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. Starting today, 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.
Legacy Son Steps Out on His Own
Many recent college graduates looking for employment will tell you that often it’s not your qualifications or achievements that finally land you a job—the old adage that “it’s not only what you know, it’s who you know” has been engrained into their brains.
Truer words could not be said for Dan Cohn, son of Bruce Cohn and former CEO of B.R. Cohn Winery (which was sold to Vintage Wine Estates in 2015). Born and raised in wine country to a family that ended up creating one of the most well-known Sonoma County brands, Dan learned about grape growing and winemaking from a very early age from some of the industry’s most respected figures, including Helen Turley, Merry Edwards and Steve MacRostie, while working 24 hours a day on a press or jumping in to clean a tank. All the while he was watching people he admits knew much more about winemaking than his family did....
The full story on Dan Cohn 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.
Wine Business Monthly's December 2016 digital edition is now available.
Inside December 2016 you will find our:
2016 Year in Review
50 Top Leaders
Top News Stories
Mergers & Acquisitions Review
Top People Moves
2016 Barrel & Oak Survey Report
Mark Greenspan: Chilean Vineyards and Wines: Could be a Contender
Analyzing the Phenolic and Sensory Effects of Red Blotch-Infected Vines
When the winemaker at Halter Ranch saw lost yields and flavor reductions in some blocks of Red Blotch-infected Cabernet, he set out to discover just how different these vines were from non-infected vines.
Industry Roundtable: Vineyard Loans
Growers Showing Interest in H-2A Visa Program
Randy Short - Tony Correia - Frank Farella - Greg Scott
Sonoma State Launches Business of Wine Video Series
Wine Business Monthly Publishes Top 50 Leaders List
|left to right, Randy Short, partner, Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP; Tony Correia, president, The Correia Co; Frank Farella, founding partner, Farella Braun + Martel, Greg Scott, partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers (photos by Bob McClenahan napasphotographer.com)|
It was about leadership, a gathering with top leaders recognizing four of their own.
Recalling that Ernest and Julio Gallo had extraordinary vision and understood the leadership it takes to be successful in the wine industry, Master of Ceremonies Roger Nabedian, Senior Vice President and General Manager at E. & J. Gallo Winery, stressed the importance of fostering new talent and mentoring new leaders.
“This evening is called 'business of wine leadership' dinner for good reason,” Nabedian said. “We’re here to celebrate the leaders of today as well as the future leaders of the wine industry.”
|Roger Nabedian, Senior Vice President and General Manager at E. & J. Gallo Winery|
Four individuals who’ve been incredibly influential in contributing to the wine industry’s collective success were honored in a gathering at the Culinary Institute of America’s new Napa, California campus, the former site of Copia.
The honorees were Tony Correia, the industry’s best known real-estate appraiser; Taxation and accounting wizard Greg Scott; Attorney Randy Short, who has handled some of the most high-profile wine industry mergers and acquisitions of the last four decades; and Frank Farella, counsel to many leading vintners, the late Robert Mondavi among them.
“Leadership is about making a difference, making a difference for the organizations for which you work, but also making a difference for the communities in which you live,” Sonoma State University School of Business and Economics Dean Bill Silver said.
Attendees previewed highlights from a first round of interviews conducted for Sonoma State University’s Business of Wine Video Series, directed by Emmy-award winning filmmaker Dennis Scholl. The multi-year project, just getting started, will entail hour-long videos with fifty accomplished leaders discussing their entry into the world of wine, their achievements, goals, challenges, setbacks, regrets, views of leadership, and so forth.
Each interview will be turned into a free-standing documentary, a teaching tool meta-tagged so answers to questions can be searched for by students. Scholl plans to eventually produce a documentary based on the interviews to pitch to PBS.
