Sonoma-based wine company Don Sebastiani & Sons upgraded its south Napa winery, now called Steelbird Cellars after birds that populate the area, with new bottling capabilities, high-tech treatment of water to reduce chemicals used, energy-efficient lighting and "showcase" offices and client reception area.

[caption id="attachment_56522" align="alignleft" width="140"] Donny Sebastiani[/caption]

"If there was an end-tier consumer who wanted a private tasting, I was embarrassed to show them those offices, and now it shows the sex appeal of our brands," said Donny Sebastiani, president and chief executive officer. The cost of this project is being kept private too.

The winery in the Napa County Airport industrial area hasn't had a facelift since the 2001 shift from Cecchetti Sebastiani Cellar to the new company led by Don Sebastiani, sons Donny and August, and daughter, Mia. James Jeffrey Architects and Sax and Roscoe Construction, both of Napa, led the project team.

The winery is capable of producing 2.5 million cases annually with two shifts. Production of Don & Sons brands and a few hundred thousand cases a year for custom-winemaking clients sometimes has approached that level, but it is typically about 1.8 million. In the last year, the 10 custom clients included Don & Sons sister company The Other Guys, the Indelilcato family's DFV Wines and Naked Wines, a United Kingdom-based startup that crowd-funds independent winemakers and recently leased the former Blackstone winery in Sonoma Valley.

Part of the winery improvements were for more third-party bottling business, something that picked up with the unexpectedly big 2012 crush, according to Donny Sebastiani. Those upgrades include the ability to fill 3-liter bag-in-box consumer wine packaging as well as water filtration and dechlorination.***

[caption id="attachment_66106" align="alignright" width="162"] Dana Macaulay[/caption]

Sonoma County Vintners hired Dana Macaulay as director of events. She will be managing the 200-member trade group's U.S. and international events such as Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, a joint production with Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance.

Ms. Macaulay has more than two decades special-event and hospitality experience, most recently as special events manager for Seghesio Family Vineyards in Healdsburg. She is a member of International Special Events Society and this year ends her two-year tenure as president of the Napa-Sonoma chapter.***

Fresh off the dissolution of the Mendocino Winegrape & Wine Commission this summer, the new marketing organization, Mendocino Winegrowers (mendowine.com), has partnered with Amazon.com to sell more than 500 wines from the county's appellations in the large online retailer's second attempt at wine-to-consumer sales.

About a dozen Mendocino wineries participated in the early November launch of Amazon Wine Marketplace (amazon.com/wine): Philo Ridge Vineyards, Rivino, Albertina Wine Cellars, Barra of Mendocino, Yorkville Cellars, Testa Vineyards, Brutocao Cellars, McFadden Vineyard, Parducci Wine Cellars and Weibel Family Vineyards and Winery. As of late last week, there were 86 listings with Mendocino County or its regions on the label.

Amazon Wine Marketplace currently has nearly 71,000 wine listings, more than a third of which are from the U.S. Of that, 197 listings are from a Sonoma County winegrowing region, and 21 from Napa County.

Amazon.com had started moving toward a wine marketplace with New Vine Logistics several years ago at its American Canyon logistics center. Napa-based WineDirect, formerly IBG, picked up New Vine assets at auction and has been developing the infrastructure of Amazon Wine Marketplace.***

Nearly three years after expanding from franchisees of two Napa UPS Store locations into owner-operators of a wine order fulfillment business in south Napa, Bill and Patti Myers are expanding again. In mid-November, Eagle Rock Fulfillment (707-252-3364, eaglerockshipping.com) leased 16,200 square feet of warehouse space at in the new 105,000-square-foot warehouse at 1560 Airport Blvd. in south Napa. The company plans to consolidate by March from its current 10,000-square-foot fulfillment facility at 831 Gateway Rd. W. plus a leased 17,000-square-foot warehouse.

Eagle Rock has expanded three times since it launched in March 2009 and has 12 employees. The Myers' UPS Store locations have seven employees.

The company offers order fulfillment via pickup from the plethora of wine warehouses in southern Napa Valley.

