Sally Johnson Blum has been appointed as Director of Winemaking at Napa Valley’s Robert Mondavi Winery. After earning her master’s in oenology at the University of California, Davis, Johnson Blum began her career at Sonoma’s St. Francis. She expanded on her experience working harvest at St. Hallett in the Barossa Valley as well as establishing her own label, Lalys Cellars. She moved to Napa’s Pride Mountain in 2007, spending fifteen years as winemaker, and earning critical acclaim for her 2012 and 2013 vintages.
Nova Cadamatre, who previously held the position, has left to pursue consulting and her own label in the Finger Lakes. Johnson Blum joins Senior Winemaker, Kurtis Ogasawara, and Winemaker, Lauren Oliver, on the Robert Mondavi team. They will work with the winery’s Technical Council, including Chief Winemaker Geneviève Janssens (who held the Director position from 1997 to 2018), Thomas Rivers Brown and Andy Erickson.
This page is regularly updated as Wine & Spirits’ News In Brief section, where we publish news from around the wine world. A new thread of this section is published annually.
July 18, 2022
Virginia’s Early Mountain Announces New Winemaker
Maya Hood White is the new winemaker at Virginia’s Early Mountain. After completing a Master of Science degree in Viticulture & Enology at the University of California, Davis, Hood White joined the Early Mountain team in 2014 as Vineyard Manager, then progressed to Associate Winemaker for the past five harvests. Previous winemaker, Ben Jordan, is moving to his own project, Lightwell Survey.
May 26, 2022
New West Sonoma Coast AVA
The TTB has approved the West Sonoma Coast American Viticultural Area (AVA), the 19th AVA in Sonoma County. Located on the furthest western sliver of Sonoma County, the AVA comprises three sub-regions from north to south: Annapolis, the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA and Freestone-Occidental.
A press release from West Sonoma Coast Vintners noted: “Elevation of the West Sonoma Coast AVA ranges from 400 to 1,800 feet with vineyards planted on steep ridge tops along the San Andreas fault line up against the consistently cold Pacific Ocean, both above and below the fog line. As a result, temperatures are at least 10 or more degrees cooler than the rest of the Sonoma Coast AVA. Due to the immediate proximity of the Pacific Ocean, cold marine air and heavy fog create challenging conditions for grape growers, while offering distinct advantages for wine grapes. The maritime conditions moderate the temperature in the vineyards – daytime highs are cooler, while nighttime lows are warmer than just a few miles inland. This modest diurnal temperature swing allows the fruit to ripen slowly throughout the day and the night, a phenomenon experienced only in a truly cold-climate, maritime environment. This slow, steady ripening promotes the development of fruit that reaches true physiological maturity at lower sugar levels with pronounced acidity.“
Two of the top-scoring wines from our most recent pinot noir tastings were grown in what is now the West Sonoma Coast AVA: Ross Cobb’s 2018 Doc’s Ranch Pommard and Hirsch Vineyard 2019 Fort Ross–Seaview Block 8. For an in-depth look at these wines, see Joshua Greene’s post in our Regional Tasting Report.
May 13, 2022
Wente Family Estates Promotes Niki Wente to Director of Vineyard Operations
Wente Family Estates has promoted fifth-generation winegrower Niki Wente to Director of Vineyard Operations. In her new role, Wente will oversee all farming operations and vineyard development projects under the Family Estates portfolio. Wente joined the vineyard team in early 2017, working under her father, Phil Wente.
May 11, 2022
Peter Bell Retires from Fox Run
Peter Bell, head winemaker at Fox Run Vineyards since 1995, has announced he will retire on September 1, 2022. Under Bell, Fox Run’s case production rose from 3,000 in 1995 to 20,000 today. During that time, he mentored Julia Hoyle, now at Hosmer Winery, and Kelby Russell, now at Red Newt Winery. Bell plans to work as a winemaking consultant in the Finger Lakes.
