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Thursday, September 13, 2018
September 13, 2018 | 7:47 AM

Proprietor Chad Harris quietly reopened his restaurant on Freemont Drive in Sonoma/Carneros yesterday - Boxcar Fried Chicken & Biscuits. It had closed unexpectedly in June. Initial hours are Monday-Friday 11-3 ... as the restaurant ramps up. 

Monday, September 10, 2018
by Cyril Penn | September 10, 2018 | 1:30 PM

“A consultant is a coach who can help guide a wine’s direction … In general they’re listening to most of what you’re telling them. If you have a low fee they don’t follow you. If you have a very high fee, they follow you. You have to know that if you want to begin a consulting career,” Michel Rolland quipped. 

An unassuming Rolland was in San Francisco Friday evening discussing Clos de los Siete, a project he founded in Argentina in 1988 making popularly priced wines offering quality and value for about $20 a bottle. Rolland and Clos de los Siete managing director Ramiro Barrios shared six vintages from 2003 through 2015.

Based in Bordeaux, Michelle Rolland is the world’s preeminent winemaking consultant. He’s still going strong after four decades of winemaking, spending nine weeks in the U.S. each year - (three three-week trips) where he consults for nineteen wineries; nine weeks in Argentina and Chile; and another six weeks in countries such as China Italy, Spain and South Africa. After more than 15 years, he’s not spending time in India, though one of his assistants regularly visits. He consults for 100 wineries. 

Clos de los Siete is marketed in the U.S. by Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits. Roughly 100,000 cases are produced each year: a Malbec blend with smaller percentages of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot, and sometimes Cabernet Franc.

Rolland oversees the blending. 

“The idea is to make the wine very approachable, very drinkable,” Rolland said. “The definition I like is that it’s a wine where when you’re at the end of the bottle, you’re thinking, ‘she’s too small and I would like another one.’”

Wednesday, September 5, 2018
September 5, 2018 | 6:00 PM

Tributes are pouring in for Kent Rosenblum. He's really going to be missed. 

Kent Rosenblum, CEO of Rockwall Wine Company, the good-natured veterinarian from Minnesota who co-founded Rosenblum Cellars in 1978 and helped popularize super-premium Zinfandel, passed away unexpectedly Tuesday night.

Based in Alameda, Rosenblum Cellars grew to become a stalwart producer of Zinfandel and Rhone Varietals, producing 200,000 cases each year, and was known as one of the "three Rs of Zinfandel" (Ravenswood, Ridge, and Rosenblum) before it was sold to Diageo in 2008 for $105 million (the brand is now owned by Bronco Wine Co).

After purchasing Rosenblum Cellars, Diageo moved production to Napa while Dr. Rosenblum started up Rock Wall Wine Co. ... with his daughter, Shauna as winemaker.

Dr. Rosenblum received an award for ‘Lifetime Achievement in Urban Winemaking’ from The East Bay Vintners Alliance in 2015.

One of the good guys. 



In the video below, Kent Rosenblum discusses the 2017 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition

Sunday, September 2, 2018
by Cyril Penn | September 2, 2018 | 9:43 AM

Pinot Gris is the second most popular white wine in America besides Chardonnay, the number one imported white grape variety. More than twelve hundred U.S. wineries make Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio.

What if nine of the best producers of Pinot Gris were to share what they’re trying to achieve stylistically with specifics on how they manage their vineyards and winemaking processes to achieve their differing stylistic goals? What if they got into specific details on sorting, crush format, yeasts, nutrients, acid additions, fermentation vessels, fermentation temperature, racking, barrels, cold stability, filtration and more?

This could be the most extensive article ever done on Pinot Gris

The Pinot Gris Varietal Report is in the August 2018 Wine Business Monthly.

Check out these varietal focus reports:  

Varietal Focus: Cabernet Sauvignon

Varietal Focus: Sauvignon Blanc

Varietal Focus: Pinot Noir

Varietal Focus: Tempranillo

Varietal Focus: Chardonnay

Varietal Focus: Merlot

Varietal Focus: Rhône Blends

Varietal Focus: Rose 

Varietal Focus: Cabernet Franc

Varietal Focus: Red Wine Blends


Pinot Gris is grown throughout the world. In Germany it is known as Rulander, in Switzerland Malvoise, in Hungary Szürkebarat. Pinot Gris is grown in both the North and South of New Zealand. It is grown in California, Washington and, especially, Oregon, where since 2000, Pinot Gris has been the number one white grape variety grown in the state. David Lett of Eyrie Vineyards planted the first American Pinot Gris vines in 1966 and produced the first Oregon Pinot Gris in 1970. Richard and Nancy Ponzi, David Adelsheim and Don Lange were early proponents of the variety. In 1991 King Estate Winery brought Pinot Gris onto the national stage, and they now produce close to 250,000 cases annually.

