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Sonoma County moving toward labeling decision

Just months after launch, Santa Rosa-based TastingRoom already has nearly 50 wineries lined up to repackage their wines in 50-milliliter bottles that allow remote sampling of their wines.

More than half of the newcomers already have used TastingRoom's oxygen-free transfer system. North Coast vintners among them are Trefethen Family Vineyards, Grgich Hills Estate, Patz & Hall, Chateau Montelena and DeLoach Vineyards.

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Tonnelerie Saury, which produces the Leroi and Erable brands, merged with French barrel stave maker Groupe Charlois. All 6,700 cubic meters of staves Charlois produces will go to Saury brands, instead of the 70 percent usage currently.

Saury, a 137-year-old French cooperage group that's among the largest in the world, has been in the U.S. market for more than two decades and has a distributorship in Healdsburg.

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Presidents of the various American Viticultural Areas in Sonoma County plan to meet April 27 to decide whether to support Sonoma County vintners' proposal for conjunctive labeling, which would require wines made in nested or subappellations to also carry the name of Sonoma County as the origin of most of the grapes in the wine, according to Nick Frey, president of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission.

"I'm fairly optimistic," he said. Some of the subappellations have received support from their members and a few are still polling their constituents.

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Napa-based direct-to-consumer wine sales training program WISE Academy (www.wineindustrysaleseducation.com) is launching two new courses. The Inside Sales Professional Course will start April 20, and the Tasting Room Management Course begins May 13.

Started a year ago, the program has taught nearly 300 students, with 91 percent earning certification.

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Twenty years after buying 4,000 acres of land on Mt. George in Napa Valley and planting 75 acres of it, Kenzo Tsujimoto, chairman of the Japanese gaming giant Capcom Group, plans to open his Kenzo Estate winery on Monticello Road on May 1.

He has brought in noted "cult" winemaker Heidi Barrett, A-list vineyard manager David Abreau and chef Thomas Keller.

The project, designed by Backen Gillam & Kroeger Architects of St. Helena and Sausalito, includes 20,000 square feet of caves.

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German screw cap maker Mala Verschluss-Systeme GmbH has resumed planning for a plant in the U.S. to make its twist-off wine closures after tabling a concept last year for a plant in Napa because of the economy.

Currently, Mala's machine shop in Germany is tailoring its equipment to the printing processes used on closures in the U.S. and is scouting for a West Coast location for the plant, according to Gisela Cartwright, who directs the relatively new Mala Closure Systems Sales USA operation in Larkspur. The company also is looking for a partner in setting up the plant.

Mala had been working with St. Helena-based Krueger Winery Technology on a Napa plant.

The cap maker has distribution through Frontier Packaging near Portland, Ore., and is setting up others.

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ACI Cork USA of Fairfield released a coated natural cork stopper called Nanocork. It's a colmated natural cork, which means it has the irregularities and pores of lower-grade cork but with a food-grade clear oxygen barrier designed by Bacchus Wine Closures of the United Kingdom to keep white and quick-drink red wines fresh. It was designed for wines retailing for $8 to $15 per standard bottle.

Wine People

Napa-based Foster's Wine Estates Americas named Healdsburg resident John Grant as division vice president in charge of sales and distributor management. Previously he was president of Constellation Wines Australia and what is now called Jackson Family Wines.

Ben Franklin Press & Label in Napa promoted Paul Sturgis of Novato to sales and marketing manager. He joined the company in sales in 2007 from Gordon Graphics.

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