May 6, 2022
Regenerative Viticulture Association Announces Second Symposium
The Regenerative Viticulture Association is hosting its second annual symposium on May 9, 2022, in Vilafranca del Penédes. The organizers’ stated aim is to “raise awareness among vine growers and wine producers of the need for a paradigm shift in vineyard management.”
The conference will be opened by Joel Salatin, co-owner of Polyface Farm in Virginia, with a talk on the viticultural issues growers face due to climate change. His talk will be followed by a panel discussion of regenerative agriculture .
Case studies on efforts to combat climate change will be presented by Johan Reyneke, winemaker and owner of Reyneke Wines in South Africa, and Miguel Torres Maczassek, General Manager of Familia Torres and President of the Regenerative Viticulture Association.
A press release from the association regarding the event states, “Regenerative viticulture could become a solution for slowing down climate change since it is the only vineyard model based on the carbon cycle, maximizing the vines’ capacity for absorbing atmospheric CO2 and turning them into huge carbon sinks. This CO2 stored in the ground causes the soil to recover its natural fertility and balance, makes it more resistant to drought, keeps it from eroding, and promotes biodiversity.”
May 6, 2022
J. Lohr Promotes Steve Peck and Ian Herdman, Names Steve Lohr as President
J. Lohr has promoted Steve Peck from Director of Winemaking to Vice President, Winemaking. In his new position, Peck will oversee J. Lohr’s full portfolio, collaborating with Kristen Barnhisel, who makes the company’s whites, and Brenden Wood, who makes its reds. The winery also promoted Plant Manager Ian Herdman to Vice President, Production; he will oversee J. Lohr’s production at its wineries in Paso Robles and Greenfield, and its winery, warehouse and bottling operations in San Jose. Along with Peck and Herdman’s promotions, J. Lohr CEO, Steve Lohr, has taken on the additional position of President. The company’s restructuring of leadership comes after the retirement of President/COO Jeff Meier in December 2021.
Duckhorn Acquires Bottom Line Ranch
In May 2022, The Duckhorn Portfolio acquired the 289-acre Bottom Line Ranch in the San Miguel District of Paso Robles. The ranch was planted to cabernet sauvignon in 2014, originally 218 acres. Alex Ryan, CEO and President of The Duckhorn Portfolio, says the intention is to use the fruit for Decoy and Postmark. The property will be overseen by Vineyard Manager Randy Heinzen, who also manages Calera.
Jack Cakebread Passes Away at 92
Jack Cakebread, of Napa Valley’s Cakebread Cellars, passed away on April 26, 2022. He was 92. Cakebread was one of Napa Valley’s pioneers in the 1970s, but his journey into wine wasn’t linear; before founding the winery, he’d worked as a car mechanic, a photographer and a walnut farmer in Contra Costa. Later, in 1987, he and his wife, Dolores, launched the American Harvest workshop, bringing local chefs to the valley for wine and food programs. Cakebread served as president of the Napa Valley Vintners Association as well as the Winegrowers of Napa County. He remained CEO until 2015, when he passed on day-to-day operations of the winery to his son Bruce, who now serves as Cakebread Cellars board member alongside brother Dennis, who is Chairman of the Board.
April 28, 2022
Wente Family Estates Receives Green Medal Leader Award
Wine Institute, a public policy advocacy association of California wineries, has awarded Wente Family Estates with the eighth annual Sustainable Winegrowing California Green Medal Leader Award. The Leader Award is given annually to a winery that excels in the institute’s three “Es” of sustainability: environmentally sound, socially equitable, and economically viable practices. Efforts that Wente Family Estates have made to receive the award include using no-tillage methods to sequester carbon and build organic matter while minimalizing compaction, using sensors to monitor vine water needs and reusing all treated winery in the vineyard, employing two all-electric Monarch tractors and using lightweight bottles to reduce their carbon footprint.