Pinot Gris is usually produced as a varietal wine. It does best, quality-wise, in cool-climate areas. In warm regions or when it is over-cropped, it can produce bland, vapid wines. A fairly early ripener, it can be pretty vigorous. Depending on style and location, it can produce good quality fruit in the 3- to 5-tons per acre range. Flavors and aromas cover a wide spectrum, from lemon and lime citrus to stone fruit to floral blossom character. Oak is rarely used as a flavor component, but is often used in neutral forms, sometimes in conjunction with sur lie treatments and/or malolactic fermentations to increase mouthfeel and richness. Individual winemakers may leave a bit of residual sugar to balance acidity and increase palate weight. Because of its acidity, it lends itself to a wide range of foods.

For this varietal focus, we started in the Napa Valley, where the first question was, “Pinot Gris, why not Cabernet?” The obvious answer was, “We grow the Pinot Gris where the Cabernet does poorly.” Shawna Miller from Luna Vineyards attempted a cross between Old World and New World styles. Matt Reid from Benessere Vineyards wanted to retain citrus and melon character, but enhance it with tropical notes of passion fruit and lemon grass. The Terlato family almost single-handedly created the Pinot Grigio category by importing Santa Margherita from Italy. Now their Terlato Wine Group is based in Napa, but they still make their Pinot Grigio in Italy. Doug Fletcher, vice president of winemaking, says they attempted to make a wine that showed fruit, but with richness and balanced acidity.

Oregon is Pinot Gris country. We got some of the true pioneers to participate in this varietal focus. Luisa Ponzi of Ponzi Vineyards took her family’s old vine Pinot Gris and pushed it as far as she could texturally. Don Lange was also looking for texture when his Lange Estate Winery & Vineyards made the first Oregon Pinot Gris fermented in oak puncheons. King Estate Winery is the largest Pinot Gris producer in Oregon and winemaker Brent Stone said their Domaine effort is modelled in the Alsatian style. Corey Beyer said Archery Summit Winery used a concrete egg to create a mélange of the best styles in the world. Illahe Vineyards winemaker Brad Ford placed balance over aromatics for his Pinot Gris. Aaron Lieberman from Iris Vineyards tried to balance fruit and acidity to appeal to a broad audience. - Lance Cutler

Friday, July 6, 2018
by Eric Jorgensen | July 6, 2018 | 8:14 AM

Magareth Henriquez, CEO of Krug Champagne, shared lessons she has learned about how to market, communicate and sell luxury products at a recent gathering at the San Francisco Wine School. Ms. Henriquez described coming to Krug Champagne in 2008, the year of the Financial Crisis. Sales for Krug Champagne dropped 35 percent in 2008 and another 40 percent in 2009.

With a background in marketing Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG), Ms. Henriquez tried to apply lessons she’d learned in marketing mass-market products.  She quickly discovered, however, that she could not market Krug like a mass-market product and had to change her approach.

A colleague suggested two books: Luxury Management by Jean-Noël Kapferer and V Bastien (English version of Luxe Oblige), and Luxe by Christian Blanckaert. After reading these books and studying all the information she could find about marketing luxury products, Ms. Henriquez learned that marketing luxury products has nothing to do with consumer need. Luxury brands almost always are tied to an individual, usually the founder, who goes beyond what others are doing with a particular product. She further realized that Krug's employees knew little about the founder's vision--the reason for being.  It is critical for the person marketing the brand to understand the vision and the dream of the person that founded the company and to communicate that dream and vision within the company and to the market.

With these insights, Ms. Henriquez started remaking the marketing at Krug. The first task was to do extensive research to find out as much as possible about Joseph Krug, the founder of Krug Champagne.

Joseph Krug was making champagne in the first half of the 19th century. In that time, the quality of the champagne produced each year varied greatly, depending on the quality of each year’s harvest. Joseph Krug’s dream was to produce a great champagne every year, regardless of the climate. Joseph Krug achieved his goal by fermenting wines separately from each vineyard and holding back some wines from individual vineyards from different years. These wines from previous harvests of different vineyards were then blended with the current year’s selected wines to create the fullest exression of champagne each year, resulting in a great champagne every year.

Another change made by Ms. Henriquez was to provide transparency in terms of composition of the blends.