“The wine industry here is undergoing a lot of transition and this is a moment to capture voices who we’ve all listened to for decades,” Scholl said. “We’re approaching this project in a way that will allow the knowledge that we capture to be used in a number of different formats.”
|Dennis Scholl discusses Sonoma State University’s Business of Wine Video Series
Sonoma State’s Business of Wine Video Series is being made possible through support from Jeff Menashe and Demeter Group, which conceived of the Business of Wine Leadership Dinner
Honorees were acknowledged by some of their peers, who recounted working together, sometimes (with) tongue in cheek.
Silverado Premium Partners president Mark Couchman called Tony Correia “the fastest appraiser in the business”- not because of the speed at which he produces appraisal reports - but because of the pace at which he outran a Pitbull one day when he was inspecting a property.
Andy Beckstoffer, always an effective negotiator, recalled convincing Randy Short and his wife Mary to babysit his four children for a week when he left the country for a vacation in the 1970s.
Bill Phelps of Joseph Phelps Vineyards thanked Greg Scott for helping his family transition from the first to the second to the third generation. “This guy’s mind works faster than anybody else’s,” Phelps said. “I know he talks faster.”
Jeff O’Neill with O’Neill Vintners and Distillers recalled meeting Frank Farella in the early 1980s, when Farella’s hourly rate exceeded O’Neill’s weekly rate, and O’Neill recalled the extraordinary lengths Farella went to in order to adopt an abandoned dog that befriended him in Italy (the statute of limitations has passed).
“We’ve seen how important good leaders are, not only to individual companies, but also to the health of the overall industry,” Wine Business Monthly publisher Eric Jorgensen said, noting the fortuitous timing of the event: the December WBM includes a list of the Wine Industry’s Top 50 Leaders.
“Our four honorees are going to be on this list and I’m happy to say that many of you in the audience tonight will be joining our honorees on the list,” Jorgensen said. “One of the reasons we did this was to acknowledge the great leaders we have in this industry and how fortunate we are to have them.”
“I hope tonight’s dinner is just the beginning of a group like this coming together as an industry to honor and celebrate our own and that we have more events like this where we can assemble and celebrate the leaders of today and look to a bright future with the wine leaders of tomorrow,” Nabedian said.
|Michael Mondavi and Mark Couchman|
|Fetzer CEO Giancarlo Bianchetti with Jeff Menashe, CEO of Demeter Group
|St Michelle Wine Estates CEO Ted Baseler, Korbel VP communications Margie Healy, and Korbel president and owner Gary Heck|
|Jeff O'Neill with Frank Farella|
|Tony Correia said 'the selection process was rigged' (his wife Stephanie is on the left with Mark Couchman seated to the right)|
|Randy Short, go-to attorney for large companies in winery transactions, recounted 45 years representing wineries, including Heublein and later, Diageo|
|Greg Scott said that as a kid from a small town Indiana, he never thought he'd end up doing what he did. "I did my research and figured out that there were some things in tax you could do that nobody was taking advantage of," he said. One of those things involved separating the value of an appellation for tax purposes.|
|Steve Burns with Gina Gallo and Josh Heiser|
|Ray Johnson, Executive Director, Sonoma State Wine Business Institute and Wine Communications Group President and Wine Business Monthly Publisher Eric Jorgensen|
|Wine Business Monthly's 2016 Top Leaders appears in the December 16' issue|
Rombauer’s new underground cave tours, takes you on a a stroll by some 2,500 barrels while sipping on Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Rombauer is the latest winery to open its doors for regularly scheduled tours of its underground caves in the Napa Valley. Other wineries include Schramsberg Vineyards, Del Dotto Vineyards and Jarvis Estate.
For the past few weeks, Rombauer winery has begun to offer small tours of its underground caves.
The visits last about an hour. Visitors are led down a gravel path along the hillside property to reach a plain barrel door that opens to 1,900 linear feet of underground caves. The labyrinth is home to 2,500 wine barrels, where temperatures remain a cool 62-degree Fahrenheit year round.
Why the new tour at Rombauer? “We thought it was a really different way to be able to tell our story and share our wines – particularly the red wines,” said Brandye Alexander, Rombauer’s director of marketing and consumer relations.