April 19, 2022
Jackson Family Purchases First Vineyard in Washington
Jackson Family Wines has purchased 61 acres (40 of which are planted to vine) of a 117-acre property located in Mill Creek in the eastern region of Washington’s Walla Walla Valley. The acquisition, Jackson’s first in Washington, was purchased from Abeja Winery, who will retain ownership of 56 unplanted acres and will plant new vines there next year. Operations for the vineyard, to be named at a later date, will be overseen by winemaker Chris Carpenter with support from winemaker Gianna Ghilarducci and vineyard manager Rafael Jimenez. Wines produced from the vineyard will be a part of a new brand currently under development.
April 19, 2022
Tommasi Purchases Winery on Mount Etna
Tommasi Family Estates has purchased a winery in Sicily, on the slopes of Mount Etna, located in the small town of Linguaglossa. The estate, which sits 570 meters above sea level, covers 37 acres planted to nerello mascalese and caricante and includes a 1500 square-meter cellar for winemaking and aging. The estate, yet to be named by Tommasi, was purchased from the Bambara-De Luca family, hoteliers from the neighboring town of Taormina. With this latest acquisition, the Tommasi family, who began their wine business in Valpolicella, now own 1927 acres of vineyards throughout Italy.
April 15, 2022
Napa Green Receives Grant
The USDA awarded a grant of $456,000 to Napa Green, a non-profit that certifies sustainable grape-growing and winemaking practices in Napa County. The organization will use the grant to hire a climate and soil specialist to work directly with growers and wineries, providing support for their efforts to achieve certification. The grant will also fund twelve workshops on topics such as low-pollution burn alternatives for vine and wood waste; carbon farming, soil health and vineyard resilience; and methods to better train, engage and create opportunities for advancement for vineyard teams. Certified Napa Green wineries include Opus One, Spottswoode, Dominus, Clif Family and Sequoia Grove.
April 4, 2022
Aubert de Villaine Steps Down From DRC
Aubert de Villaine, the co-director of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti for 48 years, has announced last week that he has taken an advisory role with the Domaine effective January 1, 2022. The estate will be co-directed going forward by Perrine Fenal, who replaced Henry-Frédéric Roch in 2018, and Aubert’s nephew, Bertrand de Villaine, who has been working at the domaine since 2008.
The de Villaine family has owned half of the estate’s shares since 1887; the other half has been owned by the Leroy family since 1942, when Fenal’s grandfather, Henri Leroy, bought the shares from Jacques Chambon. Leroy passed the estate onto his daughters Pauline Roch and Lalou Bize-Leroy, Fenal’s mother. Bize-Leroy co-directed the domaine with Aubert de Villaine from 1974 to 1991 before her nephew, Charles Roch, took on that role. When Charles died three months later, the co-directorship passed to Henry-Frédéric, and, most recently to Fenal.
As co-directors, Perrine Fenal and Bertrand de Villaine will have joint managerial responsibility and will oversee all operational activities of the estate.
March 23, 2022
Dobbes Hires Derek Einberger
Dobbes Family Estate in Dundee, Oregon has hired Derek Einberger as winemaker. He previously worked as winemaker at Willamette Valley’s Lemelson Vineyards and as winemaker and vineyard manager at Patton Valley Vineyard.
March 15, 2022
Wine Community Rallies for Ukraine
Some of the world’s most prestigious wine societies and organizations, including the Société des Amis du Champagne, Commanderie de Bordeaux, Commanderie des Costes du Rhône, and Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Baillage de New York, are donating lots for an auction to be held in April to support World Central Kitchen (WCK). The auction will be hosted on Acker Wines’ bidding platform, and the full premium will be donated for every lot designated for the charity. Each lot donated for WCK will bear an indicia specific to the charity, encouraging bidders to engage generously with those lots. Wine & Spirits will also donate lots from our cellar for the auction.