To this end, she created the Krug ID. Each bottle of Krug is equipped with an ID Code on the back label that can be entered into the Krug website. When the ID Code is entered, detailed information about the blend is revealed. For instance, the ID Code for the bottle of Krug Grande Cuvee 160th edition is ID 214025. Entering this code on the Krug website shows the Grand Cuvee 160th edition is a blend of 121 wines from 12 years (the oldest, 1990; the most recent, 2004). The website also reveals the seasonal challenges that led to the 160th edition’s creation, with excerpts from cellar master Eric Lebel's notebooks.

Ms. Henriquez believes buyers of luxury products won’t buy luxury products they don’t understand. By communicating Joseph Krug's vision and providing transparency into how that vision is achieved with each new edition of the Grand Cuvee, as well as with every bottle of Krug, Ms. Henriquez has allowed her customers to understand Krug Champagnes. And they are buying it.


Friday, June 1, 2018
by Erin Kirschenmann | June 1, 2018 | 6:28 PM

More than 2,000 vintners, industry members and wine lovers joined together on a beautiful Friday afternoon at Charles Krug Winery for the annual Napa Valley Barrel Auction, setting new fundraising records. As winemakers poured samples of their (mostly) 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon straight from barrel, eager bidders placed their bets for single cases of that wine once released--all in the name of charity. Proceeds from the Napa Valley Vintners auction, as well as from the main Auction Napa Valley Live Auction Celebration, benefit community health and children's education nonprofits.  

Of the 110 wineries which donated a barrel of wine to charity, these were the top 10 lots: 

  • VGS Chateau Potelle - $114,300
  • Cardinale - $68,900
  • Staglin Family Vineyard - $54,150
  • The Mascot - $47,200
  • Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery - $45,450
  • Joseph Phelps Vineyards - $43,450
  • Continuum Estate - $42,350
  • Shafer Vineyards - $40,800
  • Chappellet Vineyard - $38,550
  • Covert Estate - $34,000


Wednesday, May 30, 2018
by Kerana Todorov | May 30, 2018 | 7:30 AM

The Wine Business Institute is moving into a new home at Sonoma State University, its first dedicated building since it was established more than two decades ago.

On Tuesday, the school celebrated the grand opening of the $11 million Wine Spectator Learning Center at the former University Commons building on campus with sparkling, cheers and speeches. The 15,000-square-foot building features classrooms designed for group learning, tastings, and equipped to host virtual guests.

Ninety-percent of the costs of the two-year renovation project were covered with private donations, including $3 million from the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation.

“Our vision is to be the global leader in wine business research and education,” Ray Johnson, executive director of the Wine Business Institute, told the crowd gathered in front of the new Learning Center.

“And today we have a home, a place, a learning center that really is fitting for such a vision. It’s the place from which we can now realize this vision,” Johnson added.

The institute is a division of Sonoma State’s School of Business and Economics. The school has conferred more than 1,000 undergraduate degrees focusing on the business of wine since 1998; 50 master’s in business administration in wine business since 2008; and another 112 Executive MBAs since 2012.

“We are quite pleased to say that Sonoma State is the premier university in the country for the study and research of the business of wine,” Sonoma State University president Judy Sakaki told the guests.

U.S, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, presented a plaque with the remarks he made on the House floor to honor the Wine Spectator Learning Center.

Thompson said the wine industry represents $180 billion a year in economic activity. “That’s important for agriculture. It’s important for our environment, our economy, jobs, taxes and it’s important for our way of life.”

The data generated from research will help public policy makers, Thompson said.

“The research aspects of what’s going to take place in this building, is not only going to help the wine community, it’s not only going to help the business aspect, but it’s going to help public policy folks as well,” Thompson said.

“Our wine business programs exemplify the university’s commitment to meet local workforce needs. Clearly, in our region, with nearly 450 wineries, there is an interest and demand for individuals who are knowledgeable, experienced and can successfully run a wine business.”

Marvin Shanken, editor and publisher of Wine Spectator Magazine, told the students “Get crackin’!”

He also joked that his one contribution was to insist that students have a place to eat in the building.

He thanked the donors and the magazine’s staff for their contribution to journalism over the past 40 years. “This is our building too,” Shanken said.

Gary Heck, owner of Korbel Champagne Cellars, who envisioned the program 22 years ago, led the toast to the Wine Business Institute and the Wine Spectator Learning Center, as dignitaries gathered to cut a blue ribbon and allow the guests into the building. “Cheers everyone!”



Tuesday, May 8, 2018
May 8, 2018 | 3:30 PM

WSWA's 75th Annual Convention & Exposition kicks off with a historic look at the stories that make up WSWA, followed by the opening remarks from WSWA President & CEO Craig Wolf.