“We also have very limited space in our tasting room,” Alexander added. “Being able to offer the tours no only gave people a different experience to learn more about Rombauer, but it also allows us to accommodate more people on the property because we’re not limited to just the small space in the tasting room.”
Visitors, led by a guide, now make a loop of sorts while stopping at different stations to taste various wines and learn about Rombauer’s vineyards, grape sourcing and wine making.
About 150 people have taken the tour since Sept. 5, when the tour was first offered to the public.
Tours are limited to 10 visitors, in part for safety reasons. Has anyone gotten lost in the web-like underground caves? “We try to pride ourselves on good hospitality,” Alexander said. “That includes ‘No guest left behind as our motto,” she added, tongue-in-cheek.
The caves have been visited by members of the public on special occasions. But in these rare instances, wings were blocked off with barrels.
“Cave Tour & Tasting” tours are scheduled daily at 11 a.m. Beginning in October, a second tour will be added at 2 p.m.
Wines served this week included Rombauer’s 2015 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc; 2015 Carneros Chardonnay; 2010 Napa Valley Le meilleur du Chai and 2013 Stice Lane Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cave Tour & Tasting is offered daily at 11 a.m. by appointment. A second tour will be added in October.
Next week marks the 25th Wine Industry Financial Symposium, which from the beginning has had strong support from the banks. A lot has changed in that time, whether one is talking about the structure of leading U.S. wine companies, distributors, retailers or consumer taste and style preferences. In the early 1990s, wine coolers were fading, large format wines were growing and blush blends, aka white zinfandel, accounted for nearly a quarter of California wine shipments. The charts below show California table wine shipments in 1993 compared to 2013. Red blends now represent 6 percent of California table wine shipments.
Mergers and Acquisitions will be one of the most discussed topics during the symposium, as there have been dozens of significant transactions in the past eighteen months. Dominant wine companies such as Constellation, Jackson Family Wines, E&J Gallo, and The Wine Group have acquired premium wine brands while a second tier of mid-sized wine companies has been quite active.
The intention behind many of the acquisitions is to spread distribution nationally and to grow the brands but not a lot of vineyards typically go with these brand acquisitions. Wineries are eager to ensure supply sources to grow their newly-acquired brands and control pricing so there are many recent examples of them buying vineyards too.
Silverado Group chairman David Freed’s presentation during the symposium builds toward the conclusion that there may not be enough premium grapes to meet demand for some of the labels that wine companies have been acquiring and growing.
“From a pure economics-101, supply-and-demand perspective, there’s no way we can keep up with the explosive demand for some of the blended red brands,” Freed told winebusiness.com. “I don’t know where the grapes are going to come from."
One of the factors at play: There isn’t a lot of growth in wine grape acreage along California’s Central Coast or North Coast while vineyard acreage in the Central Valley is decreasing.
Another factor: Freed noted that for a while that shortfall in new acreage was being made up in part with higher yields from existing acreage, replanting, changing trellising systems, etc. Data shows yields have leveled off, however, so that the solution of increasing the productivity of California’s roughly 550,000 vineyard acres to meet burgeoning demand is no longer going to have a big impact.
California traditionally experiences supply cycles every few years: demand goes up, leading to vineyard planting and then over-planting, resulting in oversupply, causing planting to stop. Then the cycle begins again when demand picks up. The cycle seems to have stalled out at this point, though because there’s been little new vineyard planting – the overplanting isn’t happening.
Imports as a percentage of wine consumption have grown from about 25 percent of the market to about a third of it, and traditionally compete with wines sourced from California’s Central Valley. With growth in wine sales moving up market, though, will imports become competitive with wines sourced from the Central Coast?
Freed said the industry isn’t there yet but that he wonders where some of the large brands will go if they can’t meet demand with grapes from the Central Coast.
In this video, the late Professor Emeritus Ralph Kunkee, an expert on the role of yeast in winemaking, interviews UC Davis Professor of Enology, Emeritus Vernon Singleton, who passed away last month. The interview was conducted in 2001. Vern talks about his childhood up through his career at UC Davis.
