The State Water Resources Control Board agreed to drop enforcement action against operators of the 162-acre Manchester Ridge Coast Mountain Vineyards over an existing reservoir and one originally planned.

State and Mendocino County farming groups were concerned about the implications of the action, rather than the specifics, on the water board’s jurisdiction over sheet-flow reservoirs, which don’t need water-right permits because they collect runoff not in a watercourse. The settlement, approved May 1, wouldn’t set a precedent, according to the document.

In the settlement, vineyard operator Manchester Ridge LLC, which leases the property, agreed to stop its pursuit of a hearing to assert that the existing 30-acre-foot pond was a sheet-flow reservoir and, thus, outside board jurisdiction, according to the document.

Staff of the board agreed that the originally planned reservoir – now not to be built – currently is a sediment-capture basin, which would be outside board jurisdiction if not used as a reservoir, according to the settlement.

Manchester could have continued to agree to disagree with board staff over whether the existing pond is a sheet-flow reservoir or part of the upper reaches of Alder Creek and remove the existing pond. Otherwise, Manchester would admit liability for constructing the existing pond without a water-right permit, pay a fine of $7,948 over three months, file a water-rights application, install monitoring equipment and pay a $1,275 annual fee, according the document.

The settlement doesn’t answer the concern the California Farm Bureau Federation has about water board jurisdiction over sheet-flow reservoirs, according to staff attorney Jack Rice.

At the same time, Gallo is facing a recommended $73,000 water board fine in an administrative civil liability complaint regarding a 250-acre-foot pit reservoir near the Russian River close to Healdsburg. Regulators claim the existing water rights are for summer irrigation and don’t provide for pumping river water a mile to the reservoir for use in frost protection, irrigation and heat control, according to the April 20 complaint.

Board staff first contacted Gallo about the pond in 2005 and regulators inspected the site in April and November 2008. Staff gave Gallo until Jan. 1 of this year to file for new permits for the pumping and frost-protection storage. Applications were filed Jan. 30.


Scannell Properties is half-done with the 650,000-square-foot distribution center in American Canyon it plans to have ready in October for Napa-based Biagi Bros. Transportation & Warehousing. Santa Rosa-based Jackson Family Wines is set to use the facility for its North Coast brands.

Tim Elam, development manager for Indianapolis-based Scannell, said Jackson has decided to pursue “Certified” or “Silver” level certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design rating system.


Ed Lehrman and Nick Ramkowsy relocated and expanded their Vine Connections import business, which specializes in Argentine wine and Japanese sake, to 3,000 square feet of offices in Sausalito on May 1.

The company represents 40 brands, 11 of which are from six native Argentine vintners and 13 are from as many sake brewers in Japan.

The company now has nine people in its main office and eight regional salespeople to handle sales volume that has been increasing even with tempered wine sales overall. Sales increased 50 percent last year over 2007 and are 25 percent higher this year to date than the same period in 2008.

“Especially when flat is the new up, we’re doing OK,” Mr. Lehrman said.

Growth for Argentine wines has come from increasing quality, continued weakness of the country’s currency against the dollar, and emergence of the stalwart blender variety malbec as a headliner. According to the Argentina’s customs department, case sales of malbec varietal wine increased 54.4 percent for the 12 months ending March 31, and dollar sales increased nearly 44 percent in that time.

Dollar and case sales growth for sake imports have been growing at double-digit rates in recent years, fueled by mainstreaming of Japanese cuisine.

“However, we’re not immune to the downturn in the restaurant business,” Mr. Lehrman said. With many selections at $15 a bottle or less, the company’s Argentine offerings have been able to make the fast switch to retail channels, but the shift for sake has been slow.

Whitney Strotz of NAI BT Commercial brokered Vine Connection’s lease.


Napa-based Global Package LLC has a new line of lighter-weight bottles for the luxury wine market. Called Elegant Light, the Bordeaux- and Burgundy-style bottles are supposed to weigh 12 percent to 15 percent less than average bottles in the same class while retaining the traditional punt and neck visual cues.

The bottles range in price from $8.50 to $11.50 a case, depending on weight and order size. Larger orders are produced in China, and customized bottles are made in Europe.


Submit items for this column to Jeff Quackenbush at jquackenbush@busjrnl.com, 707-521-4256 or fax 707-521-5292.