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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

News, rumors, and trends

What has been happening

Jess Jackson of Kendall-Jackson got shot down on his bid to build a big operation in Knight's Valley. Never heard of Knight's Valley? The locals want to keep it that way.

Jess Jackson again, is trying to get Black Mountain overlooking Alexander Valley renamed to Alexander Mountain. Why? Because he has Cabernet there and Alexander Mountain would look better on the label than Black Mtn. apparently.

And one more time, Kendell-Jackson has consolidated wine production of Arrowood Winery to a facility in Napa. Dick Arrowood left his namesake winery a few months ago. KJ moved Matanzas Creek production to another larger site awhile ago. This is a cost-cutting measure. A few jobs were lost in each move. Arrowood ownership has changed several times in the past decade.

Rosenblum's founder sold to Diego a couple years ago and the result has been job loss. Their Healdsburg tasting room closed and now they are moving the wine production from Alemeda to a Diego site in Napa to consolidate.

Francis Ford Coppola's winery and "theme park" or whatever it is had a job fair for 130 positions. Not many people would have the guts (or is it a vision?) to do this in the current economy.

Earlier this year a local outfit called Vintage Wine Estates purchased a minority stake in the Kunde family's winery. This is a long-established family in the local grape business that apparently got caught off guard by the economic slowdown and ran short of cash.

Geyser Peak, Buena Vista and Gary Farrell wineries have bounced around with different ownership over the past several years. A local company, Ascentia, bought them just as the industry started to tank and now this company appears to be in trouble.

What might happen

These are rumors so I won't mention names in some of these just in case I'm wrong.

Layoffs at a big family-owned winery conglomerate? They went through this last year and may do it again, but then they're heavy in administrative-type positions anyway.

Fosters has been reorganizing and creating outside alliances in its beer and wine empires that split the wine and beer sides cleanly. Is their wine business going up for sale?

Emerging Trends

Some things that are just catching on with growers and wine makers, much of it related to the economy. Will this stuff be around long-term?

Higher-end wineries and wine makers making cheaper wine. There once was a business case for making $30 wine rather than $15 wine. That seems to have flip-flopped.

Natural wines. This is a trend towards organic growing and away from too much oak and alcohol. Some people are once again picking grapes for balance rather than max fruit so you don't have to add water, tannins, acids, etc. to turn it back into wine.

Social media is catching on big with many wineries without any evidence of increased sales. How much of this just grasping for anything to prop-up wine sales?