Treasury Wine Estates responds to this story
Treasury Wine Estates said in a statement it is “fully complying with state and federal laws in relation to the development, marketing and sale of this brand in the US” and hopes the “matter will be resolved.”
The Stag, and “imagery of this creature, has been associated with the historic St Huberts winemaker in Australia since 1862,” according to the statement from Australia. In June, the company introduced new wines in Australia under the “refreshed” brand: The Stag Chardonnay and The Stag Shiraz.
Wines produced in the United States under The Stag brand are from different wineries, according to the company.
The Stag wine “has been produced across a number of TWE’s facilities – not just specifically Stags’ Leap,” Barry Sheridan, vice president of marketing, Americas for Treasury Wine Estates, said in separate statement.
As the 2016 wine grape harvest gets underway, a new 57,000 square foot custom crush facility is opening in the northern part of Sonoma Valley just outside of Santa Rosa, specifically designed with the small, hands-on winemaker in mind. The facility, still under construction, will process an easily manageable 450 or 500 tons this fall, though its use permit allows for 125,000 cases, or about 2,000 tons.
The project was just an idea 20 months ago, building permits were issued seven months ago, and the facility – abuzz with activity - is already processing Sauvignon Blanc. It's organized chaos.
Sugarloaf Crush is specifically designed to handle small lot fermentations with some of the latest equipment: A Bucher Vaslin Oscillys press, an optical sorter, small-lot concrete-stainless steel tanks, multiple membrane presses, and for one client - oak fermenters, along with three separate temperature controlled barrel rooms.
General Manager and Winemaker Ronald Du Preez, (left) previously with Jordan Vineyards & Winery joined Sugarloaf Crush in March. He’s been in the custom crush business since 2012 and studied viticulture and enology at Stellenbosh University in South Africa. The 10,000 hectoliter Bucher press at Sugarloaf Crush is the same model Du Preez worked with at Jordan for 12 years, simple, easy to work, and capable of handling whole clusters in batches of 8 or 10 tons.
To be ready for the 2016 crush, contractors focused considerable attention on creating a covered crush-pad outside of the main building. Eventually the tanks will move inside.
Outside sit 10 open-top tanks, ideal for 3.5 to 5.5 ton lots, that can be picked up with a forklift. Next to them are another 10 specially designed custom hybrid open top tanks with 36” doors on top that swing open for punch downs. Du Preez worked with Santa Rosa Stainless Steel and custom designed the tanks. The hybrid tanks can be used for Pinot Noir, and work well for cold soaks. They’re good for pump-overs with Cabernet Sauvignon too. With the tops down, they can be pressurized so work for storage, blending or for filtering before bottling. Next year, the winery will likely add a pneumatic punch-down device.
The building is designed with built-in flexibility specific for the custom crush industry. A huge cold room can keep a couple of trucks of fruit in storage at 40 degrees if unexpected equipment issues ever cause a delay. Tanks connect to a heating and cooling system with spring loaded ball valves, not solenoid valves, so they automatically close yet can be manually opened in the event of a system failure.
“In this business, there are no mistakes,” De Preez said. “There cannot be mistakes – so you always have to be 100 percent perfect.”
All of the tanks in the winery will eventually be connected through Tank Net. The vision is for the winery to be completely accessible. Clients will have access the status of their lots via their phones. Sugarloaf Ridge went with InnoVint wine cellar management software (see Product Review: Cellar Management Software, WBM, February 2016).
There will be a bottling area in the future – for now, clients are working with mobile lines.
Sugarloaf Crush has a 5-ton minimum.
What makes Sugarloaf Ridge truly unique, according to De Preez, is that a second construction phase will include hospitality facilities with a licensed kitchen so custom crush clients can entertain. The winery is permitted to host up to 20 events per year.
Custom crush capacity is increasingly difficult to find, in part because big wineries - one from Modesto in particular - have been buying it up (see "Will Custom Crush Prices Increase?" in the February 2016 Wine Business Monthly and WBM’s Directory: Custom Crush Facilities, June 2014).