In a press release from the auction house, Acker’s CEO, Irvin Goldman stated, “The efforts of Chef Andrés and organizations like World Central Kitchen inspire us all to action, and Acker is proud to join with the great wine societies to contribute to relief in any form we can. We hope that this auction will be the first of many endeavors to support WCK and all the good it does around the world, starting right here with one bottle, one lot, one meal at a time.” Co-founder of the Société des Amis du Champagne Michael Katz, commented, “Our members hold tremendous respect for World Central Kitchen, particularly with regard to the important work it is doing for the Ukranian people in such devastating turmoil. Reaching into our cellars is just one thing we can do to raise awareness and lend support.”
WCK is a non-profit organization that was started by chef José Andrés to provide meals in the wake of disasters and humanitarian crises. The organization has been spearheading the campaign to provide food for refugees and citizens affected by the war between Ukraine and Russia, setting up 24/7 distribution centers on eight border crossings between Ukraine and Poland. The organization has also distributed food within Ukraine and other neighboring countries including Moldova, Hungary, and Romania.
The auction’s organizers have set up a fundraising page for direct monetary donations here. For more information on the auction, or to donate bottles from your own collection to support WCK, please contact [email protected] and mention the World Central Kitchen auction. You can also call Acker’s Auction Department toll free at 877-225-3747.
March 14, 2022
Napa Valley Vintners Announces Next Round of Scholarships
Napa Valley Vintners has announced the next round of scholarships available through the UNCF (United Negro College Fund) for BIPOC students wishing to pursue a career in the wine industry. Recipients will receive need-based scholarships ranging from $3,500 to $7,500 to assist with tuition at certain California institutions including the University of California-Davis, Sonoma State University, and California Polytechnic State University-San Obispo. Applicants must identify as “Black/African American, Latinx, Indigenous/Native American, Asian American, or Pacific Islander” in order to apply and must possess a GPA of 2.7 or higher. Applications are due on May 19th, and more information can be found here.
March 9, 2022
Gloria Ferrer Welcomes Back Harry Hansen
Gloria Ferrer has appointed Harry Hansen as Senior Vice President of Winegrowing & Winemaking. In his role, Hansen will oversee production, develop new wines, and expand the winery’s visitor and virtual experiences. Hansen initially worked as an Assistant Winemaker at Gloria Ferrer before becoming the Head Winemaker for Edna Valley Vineyards and Sterling Vineyards.
March 5, 2022
Theopolis Vineyards Creates Diversity Fund
Theopolis Vineyards founder Theodora Lee has created a diversity fund that will provide one scholarship worth $10,000 each year to students at the University of California–Davis interested in viticulture and oenology and related research or managing a vineyard, “with a preference for students who are underrepresented or understand barriers to entering the industry.” Lee donated $70,000 to create the fund, which awarded its first gift to senior Iona Joseph, a lab assistant studying drought and heat tolerance in American grapevines who has applied to UC Davis’s master’s program in viticulture and oenology.
March 4, 2022
The Roots Fund Partners with Zachys for Charity Auction
The Roots Fund, a non-profit organization that has raised over half a million dollars and created more than 100 scholarships for the BIPOC wine community, has announced a wine auction in partnership with Zachys to benefit the Fund. Estates donating wines for the auction include Domaine Dujac, Domaine Drouhin, Domaine Duroché, Heitz Cellar, Robert Mondavi Winery, and others. Wine experiences, including a tour of Burgundy, will also be auctioned off. A VIP tasting of Heitz Cellar wines will be hosted at the auction by estate director Erik Elliott and president and CEO Carlton McCoy, MS. Jermaine Stone, owner of Cru Luv Media and host of the Wine & Hip Hop Show, will preside over the evening’s proceedings.
The auction will be held on April 27, 2022, with pre-sale tickets available on March 9th and general admission tickets available on March 14th. While capacity for the event is limited, bids will also be welcomed on the telephone, live online, or by submitting an absentee bid with Zachys in advance of their sale, via email or their website. To contribute a rare wine lot or experience to be auctioned to benefit The Roots Fund, please contact [email protected] by March 15.