Monday, May 7, 2018
by Kerana Todorov | May 7, 2018 | 2:00 PM

Napa County residents and other visitors on Saturday headed to vineyards they see every day but do not stop by. They were invited to take part in “Afternoon in the Vineyards,” an event Napa Valley Vintners and Napa Valley Grapegrowers sponsor every year.

One such stops was Starmont, a Merryvale Family of Wines property visible from Highway 29 off Stanly Lane in Carneros. About 50 acres of planted vineyards surround the winery.

While the winery was built in 2006, its tasting room only opened in July 2015.

“It’s an opportunity to extend a little extra for our local people so that they know more about us and try the wines,” said Toni Hunt, of Merryvale, at Starmont.

Starmont is a little off the beaten path, she said. “We try to get local people here.”

“Afternoon in the Vineyards” is also a way to advertise the Napa Green, an environmental program for wineries and vineyards.

Michael Costley, viticulturist and vineyard operations at Merryvale Family of Wines, led tours to the sustainable vineyard behind Starmont, pointing to owl boxes, the weather station he routinely repairs and the solar panels visible on the winery’s roof. There is no Roundup use at Starmont, he said.

Other vineyards on the “Afternoon in the Vineyards” tour were: Luna Vineyards; Baldacci Family Vineyards; Alpha Omega; Clos Pegase and Duckhorn Vineyards’ Three Palms Vineyard off the Silverado Trail near Calistoga.

“it’s an incredible site,” said Duckhorn viticulturist Courtney Preston after leading the last tour of the vineyard planted in 73.66 acres of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. “I love showing this vineyard to people,” Preston said.

Duckhorn Wine Co. in 2015 purchased the 83-acre vineyard which brothers Sloan and John Upton had planted in 1967.

Preston focused Saturday’s conversations on viticulture. The visitors were engaged. Questions ranged from the physiology of the vine to watering, nutrition, soil and vineyard health. “I just love having the community come out here,” Preston said.

Among the visitors at Three Palms Vineyard were Chaz and Tonya Lemmon of American Canyon in south Napa County.

The Lemmons take part in “Afternoon in the Vineyards” and other community events sponsored by the Napa Valley Vintners, including “Morning in the Winery.” The last “Morning in the Winery” was in January.
On Saturday, the Lemmons said they enjoy learning about the wine industry.

“It’s fun because every time you go you learn something new,” said Chaz Lemmon, a chemical engineer.

Michael Costley, viticulturist and vineyard operations at Merryvale Family of Wines, second from left, leads visitors to tour Starmont in Carneros during "Afternoon in the Vineyards." The event invites members of the community to visit vineyards close to home.
by Kerana Todorov | May 7, 2018 | 7:09 AM

Jackson Family Wines’ owner Barbara Banke said she was a little disappointed but proud this weekend after her horse, Good Magic, crossed the finish line at the 2018 Kentucky Derby in second place.

Her horse had created a buzz among the horse racing writers for days ahead of the race. But in the end, Justify, a colt with three straight wins this year, crossed the finish line 2 ½ lengths ahead of Good Magic to win the 144th Kentucky Derby as rains drenched Churchill Downs. Banke was rooting for Good Magic from the owners’ box.

“We were jumping up and down,” Banke said Sunday. “I was a little disappointed not to win.”
Still, Banke said, she is very proud of Good Magic. “He’s a very good horse.”

Good Magic has been on a stride. He won the 2017 Breeder’s Cup Juvenile at Del mar after finishing second in the Champagne Stakes at Belmont.

He will now rest until he’s ready for the next race. The Kentucky Derby is only open to 3-year-old horses.

Good Magic was bred and raised at Banke’s Stonestreet Farms in Kentucky before the horse was sold at auction. Banke, who maintained 50 percent ownership, co-owns Good Magic with E Five Racing Thoroughbreds.

Good Magic was following in his father’s footsteps Saturday when jockey Jose Ortiz led him out of the gates at Churchill Downs.

Banke has had three horses at the Kentucky Derby, including Good Magic’s father, Curlin. A two-time Horse of the Year, Curlin finished in third place at the Kentucky Derby in 2007. Curlin also won the Preakness and the Breeder’s Cup Classic that year and was second in the Belmont Stakes.

As it turns out, Curlin also sired two other horses that competed in the 144th Kentucky Derby – Vino Rosso and Solomini.

Banke, who was scheduled to fly home to California Monday after a week in Kentucky, enjoys the Kentucky Derby’s weeklong activities. “You see a lot of friends,” Banke said Sunday before hosting a party for 50 guests at Stonestreet Farms.

While Kentucky is bourbon country, Banke did bring her own wines, including Stonestreet and Jackson Estate wines.


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