A month ago Eagle Rock rolled out a new service, The Wine Box. Out-of-state visitors to the valley can rent a "virtual mailbox," a legal Napa Valley address at one of the Myers' UPS Stores to receive wine purchased during winery visits or from wine clubs, using the Myers' commercial mail service agency blessing from the U.S. Postal Service. Orders can be picked up from tasting rooms for an additional fee and are stored in Eagle Rock's warehouse, using the personal wine storage service, until forwarded to the consumer. Some states have limits on how much wine can be brought in over certain timeframes.

Steve Crocker and Bill Kampton of Colliers International represented Eagle Rock Fulfillment in the lease deal. Glen Dowling, Matt Bracco and Chris Neeb of The Dowling-Bracco Team of Cushman & Wakefield represented property owner E&P Properties.***

A St. Helena-based company started by two veterans of wine direct sales, marketing and wholesaling are trying to create an Internet-based platform to simplify the process of selling wine to trade accounts.

[caption id="attachment_66107" align="alignleft" width="162"] Steve Winter[/caption]

Karen Barnes and Steve Winter launched Wine Direct to Trade (800-211-3351, winedirecttotrade.com) as a simple yet secure way for wineries, producers or importers to sell to  more than 1,000 top California retailers, restaurateurs and online retailers.

“We created WDT to generate and facilitate wholesale sales in a clogged marketplace,” Mr. Winter said. “In the last 20 years the number of California wineries has increased more than 10-fold, while the number of distributors has shrunk by more than a third, creating a real bottleneck for smaller, specialty producers and importers.”

The target for sales are California wineries seeking in-state wholesale to prequalified buyers and California-licensed importers lacking representation or wanting to supplement existing sales and distribution. For retail and restaurant wine buyers, the portal purports to offer wines hundreds of artisan wines at the click of a mouse. Buy-side and sell-side services can be targeted to specific geographic regions  and sales channels.

Players on both sides of a prospective deal already have securely submitted their California Alcoholic Beverage Control Department license information to Wine Direct to Trade, which verifies the licenses. Then producers or importers can list as many wines as desired, and buyers can shop from the selection. Sellers fulfill the orders.

Ms. Barnes has been in the wine direct-to-consumer sales and management for 15 years, the last decade running Wine Direct Marketing Services of St. Helena. That company manages wine clubs, allocation-release programs, online marketing and sales for small-scale wineries and virtual producers.

Mr. Winter has 29 years of experience in sales and management at California wine distributors and wineries, such as Young's Market, Santa Rosa-based distributor Regal Wine, Chateau Potelle on Mt. Veeder in Napa County, Appellation Imports, CG Di Arie Winery and Cellar Door Selections.***

[caption id="attachment_66108" align="alignright" width="180"] Marion Ghiringhelli[/caption]

Seguin Moreau Napa Cooperage hired Marion Ghiringhelli for a new position in North American sales and marketing of the company's rapidly expanding oak-alternatives business. 

Born in France and raised in its Bordeaux wine region, she graduated from Universite Michel de Montaigne and Ecole superieure de Commerce de Bordeaux-Ecole de Management. Her decade-plus in wine industry sales includes the last  five years in selling oak alternatives for Nadalie USA in Calistoga. 

Ms. Ghiringhelli for the past two years also has been director of sales & marketing at St. Helena's Heibel Ranch Vineyards, where her husband, Trent Ghiringhelli, is winemaker and an owner.***

Novato-based wine accessories developer and distributor Cork Pops, which came up with the eponymous product for opening wine corks two decades ago and the vinOair bottle spout-aerator more recently, just released a drip-resistant spout designed to chill a bottle of white or sparkling wine to an optimum temperature and keep it that way for up to an hour. It's meant as a pricey replacement for ice buckets, chilled-gel sleeves and other on-site bottle cooling methods. It is being sold through wine, grocery and gift stores.

The $28 vinOice devices (corkpops.com) is fashioned with a food-safe gel in a stainless-steel cylinder is immersed in the wine through the bottleneck. A half-hour in the freezer is all that it's supposed to take to ready the chiller-spout for service.•••

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