March 2, 2022
Scheid Acquires Half of HOXIE
Scheid Family Wines has acquired 50% interest in the wine spritzer brand HOXIE. Scheid will become the producer and operator for the HOXIE spritzer, which combines herbs, botanicals, fruit, and seltzer to create an artisanal dry spritzer that is 5% ABV.
HOXIE was founded by Josh Rosenstein, who joins Scheid as their Director of Alternative Beverages.
February 25, 2022
Sequoia Grove Appoints New Winemaker
Napa Valley’s Sequoia Grove Winery has named Jesse Fox as winemaker. Fox has 18 years of experience in the wine industry, with five years in the cellars at Napa Valley Reserve and Harlan, four as assistant winemaker at Ram’s Gate and, most recently, as winemaker at Amici Cellars in Calistoga.
February 24, 2022
Rodney Strong Promotes Justin Seidenfeld
Rodney Strong Wine Estates has announced Justin Seidenfeld as their new Senior Vice President of Winemaking and Winegrowing. Seidenfeld was previously the company’s Director of Winemaking, a position he took over from Rick Sayre in 2018. In his new role, Seidenfeld oversees viticulture, winemaking, vineyard operations and production.
February 17, 2022
Shafer Vineyards Sold to Korean Company
Shafer Vineyards President Doug Shafer announced the sale of his family’s company to the property division of the Korean luxury brand Shinsegae. The Korean Herald reported the sale to be worth $250.3 million.
“It’s been the privilege of a lifetime to have joined my dad here as winemaker in 1983 and to have taken over as president in 1994,” wrote Shafer, in a letter to friends of the winery. Shafer stated that he plans to remain at the company along with long-time winemaker, Elias Fernandez.
February 11, 2022
IWCA Adds Five New Members
International Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA) has added five new member wineries. The collaborative, founded in 2019 by Miguel A. Torres of Familia Torres and Katie Jackson of Jackson Family Wineries, aims for all its members to address climate change by reducing their carbon footprint and committing to becoming Net Zero by 2050 across Scopes 1-3 as defined by the GHG Protocol.
The five new member wineries include one Silver Member, Miguel Torres Chile, and four Applicant Members—Famille Perrin in France’s Rhône Valley, Champagne Lanson, Viña Undurraga in Chile and Voyager Estate in Margaret River, Western Australia. Silver Members have already committed to “becoming Net Zero by 2050 across Scopes 1-3 and have completed a minimum baseline third-party-verified greenhouse gas emissions inventory.” Applicant Members are “interested in becoming an IWCA member but have not yet fulfilled the greenhouse gas emissions inventory requirement.”
February 4, 2022
Oregon Winery Internships for BIPOC
Oregon non-profit Our Legacy Harvested has launched a winery internship program for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color). Interns will be placed with one to two Willamette Valley wineries in either Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) with a focus on hospitality and front-of-house operations or wine production. Along with being hired and paid by a partner winery, interns will also be provided a scholarship projected at $10,000 that covers housing, transportation, training and networking opportunities. Eligible candidates must work and reside in the United States, identify as BIPOC and be at least 21 years of age. Applications opened on January 31st, 2022 and are due by March 15th, 2022. The six internship recipients will be announced on May 7, 2022. The wine production internship will run from August through November 2022, and the DTC internship will run from May through August 2023.
Our Legacy Harvested was started in 2020 by Tiquette Bramlett, President of Vidon Vineyard and the first Black woman appointed to lead a winery in the United States. The non-profit’s mission is to “educate, advance, and empower the BIPOC community” within the wine industry.
February 1, 2022
Fulton St. Fellowship Announces Inaugural Class of Black Wine Professionals
Fulton St. Fellowship, the nonprofit organization founded by Chris Leon, owner of Leon & Son Wine and Spirits in Brooklyn, has selected its first class of five fellows. The organization, which aims to provide pathways to employment for Black professionals in the wine industry, awards its fellows a full-tuition scholarship (valued at $10,000) to the Institute of Culinary Education’s (ICE) Intensive Sommelier Training alongside a wine-focused European trip and access to career mentorship opportunities from industry leaders. The fellows chosen for the inaugural class are:
Peter was most recently part of Netflix’s Workplace team and built out food and beverage programs for Dropbox and Kickstarter. You can follow him on Instagram at @thewinewasgood.
