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Thursday, March 22, 2018
March 22, 2018 | 7:57 AM

Jake Lorenzo, aka, Lance Cutler, kicks off the Rhône-style blends tasting at the WiVi Central Coast Conference and Trade Show with Carl Bowker of Caliza, Joe Barton with Grey Wolf Cellars, and Claire Silver of Tobin James Cellars.

For more on how winemakers craft Rhône-style blends, see the January 2018 Wine Business Monthly 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018
March 20, 2018 | 5:53 AM


Tablas Creek Vineyard partner and founder Robert Haas has passed away, the winery has announced. Haas entered the wine trade in 1950 and founded Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles in 1989.  We will share more information as it becomes available. 


from the Tablas Creek Website: 

Robert Haas has played a leading role in the American wine industry for over half a century. After graduating from Yale in 1950, he joined his father’s firm, M. Lehmann, Inc., a retailer of fine wines and spirits in Manhattan. As a buyer for the company and its import arm, Leeds Import Company, Haas traveled through the cellars of France, establishing a formidable reputation as a wine taster while forging lifelong relationships with premier wine producers.

In the mid-1960s he set out on his own to import fine estate wines from Burgundy, Bordeaux, the Loire, Alsace and the Rhône Valley, where he met the Perrins of Château de Beaucastel and became the Perrins' exclusive American importer. He founded importer Vineyard Brands through which he introduced the American market to brands such as La Vieille Ferme, Marqués de Cáceres, Warre’s Port, Girardin, Alsace's Domaine Weinbach, and Burgundy's Domaines Gouges, Sauzet, Ponsot, Mongeard-Mugneret, Dauvissat, Matrot, Carillon, and Michel among others. The company also served as a representative for newly emerging California wineries in the early seventies, including Chappellet, Freemark Abbey, Clos du Val, Joseph Phelps, Rutherford Hill, Hanzell, Kistler, and later Sonoma-Cutrer. He founded the symposium "Focus on Chardonnay" in 1984 to promote dialogue between producers in Burgundy and California and he also created the first ever French-American Rhône Symposium, which was held at the Meadowood Club in the Napa Valley in 1990.

Haas is one of four American members of the Académie Internationale du Vin. In recognition of his contributions to the international wine community as an importer, a vintner, and an advocate for quality, he was elected as the AIV president in 2000. He was recognized by the Paso Robles Wine Community as 2007 Wine Industry Person of the Year, and in 2014 he received a lifetime achievement award from Rhone Rangers for his contributions to the American Rhone movement. Haas is largely retired but is still a regular presence at Tablas Creek.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018
by David Furer | March 6, 2018 | 2:00 PM

A rainy February Tuesday saw the Austin debut of a new organization dedicated to crafting wines made fully from its state's vines, Texas Wine Growers. Despite support from distributors such as Virtuoso and Serendipity, trade turnout for the complimentary afternoon session at Matties restaraunt amounted to 40 while the evening's paying public turnout of 220 was unexpectedly large, site mnager Paula Restera said, calling it an indication that locally sourced/locally made counts with consumers. 

Both sessions offered current and older vintages, some in verticals of blends or varietals featuring Aglianico, Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot, Mourvèdre, Picpoul, Sangiovese, and Tempranillo.

Over a glass of his Viognier founding member Seth Martin of Perissos Vineyard & Winery emphasized the organization's commitment to "using only Texas grown grapes to make our wines ... truth in labeling in that we think Texas wines should be fully Texas fruit." His Viognier, and fellow TWG member Carl Money's Pontotoc Vineyard Tempranillo, recently won Double Gold at the San Francisco Wine Competition.

The central Texas wineries comprising Texas Wine Growers's current membership and showcasing themselves were Calais Winery, Hawk's Shadow Winery, Lewis Wines, Lost Draw Cellars, Perissos, Pontotoc, Westcave Cellars, and William Chris Vineyards. Five TWG member wineries along with another nine from throughout Texas presented to the New York area trade November 9 at Manhattan's Rouge Tomate restaurant, marking the Lone Star state's wine producers' first concentrated foray outside its borders.

