SONOMA -- The U.S. distributor of one of the world's largest winemaking supply companies is expanding to Petaluma.

Laffort USA leased 6,333 square feet at 1460 Cader Lane, Suite C, in Petaluma. Sonoma-based Laffort USA will be getting a much larger office, allowing the 10-person operation to have more office space and closer proximity to a highway for salespeople to reach customers in the North Coast and Central Coast. The company started the move early this month.

[caption id="attachment_36219" align="alignright" width="252" caption="Charlotte Gourraud"][/caption]

"Laffort has been selling products in the U.S. for almost 13 years, and we just changed operations in the U.S. recently," said Charlotte Gourraud, general manager. "We were going through a distributor and now have started our own distributor."

Laffort USA is a subsidiary of Laffort SA, which started in the Bordeaux region of France in 1898. The company has a line of 140 products spanning the range of winemaking, from handling of grapes when they arrive at the winery to putting the wine in the bottle. The products include Zymaflore and Actiflore yeasts, yeast bioproducts, enzymes, lactic acid bacteria, nutrients, tannin control, fining, stabilization, sparkling wine production, filtration, culture media, and, starting in May, Nobile barrel alternatives chips, staves and Barrel Refresh.

Laffort also provides analytical services through subsidiary Societe d’Application de Recherche de Conseil en Oenologie (SARCO).

Laffort USA took over distribution last year. Products also are distributed through a partnership with St. Helena-based Napa Valley Think Tank, which provides a close source of supplies for Napa Valley.

SARCO made a minority investment in Napa Valley Think Tank in April. That allowed the company, started last August, to bring a new line of wine-quality testing services to market more quickly.

SARCO has its own line of fermentation analytics products. U.S. distributors of SARCO products include Napa Fermentation Supplies.

"During harvest, winemakers may run out of yeast or enzymes if they get more grapes than anticipated," Ms. Gourraud said.

The company also provides seminars, articles and other training throughout the year.

During the wet North Coast harvest last year, Laffort offered winemakers help from its analysts from Bordeaux, which often has wet weather during winegrape picking and winemakers often have to deal with "noble rot."

"Unfortunately, 2010 provided an unusually long cool growing season for the West Coast, which greatly exacerbated mildew pressure," Ms. Gourraud said. "Later harvest dates significantly increase the risk of Botrytis development on grapes, which for some of them are already affected by recent sunburn. Many grapes may not reach full ripeness, and 'green character' is to be expected."

Laffort USA has reached a stable size and likely will hire just one more in sales, she said. The company prefers to hire consulting winemakers as salespeople.

The distributor received certification in March under the Bay Area Green Business Certification Program, the first winemaking products supplier to get the accolade.

Sara Wann of Keegan & Coppin represented Laffort USA in the Petaluma lease deal, and Tony Sarno of Keegan & Coppin represented the property owner.

For more information, call 707-343-1632 or visit www.laffort.com.