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Wine: Winery Exchange acquires health-conscious brands

Jeff Quackenbush, Business Journal Staff Reporter
Monday, January 14, 2013, 6:06 am
Categories: Construction, Food and Beverage, Industry News, North Bay News, Wine Industry Business Journal | No Comments

Novato-based Winery Exchange (415-382-6900, wineryexchange.com) continues to expand beyond its roots as a worldwide creator of wine, beer and spirits brands with the acquisition of a portfolio of certified-organic and sulfite-undetectable wine brands, led by Our Daily Red and Orleans Hill, from Nevada County Wine Guild near Grass Valley.

Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

“We do feel like the wine industry has been slow to adopt these kinds of wines, but there is solid growth on the horizon,” said Stephanie Grubb, Winery Exchange marketing director. Due diligence found that the rigorous grape sourcing and winemaking methods required for certification and quality control also appeal to health-conscious consumers, she said. Federal regulators allow wines to be called “sulfite-free” when certified labs verify they contain less than the 10 parts-per-million detection threshold for the preservative.

Nevada County Wine Guild founders Donn Berdahl and Tony Norskog will continue to make Our Daily Red and Orleans Hill for Winery Exchange.

Brand founders Tony Norskog and Donn Berdahl will continue to make the brands at the winery and be involved in distribution, managing trade accounts and communicating with consumers — including personally responding to email.

Production of the Our Daily Red blend is about 90,000 standard 9-liter cases a year, and it retails for $8–$9 a bottle. Orleans Hill varietals production totals 25,000 cases, and it retails for about $10. Winery Exchange plans to expand production, but it will be a calculated endeavor to maintain the consumer bonds with the two-person operation, according to Ms. Grubb.

Winery Exchange’s National Brands Division will market the new wines and manage existing national distribution. The company’s TradePulse inventory-depletion intelligence service also will help manage the shorter shelf-life for sulfite-undetectable wines, Ms. Grubb noted.

Production for wines in the division totals more than 200,000 cases a year and features four main brands. Winery Exchange acquired Echelon in early 2011. An Italian import, Ogio, was added to the division mix recently.

Zepponi & Company of Santa Rosa represented Nevada County Wine Guild in the sale.

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St. Helena-based Trinchero Family Estates on Wednesday announced a strategic alliance with vintners Charles Smith of Walla Walla, Wash., and Charles Bieler of New York City to manage sales, distribution and marketing of their joint-venture brand Charles & Charles. It’s the first Washington brand in Trinchero’s portfolio, which includes Sutter Home, Ménage à Trois and Joel Gott.

Trinchero noted that sales growth for Washington table wines at 5.3 percent is outpacing total U.S. sales at 3.5 percent, citing Nielsen 52-week scan data as of Nov. 10. Charles & Charles has had “considerable demand” over the last three years, outpacing sales of Washington by 25.3 percent, the vintner noted.

Mr. Smith created the K Vintners and Charles Smith Wines brands, and Mr. Bieler, the Three Thieves, Bieler Père et Fils and The Gotham Project brands. They will continue to make the brands. Three Theives has been a joint project with Trinchero.

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Safe Harbor Wine Storage (707-252-9690, safeharborwines.com), a bulk cellaring business opened five years ago by two notable Napa Valley winemakers and two owners of Sausalito-based oak stave insert maker StaVin, has outgrown its 50,000-square-foot south Napa winery and is moving forward with plans to expand down the street.

Safe Harbor Partners, LLC, on Dec. 3 purchased virtually three acres of Industrial Park–zoned land on Technology Way in Napa Valley Gateway Business Park from Eugene and Dhana Waken for about $1 million in cash, according to people involved in the deal and public records. The property has a prepared building pad and can accommodate a building up to roughly 60,0000 square feet, according to Gary Van Dam, who with Jim Henry also of commercial real estate brokerage Strong & Hayden represented the Wakens. Surveyors were seen at the site last week.

The wine storage company is in the submittal process with the county of Napa on its plans for the new building, according to Joel Green, general manager and winemaker. He declined to elaborate.

Safe Harbor operates a 50,000-square-foot winery at 303 Gateway Rd. W. The company specializes in precisely controlled micro-oxygenation, or micro-ox, which releases tiny bubbles of hospital-grade oxygen into tanks ranging in size from 3,250 to 50,000 gallons. Use of stave inserts and micro-ox to replicate the oxygen transfer of oak barrels allows for red-wine cellaring in stainless-steel tanks instead of in cooperage that needs to be replaced every few years at a cost of hundreds of dollars each.

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Because the original comment period for the proposed vineyard waiver program for rainwater runoff in the Napa River and Sonoma Creek watersheds (www.waterboards.ca.gov/sanfranciscobay/water_issues/programs/TMDLs/vineyard) ran through the winter holidays, the State Water Resources Control Board extended the comment deadline through Feb. 1. [See "State rules for vineyard erosion move toward 2013 adoption," Nov. 26.] A public hearing was rescheduled for March 13 at 9 a.m. in Oakland.

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DH Wine Compliance (707-528-8500, dhwinecompliance.com, winecomplianceacademy.com) this month launched Wine Compliance Academy, featuring half-day classes at DH’s Windsor offices. Topics covered include basics of compliance with federal, state and local laws, file organization and winery operations reporting. Courses start March 5. Early registration is $200 a course.

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After two decades as president of Lake County Winegrape Commission (707-995-3421, lakecountywinegrape.org), Shannon Gunier left the organization this month. The Lakeport-based marketing and trade group credits her work in building the organization from its beginnings in 1992 into one that has attracted nationwide attention to Lake County grapes as more than for blending into wines made in Napa and Sonoma counties.

To replace Ms. Gunier, the board of the Lakeport-based trade group chose Debra Sommerfield from more than 30 applicants. In her most recent role as deputy administrative officer for economic development for the county of Lake, Ms. Sommerfield has worked with the winegrape commission on marketing activities such as the Lake County Rising campaign, which highlights the area’s grapes, wines and economic opportunities. Before public service, her marketing background included consulting for Apple and IBM. 

Submit items for this column to jquackenbush@busjrnl.com or call 707-521-4256.


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