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This Month in Perspective

December 2014
by Wines & Vines staff
Groupon screenshot

Groupon debuts private label
King of the daily deal sites Groupon has launched a new line of private label wines, which it will sell through the Groupon Goods arm of the $2.6 billion business. Six packs of 2013 California Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet and Pinot Noir are available for $49.99 (Groupon lists the value as $95), plus a $5 shipping fee. Fine print on the sales page confirms, “Goods sold by Rainier Wine Co.,” the 100,000-case producer of Mad Housewife and other brands.

River Road neighbor buys Pessagno Winery
Third-generation Monterey County, Calif., farmer Ray Franscioni purchased Pessagno Winery, according to the Monterey County Weekly. The new owner already runs Puma Road Winery, another fixture on the River Road Wine Trail. Pessagno’s founder, winemaker Steve Pessagno, died suddenly in June 2013.

Infinite Monkey Theorem sets sights on Austin
Denver, Colo.-based urban winery Infinite Monkey Theorem (IMT) announced plans to open another location in Austin, Texas. Founder Ben Parsons said the company will overhaul a 6,000-square-foot former mechanic’s workshop to create a wine-production facility, tasting room and event space. The new winery is slated to open in spring 2015 with Colorado-grown wines and ciders as well as a Texas Cinsault. IMT will begin making more wines from Texas fruit in 2015 and also host an outpost of IMT’s sister company, the wine keg service Iron Monkey Kegging.

U.S. companies divest from Australian wineries
Hess Family Wine Estates agreed to sell Peter Lehmann Wines of South Australia, to Casella Family Brands. Christoph Ehrbar, managing director of Hess Family Wine Estates, said the sale was beneficial in “allowing HFWE to invest primarily in its California brands.” In a separate agreement, E. & J. Gallo sold its shares in the McWilliam’s Wines Group of Australia, returning the company to family control.

Ménage à Trois adds to its lineup
Trinchero Family Estates (TFE) is adding two wines to the lineup of its popular Ménage à Trois wine brand. The company’s new Prosecco DOC is made in Italy from the traditional Glera wine grape, and Midnight is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot. TFE is responsible for more than 30 wine brands, which sold more than 18 million cases in 2013.

California county bans fracking
Voters in San Benito County, Calif., approved a ballot measure that would ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the area northeast of Monterey County. The practice used by companies to extract oil and natural gas has come under fire for oil companies’ refusal to disclose what chemicals are used during the fracking process. Opponents of fracking contend the chemicals used can pollute groundwater.

Washington takes aim at Quebec
The Washington State Wine Commission plans to use funding from a $97,000 federal grant to promote the state’s wines in the Canadian province of Quebec. Since Washington’s neighbor to the north, British Columbia, has its own growing wine industry, the commission is leveraging its resources to enter government-controlled liquor stores in the French-influenced eastern province.

B.C. vineyard acreage slow and steady
Vineyard acreage in British Columbia has increased 4.1% since 2011, while the number of vineyards has grown 7.5% during the same period, according to a report sponsored by the British Columbia Grapegrowers Association. BC Wine Institute president Miles Prodan said, “The 2014 acreage report is a testament to the British Columbia wine industry’s commitment to producing quality wines rather than to increasing volume of wine.”

SSU announces DtC certificate program
Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, Calif., will offer a certificate in direct-to-consumer studies through its Wine Business Institute. The school also offers certificates in wine industry finance and accounting, wine business management and wine business entrepreneurship in addition to an executive residential certificate. To be eligible for a DtC certificate, students must complete five core courses and three electives.

The Other Guys adds $40 small-lot Pinot Noir
The Other Guys wine company responsible for large brands such as Hey Mambo and Plungerhead launched a high-end, small-lot wine: the 2012 Gehricke Pinot Noir from Los Carneros AVA. The Sonoma, Calif.-based wine firm produced 1,050 cases of the wine, which it will sell for $40 per bottle.

Suspicious fire at old Tennessee winery building
Three adults were arrested and charged with two counts of burglary, one count of vandalism and one count of commercial arson in relation to the Oct. 18 fire that claimed the abandoned Old Medina Winery in Jackson, Tenn. Though the structure burned to the ground, officials immediately became suspicious of the fire’s multiple starting points. While Old Medina Winery closed in 2011, the structure was declared a total loss valued at $300,000.

Mendocino and Sonoma groups win grants
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) awarded the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission a $377,282 grant to continue its Sonoma County wine and tourism branding campaign. CDFA distributes funds from the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to groups throughout the state. Mendocino WineGrowers won a $99,384 grant from the USDA Risk Management Agency to fund their Grower Education Initiative Series.

County forbids winery from holding special events
Sonoma County officials in October rescinded permission for Bella Vineyards of Healdsburg, Calif., to hold events at the winery after neighbors claimed management disregarded rules about the frequency and times at which such events were allowed.

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