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In another expansion move by Portugal-based Amorim Group cork distributors in Napa Valley this year, Amorim Cork America purchased 3.36 acres of land between Devlin Road and Highway 29 just north of Napa Valley Gateway Business Park.

Pedro Fernandes, general manager, declined to comment on plans for the property. Industry sources point to the property being used for construction of a building of up to 50,000 square feet.

The purchase follows sister company Portocork America's 7,000-square-foot expansion and $750,000 investment at its main facility at 560 Gateway Dr., a short distance south of Amorim's new property. [See "Portocork America expanding Napa facility," June 13.]

Sales for Amorim Group's core cork business increased 13.8 percent in 2010 to more than 3 billion stoppers worldwide, accounting for 26 percent of global cork stopper sales. Company sales in the U.S. increased 22 percent in volume and 20 percent in revenue.

Glen Dowling, Matt Bracco and Chris Neeb of Cushman & Wakefield represented land sellers Joseph and Deborah Lopez and Amorim in the Nov. 30 sale.***

After two years of discussions, Jake and Alexis Bilbro of Healdsburg purchased Sonoma County zinfandel and syrah producer Limerick Lane Cellars from founder Michael Collins in September. The total purchase price was undisclosed, but the nearly 20 acres of real estate itself sold for $2.8 million, according to public records.

Mr. Collins started the winery in 1986 and some of the 18 acres of vines were planted in 1910,  a tasting room and a winery. The brand now includes the 10 acres of zin the Bilbros own across the street from the winery.

“The time had come to let the next generation take up the torch,” Mr. Collins said in a statement. “I wanted to pass the winery on to friends -- a family that would put their heart and soul into it.”

Jake Bilbro is a third-generation winegrower. His father, Chris, and younger brothers Scot and Sam run Marietta Cellars near Geyserville. Jake Bilbro runs winery sales and marketing and manages the family's vineyard holdings.

Scot Bilbro will be winemaker for Limerick Lane. In addition to zin, the Bilbros plan to bring back the winery's sweet Furmint wine, made from three-quarters of an acre of old estate vines.***

Being the taste and face of Newton Vineyard, part of the Paris-based luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Group along with Domain Chandon, now has fully passed to Chris Millard, who came on as winemaker for the 34-year-old brand in May 2008. Founding winemaker Dr. Su Hua Newton has turned her total attention to charitable and other endeavors, according to the company. She was the 2004 wine industry winner in the  Business Journal's Women in Business awards.

Along with the transition in leadership comes a 10-year plan to "reinvigorate" the high-end standing of the brand, winery and 120-acre, 112-block estate vineyard in Napa Valley's Spring Mountain appellation near St. Helena. That includes expanded production, new technology such as an optical grape sorter, progressive replanting and winery renovations designed by Gould Evans Baum Thornley of San Francisco.

In another move to upgrade its North Coast holdings, LVMH earlier this month appointed Matt Wood estate director for Domaine Chandon, its Etoile restaurant and Newton Vineyard. Previously, he managed a 120-employee direct-to-consumer group at Healdsburg-based Foley Family Wines.

In October, M. Shanken Communications' Impact trade journal named Newton Vineyard to its "Hot Prospects" list of rapidly growing domestic wines.***

Hedge fund manager Eric Flanagan, owner of Flanagan Winery in Bennett Valley southeast of Santa Rosa, purchased a 56-acre ranch on Starr Road in Windsor from Joe Martin, founder of the St. Francis Vineyards & Winery in Sonoma Valley,  on Nov. 15 for $4.5 million in cash, according to the listing broker, John Bergman of Bergman Euro-National.

The estate consists of 29 acres of chardonnay and pinot noir vines, a 3,500-square-foot Mediterranean-style home with pool and cabana and the +old St. Francis-esque mission bell Mr. Martin installed.

The home has sweeping views over looking many aces of vineyard and a one acre plus pond covered where a large family of Geese and Ducks call home.

The grapes will go into the Flanagan brand. Eric, his wife, Kit, and three daughters will live at their new property.

Mr. Bergman said 2011 has been his best year in North Coast vineyard and winery sales in his 44 years in the business.***

The Land Trust of Napa County is pleased to announce a new conservation easement on the historic Rossi Ranch property located just south of Saint Helena in the Rutherford appellation. Property owner Frog’s Leap Winery worked closely with The Land Trust in crafting an easement that insures that the highly visible 52-acre parcel will retain its picturesque rural charm for generations to come.

The parcel, which sits on the west side of Highway 29 between Whitehall Lane and Zinfandel Lane was originally part of the 1846 Vallejo Land Grant. Records indicate that the Norton family acquired the property and planted the first vineyards in 1866, however old-time Valley residents know the land as the Rossi Ranch, named for the Rossi family who purchased and farmed the land continuously from 1906 until the death of Louise Rossi in 2008. The family completed construction of the winery and adjacent water tower in 1908 and the buildings have become iconic fixtures in the landscape.***Wine People

Wine-focused merger-and-acquisition advisory Zepponi & Company of Santa Rosa expanded to nine people with the addition of investment banker David Von Stroh as senior vice president and associate Denise Weinert, formerly a legal secretary in the M&A and corporate law practices at Reed Smith LLP. Mr. Von Stroh's decade of investment banking experience includes Chase, JPMorgan, Wood Warren and most recently MC Advisors.

Newly elected directors for the 580-plus-member Napa Valley Grapegrowers trade association are John Wilkinson, developer and managing partner of Bin to Bottle Winery and owner of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot vineyards in the Oak Knoll District, and Garrett Buckland, vice president of Premiere Viticultural Services. Mr. Buckland also is chairman of the association board's Member Services Committee.