Loris has worked front-of-house at restaurants like Pearl & Ash, Gjusta, Faro and Emmy Squared. You can follow her at @boozybushwick.
Tani has already begun classes at ICE and currently works as Gramercy Tavern’s Wine & Operations Coordinator.
Damani works at Franks Wine Bar in Carroll Gardens, with previous experience at Prime Meats and The Farm on Adderley.
Along with being a freelance writer, Jasmine also has over ten years of experience across restaurants in NYC, including Rhodora Wine Bar, Miss Ada and Extra Fancy. She currently is the creator and host of the culinary pop-up Lions & Pearls. You can follow her at @Corked.Wines.Black.Lines.
January 26, 2022
Duckhorn Extends Vineyard Holdings in Napa Valley
Duckhorn Portfolio has acquired two parcels totaling 40 acres of the Stanly Ranch vineyard in Los Carneros, and the 10-acre Red Wing Vineyard in St Helena. The Los Carneros site, made up of two 20-acre parcels of clay loam soils, was planted to five clones of pinot noir and three clones of chardonnay in 2001. The Red Wing vineyard, to be renamed the Wolfe vineyard, is currently planted with sauvignon blanc, sémillon and merlot, but the merlot blocks will be replanted with sauvignon blanc and sémillon. The company has also signed a long-term lease with the Alton Family Vineyard located adjacent to the Red Wing vineyard.
January 21, 2022
Anthony Barton Dies at 91
Anthony Barton, the longtime owner of Bordeaux’s second-growth Château Léoville Barton and third-growth Château Langoa Barton, has died at 91. Barton is survived by his wife Eva, along with their daughter Lilian, Lilian’s husband Michel, and Lilian and Michel’s children Damien and Melanie.
January 21, 2022
Ridge Announces New Monte Bello Winemaker
Ridge Vineyards has appointed Trester Goetting as the new Monte Bello Winemaker. Working in collaboration with Head Winemaker and COO John Olney, Goetting began taking over all winemaking duties at the Monte Bello winery on January 18, 2022. He is taking over the role after long-time Monte Bello Winemaker Eric Baugher left in March 2021 to join Merus in Napa Valley. Goetting has a quarter-century of experience making wine in California, most recently as Winemaker at Robert Biale Vineyards. Prior to that, Goetting worked at Napa’s Krupp Brothers Stagecoach Vineyard, Ladera and St. Clement.
The Monte Bello winery was built by Osea Perrone in 1892; the vineyards were replanted to cabernet sauvignon by William Short in the 1940s. In 1959, the winery was bought by four Stanford engineers who bonded Ridge Vineyards and made their first vintage of Monte Bello in 1962. Ridge Monte Bello gained international recognition after the 1971 vintage, made by Paul Draper, achieved fifth place at the Judgment of Paris tasting. Ridge Vineyards is among five wineries in the world that have earned more than 20 Top 100 awards from Wine & Spirits, most recently in 2021, when critic Joshua Greene called out the 2017 Monte Bello as “one of the greatest vintages of the wine we’ve tasted on release.”
January 12, 2022
WSET Announces New CEO
The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) has announced Michelle Brampton as its new CEO. Brampton previously served as Managing Director Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) at Treasury Wine Estates and has served on the boards of both The Drinks Trust and the Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA)—D.P
Based in Los Angeles, California, Alissa Bica is the Associate Editor at Wine & Spirits. She is also a sommelier at 71 Above and co-runs the home wine tasting company, Côte Brune and Blonde. In any rare moments of free time, she writes about obscure grape varieties in the blog Off the Beaten Wine Path.
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