forward to reading this report, and it covers a lot of ground, from the big sales trends to what’s happening in restaurants to grape supply to demographic shifts. There’s a lot to like about this report. One of the things I like best is that Rob makes predictions, then goes over them the following year to see if he was right or not and why. More often than not the predictions are spot on.

It’s a long report but easy to read, so I’d encourage readers to go to the source.
My favorite chart in the report is toward the end, you can find it on page 59, “Winery Financial Benchmarks.” This is data you’re not going to find anywhere else. Survey respondents estimated that average sales growth for the year will end up at 11.9 percent.

 

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