Texas Wine Growers was established early last year as a response to the imprecision of its state's laws pursuant to wine labeling. Later it, along with British Columbia and McLaren Vale, were accepted as the newest members of the Joint Declaration to Protect Wine Place & Origin, itself founded by the Comité Champagne to protect wine place names and ratified in 2005 with the inclusion of the Napa Valley Vintners Association.

Monday, March 5, 2018
by Michael Lasky | March 5, 2018 | 10:50 AM

Long past its tipping point, the sales of Rosé have become a category killer in the last year. Manifesting its popularity this year sports two professional rosé wine judging competitions in the U.S. and the creation of a Provence Rosé Group to meet the ever increasing demand for Rosé in the North America.

According to Nielsen, Rosé is outpacing overall U.S. wine growth. Although Rosé represents a mere 1.5% of the total table wine category, it is growing at a rate unheard of in other categories. This might explain how there can be two wine judging competitions in the U.S. totally devoted to the pink wine.

The Rosé Competition 2018 teams up Bob Ecker, found of the first Rosé Competition in 2013 with Shari Gherman, President of the 11 year running American Fine Wine Competition & Gala. The premiere judging will take place on April 10, 2017 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. For this event, wineries are asked to submit four bottles of each wine (two for the judging, one to promote the wine at the annual charity gala for 400 guests, and one signed bottle for promotion at the gala’s charity auction.)

Wineries interested in submitting entries will find entry forms at Deadline for entries is March 30, 2018 and the registration fee is $65. The gala will be held May 5, 2018 at Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale. For more information contact Shari Gherman, President, at 561.504.0206 or via email at or Bob Ecker, Wine Director, at 707.421.1701 or

Coming on the heels of this rosé competition is Experience Rosé: the 2018 Competition, launched by Craig Palmer and Allen Habel, co-Founders of the former Rosé Today. The judging will commence on April 18, 2018 at Soda Rock Winery in Healdsburg. Entries from any U.S. wineries must be received by April 16, 2018 with each entry of four bottles accompanied by a $65 registration fee. For entry forms and instructions go to

Winning wines will be invited to pour at a new curated event, Experience Rosé: The Great Rosé Pairing of Summer on June 16, 2018 at The CIA at Copia in Napa.

U.S. Importer Provence Rosé Group Created to Increase Sales of French Rosé

With imported Rosé sales doubling in the past five years and showing no signs of slowing, the U.S. importer Provence Rosé Group was created in 2018 to purposefully marketed and expand sales of Rosé to U.S. consumers. The group (PRG) is a subsidiary of four leading Provence Rosé estates: Chateau de Berne, Ultimate Provence, Chateau des Bertrands and Chateau Sain Roux.

Though they have a solid foundation for distribution, particularly on the East Coast, Provence Rosé Group is looking to further strengthen its relationships on the West Coast.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018
by Cyril Penn | February 14, 2018 | 4:30 PM

Silicon Valley Bank released Rob McMillan's State of the Industry 2018 Report and it points to data indicating the growth rate of wine sales is slowing - wine sales are still growing to be sure - but the rate of growth looks to be tailing off a bit.

Some of the highlights and predictions per the report:

• Consumers continue to leave lower-price segments in favor of better-quality offerings, but total sales growth is leveling off.
• For the industry as whole, sales will rise by 2 to 4 percent, while volumes will increase up to one percent.
• Overall pricing will remain flat with price increases difficult to pass through to consumers.
• The premium wine segment – which we define as above $10 per bottle – will grow in the range of 4 to 8 percent, down from the estimate of 10 to 14 percent in 2017.
• Overall supply is balanced, with chardonnay demonstrating particularly strong demand. Cabernet is balanced with flat to downward pressure at the high end of the market.
• Increasing imports will continue in the lower premium price points.
• Acquisitions will cool somewhat from the torrid pace of the past three years. We still will see foreign purchases of US wineries and significant transactions for vineyard properties.
• North Coast grape prices, which have seen rapid growth in the past five years, should slow their growth rate.