“A custom crush business looked like a good business and a bunch of things fell together. We found a piece of land, we found Ronald, the investors, a bank, a general contractor, the subs, and found the clients,” Sugarloaf Crush founder Joe Reynoso said. “It was a piece of cake,” he quipped. “57,000 square feet in Sonoma County? Anybody could do that.”
via Kay Bogart, Program Director V&E Extension – Department of Viticulture & Enology, UC Davis
Invitation to a Memorial Service for Prof. Emeritus Vernon Singleton
UC Davis V&E has lost a prominent member of our family. Prof. Emeritus Vernon Singleton passed away last Friday, surrounded by Kay, his wife of 69 years, and his children. We will miss him as a true scholar, teacher, colleague, and friend. He contributed so much to the department and to the global wine industry from his trailblazing research on phenolic chemistry and wine aging to his textbooks that are still used throughout the world today educating future generations of wine professionals.
The department and Prof. Singleton’s family will be hosting a gathering on campus on Saturday, September 10 to celebrate Vernon’s life and career. Here are the details:
Saturday, September 10, 2016
11:00 am to 12:30 pm
UC Davis Conference Center
550 Alumni Lane
Davis, CA 95616
Immediately following the program, there will be a reception and lunch in the Conference Center from 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm. All are invited to join, though it’s important that you register at this link for our planning:
Memorial Service for Prof. Emeritus Vernon Singleton
Directions to the Conference Center can be found here: https://cru.ucdavis.edu/content/339-location-amp-contact.htm
Parking is free on weekends. The large parking structure is across the street from to the Conference Center, east of the brand new JanShrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art. Using 550 Alumni Lane on Google Maps, all parking near the Conference Center is clearly marked.
We are hoping to collect stories, photos and videos of Vern to share with his family during and after the program. If you have ones that you would like to share, they can be emailed to email@example.com.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to Yolo Hospice (http://yolohospice.org/support-us/make-a-donation/) or to the Vernon Singleton Memorial Scholarship Fund in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis. For the latter, checks can be made out to the UC Regents and addressed to:
Prof. David Block
Vernon Singleton Memorial Scholarship Fund
Department of Viticulture and Enology
University of California
595 Hilgard Lane
Davis, CA 95616
NOTE: Remember, please, given the short notice, it’s important that you register at the link above for our organizational efforts, so we can accommodate everyone. Kay
UC Davis Professor of Enology, Emeritus Vernon Singleton died on Friday, August 26, 2016.
Singleton and his understanding of grape and wine phenolic chemistry were highly influential. Dr. Singleton published 214 works over four decades, greatly improving knowledge of wine and plant phenolics.
Dr. Singleton retired in 1991, continuing to consult with industry organizations, students and fellow scientists; reviewing books and papers; and occasionally presenting papers, including 'Barrels for Wine, Usage and Significance' p. 4-9 in Proc. Symp. Oak from Forest to Glass, 15-16 July 1999, ASEV/ES ST. Louis, MO
The American Society for Enology and Viticulture honored Dr. Singleton in 2007 at a phenolics symposium following the Unified Grape & Wine Symposium with eight internationally known phenolics experts, each in some way connected to Singleton, using aspects of his work as a springboard for discussion.
Singleton was inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame in 2011:
From the Vintner's Hall of Fame:
An expert on wine chemistry, Professor Singleton spent more than four decades in the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology, retiring in 1991. He published more than 220 papers and four books. Wine: An Introduction for Americans, co-authored with Maynard Amerine, remains among the most widely read books of its kind, even decades after its last printing. Principles and Practices of Winemaking,co-authored with three UC Davis colleagues, is a textbook used worldwide. Professor Singleton is best known for his identification, characterization and transformation of the many phenolic substances in wine, including tannins. He also studied the contributions of barrel aging to wine phenolic composition and the role of oxygen in wine maturation.
We will have more information as it becomes available.