The data is consistent with a lot of what we were hearing anecdotally from executives interviewed for the February Wine Business Monthly.

This is SVB's 17th annual state of the industry report. One of my favorite charts is the one below, because it shows actual winery performance - sales growth and profits from actual financial statements from clients and non clients. It indicates sales growth at premium wineries slowed between the third quarter of 2016 and the third quarter of 2017. 

Average Winery Visitation Declining 

While the report underscores the increasing importance of DTC revenues, it does raise a cautionary flag on  DTC as well. Data showing a decline in winery visitation made little sense two years ago because winery DTC revenues were up across the board. The negative trend was attributed to better reporting from wineries being more focussed on tracking visitation, as reported in the July 2017 Wine Business Monthly. Declining visitation does seem to be a trend, in 2018, though. "After additional research and reflection, we are convinced that there is more going on than we first suspected," McMillan writes in the report. Wineries have been doing a better job of selling to the guests they host but the number of visitors is declining. 

Changing demographics - i.e. younger consumers and retiring baby boomers are one of the factors at play.

The report says "successful wineries ten years from now will be those that adapted to a different consumer with different values."  It also notes that a changing of the guard is underway when it comes to the demographics behind premium wine.

 Rob McMillan alluded to much of this in a webcast a couple of weeks ago, here's the replay.

Monday, February 12, 2018
by Kerana Todorov | February 12, 2018 | 4:01 PM

California’s wine grape crop was about 4 million tons in 2017 – about the same as in 2016. Overall, brokers expect the market for grapes and bulk wine to remain steady as prices for wine grapes continue to climb.

The fact that the wine grape crush is nearly identical to last year’s is “no real surprise,” said Jeff Bitter, vice president at Allied Grape Growers. At 4 million tons, the 2017 wine grape crush is still slightly short of what is considered an average size crop in California, Bitter said.

Some brokers expected an even lighter crop in 2017 before federal and state officials released California’s preliminary grape crush report Friday.

Glenn Proctor, partner at Ciatti Global Wine and Grape Growers, said the 2017 crop ended up bigger than anticipated because the yield in the Fresno District was 3.5 percent higher than in 2016 and Bakersfield’s, about 11 percent higher. Altogether, this adds up to 1.6 million tons of grapes, Proctor said.

The state’s 2017 crop was the largest ever for a number of varieties, including Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Cabernet Sauvignon, according to Ciatti.

Chardonnay remains the leading grape variety with 14.5 percent of the total crush volume. However, it is 9.3 percent lower than in 2016, a result attributed to a series of heat spikes over the summer.

Chardonnay 2017, Interior Versus Coastal 

The 2017 Chardonnay crop is the smallest since 2011, Turrentine Brokerage president Steve Fredricks said. The crop yielded about 614,000 tons statewide – 13 percent down from the 5-year average, according to the Turrentine analysis.

Proctor, of Ciatti, noted that Chardonnay’s 2017 crop was down 17 percent in Lodi and 19 percent in the Delta/Clarksburg area in 2017 from a year ago. Lodi growers dealt with a lot of canopy and mildew pressure, he said.

“I was surprised how far down it was,” he said, referring to the smaller-size crops.

California’s Northern Interior’s overall crop was more than 5 percent down, Bitter noted.

The crop, statewide, was lighter in 2017 than in 2016 for other varieties. Zinfandel’s 2017 crop was down by 12.6 percent. Riesling was down about 9.8 percent from 2016; Syrah decreased by 7.6 percent and Petite Syrah, by 7.3 percent.

Wineries continue to pay more for fruit. Statewide prices increased by 1.8 percent for all varieties, according to Ciatti.

Cabernet Sauvingon 2017 Interior Versus Coastal 

Statewide, Syrah prices increased by 5.5 percent, according to Ciatti. Cabernet Sauvignon fruit increased by 4.5 percent; Sauvignon Blanc, by 4.6 percent; and Pinot Noir, by 4.2 percent.

Fruit from Sonoma cost 8.3 percent more in 2017 than in 2016. Napa Valley fruit prices continue to break records has it has over the past decade. Napa County wine grape prices overall climbed by 10.4 percent, as compared to 2016. Cabernet Sauvignon reached a record $7,421 – an 8.4-percent increase over 2016, according to Ciatti.

Fredricks said the prices are not a surprise as so much of the grapes are contracted.

With prices increasing, wineries and brands are considering various strategies to maintain profit margins, including sourcing fruit from more affordable areas, brokers have reported over the past few months.
For example, a North Coast brand may consider sourcing from Lodi or the Central Cost, Proctor said.

The California Preliminary Grape Crush Report is available at:
The final report is scheduled to be published March 9.


Monday, February 5, 2018
by Kerana Todorov | February 5, 2018 | 7:28 AM

A vineyard worker (right) competes Saturday in the 17th Annual Napa County Pruning Contest. Altogether, 25 women and 114 men competed in separate divisions at the Gamble Ranch near Yountville. The pruners were graded for speed and execution. The grapegrowers, who coordinated the competition, said the contest event was scheduled on a Saturday for the first time to make the competition a family event. The top pruners received a belt buckle and cash prizes.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018
January 31, 2018 | 3:32 PM
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
January 30, 2018 | 1:27 PM

I am reaching out about the story that was included in today’s Wine Business newsletter about our client, Cuvaison Estate Wines. Since the Cuvaison team wasn’t able to provide a statement before the story was printed, we would like to share with you the following statement from Dan Zepponi, the president and CEO of Cuvaison Estate Wines. 

“We are saddened by these untrue accusations. We are a company that believes deeply in fair hiring practices, and our team, including our direct-to-consumer staff, is made up of people of all ages and various backgrounds. This diversity is a valued part of our company culture, and any claims to the contrary are false. While we are unfortunately limited in what we can say due to the pending litigation, we are eager to challenge these baseless claims in court.”

Thank you, again,
Miriam Pitt

January 30, 2018 | 11:00 AM

A news item about the settlement of John Duarte’s long-running legal battle with the Army Corp of Engineers that appeared on page 10 in the print edition of the October 2017 Wine Business Monthly contained an inaccuracy. The article reported that the case began “when a representative of the Army Corps of Engineers found him tilling land to depths of 5 to 6 feet.” The error here lies in the use of the word “found” – our editors should have used another word, such as “accused.” We also could have provided more context. While the news item still appears in our archives via the digital edition, that sentence has been deleted.

Back in the winter of 2012, when Duarte was plowing a field to plant wheat, a project manager from the local office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, responsible for enforcing the Clean Water Act, was driving by as Duarte's field was being plowed. He decided that the land was being tilled too deeply and claimed to have observed "deep ripping," which is not allowed because it can destroy wetlands. The Corps then sent Duarte a cease-and-desist letter.

Duarte always contended the project manager was mistaken, and that rather than admit the mistake, the government had doubled down, leading to millions of dollars in legal costs. As reported by Wine Industry Insight, the contention “was disputed by Duarte, his contractor, expert witnesses and even by a photo on the cover of one of the government expert witness reports."

What makes the error in the October issue especially frustrating is that John Duarte was selected as one of the industry’s Top 50 Leaders in the December 2017 Wine Business Monthly because he stood up to the Army Corp of Engineers in this case, a case that many saw as an example of government overreach. Duarte was recognized, not only for his role as one of the leading providers of planting material/grapevines, but for standing up for farmer’s rights by holding firm in the legal case.

We regret the error.

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