The Duckhorn Portfolio to Acquire Sonoma-Cutrer - Wine & Spirits Magazine

The Duckhorn Portfolio
to Acquire Sonoma-Cutrer

Sonoma-Cutrer built its reputation on chardonnay before expanding to pinot noir and rosé. (Photo courtesy of the winery)

On November 16, 2023, Deirdre Mahlan, The Duckhorn Portfolio’s Interim President and CEO, announced the company’s agreement to acquire Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards. Founded by Brice Cutrer Jones in 1973, Sonoma-Cutrer focused on chardonnay and released its first wine in 1981. Jones had developed its vineyard holdings to more than 1,000 acres of chardonnay in the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast by 1999, when he sold the brand to Brown-Forman. The Duckhorn Portfolio will add Sonoma-Cutrer to its collection of ten wineries, including Duckhorn Vineyards, Calera and Kosta-Brown. The acquisition is valued at $400 million, to be paid to Brown-Forman in a combination of company stock and cash; The Duckhorn Portfolio also agreed to add two representatives from Brown-Forman to its Board of Directors.

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.

November 7, 2023

Treasury Wine Estates Announces Acquisition of Daou Vineyards

Doau Vineyards in the Adelaida District of Paso Robles, California (Photo courtesy of the winery)

On October 30, 2023, Treasury Wine Estates, the company which owns a range of brands including Penfolds, Beringer, Beaulieu Vineyard and Frank Family Vineyards, announced the acquisition of California’s Daou Vineyards. Daou, which was founded in 2007 by brothers and co-proprietors Georges and Daniel Daou, is situated on a 212-acre hilltop estate in the Adelaida District of Paso Robles and is known for its cabernet sauvignon-based Patrimony wines. Treasury Wine Estates offered the brothers $900 million for the acquisition, plus an additional earn-out of up to $100 million. The acquisition is expected to complete mid-December, with Georges staying on as Founder and Daniel as Founder and Daou Chief Winemaker.

November 2, 2023

Women of the Vine & Spirits Foundation Announces Scholarship Awards

A selection of the 2023 scholarship recipients (Courtesy of the Foundation)
Top Row: Monica Jones, Laquita Howard, Emilia Alvarez and Bijou Barry
Middle Row: Mary Beth Lambert, Josephina Alex, Elizabeth Lang and Antonette Cockrell
Bottom Row: Maria Lucchi, Jymyaka “J.J.” Braden, Cloe Sliva and Amanda Holler

The Women of the Vine & Spirits Foundation, a non-profit led by President Deborah Brenner, has awarded more than $187,000 in scholarships to 76 candidates this year. The overall applicant pool of 230 represented candidates from 34 countries. The foundation aims to aid diversity and inclusivity for women within the wine and spirits industry. Donors included E. & J. Gallo Winery, Beam Suntory and the Gérard Basset Foundation.

For a full list of the 2023 scholarships recipients, click here.

October 19, 2023

New Appointments at Ruffino and Ornellaia

Ruffino has appointed Olga Fusari as winemaker, overseeing the Super Tuscan blends produced at their Poggio Casciano estate near Florence as well as at the company’s newly-acquired Bolgheri property. Fusari brings 14 years of experience with Bordeaux-style blends to her new position, having worked with Axel Heinz at Ornellaia since 2005.

Heinz also left Bolgheri this year to become CEO at Château Lascombes in Bordeaux. He has been replaced by Marco Balsimelli, who assumes the role of production director at Ornellaia and Masseto in January 2024. Balsimelli studied enology and viticulture at the University of Florence and earned a degree from Bordeaux’s Faculté d’Oenologie. He has worked at Château Gruaud Larose and was also a consulting enologist in collaboration with Eric Boissenot for many producers in Bordeaux and for some estates outside of France. —Stephanie Johnson

October 15, 2023

Viña Carmen Announces New Winemaker

Ana María Cumsille is Viña Carmen’s new winemaker. (Photo courtesy of the winery)

On November 2, 2023, Ana María Cumsille will start as winemaker for Viña Carmen, the Chilean winery established in 1850 in the Andean foothills town of Alto Jahuel. Cumsille’s experience includes Altair Winery in Cachapoal and Cucha Cucha in the Itata Valley, the southern district where she has since developed her own portfolio of wines working with local growers.

September 8, 2023

Two New Master Sommeliers

Jonathan Eichholz (left) and Mark Guillaudeu (right) celebrate their success at The Post Oak Hotel in Houston, Texas. (Photo courtesy of the hotel)

On September 6, 2023, the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas, announced its two newest members: Jonathan Eichholz from New York, New York and Mark Guillaudeu from Phoenix, Arizona. The Master Sommelier examination consists of three parts: verbal theory, deductive blind tasting and a practical focus on hospitality, beverage service and salesmanship. Thirty-four candidates from sixteen states and three countries passed theory before attending the practical and tasting portions in Houston, Texas, on September 4th and 5th. Eichholz currently works with the education platform GuildSomm, and Guillaudeu as a sommelier at Phoenix’s *Wrigley Mansion.

August 28, 2023

Two New Masters of Wine

The Institute of Masters of Wine welcomes Erin Jolley and Andrea Lonardi as its newest Masters of Wine. There are now 414 MWs across 31 countries; Jolley is the 59th from the US and Lonardi is the second from Italy. MW candidates compete in both theory and practical exams followed by a research paper on a wine-related topic. Jolley, who began her career in wine sales in Washington, DC, and now owns Drink the Rent, an import company in Miami, Florida, wrote a study of wine references in the lyrics of Bob Dylan and The Grateful Dead from the 1960s and ’70s. Lonardi started his career in marketing and sales at Gruppo Italiano Vini before becoming COO of Angelini Wines and Estates in 2012. His research paper focused on pergola and VSP training in Valpolicella and how labor demand and challenges impact training system choices.

August 24, 2023

The Fladgate Partnership Expands into Table Wines

The Fladgate Partnership’s history revolves around Port production, including Taylor’s Vargellas Vintage Port. (Photo courtesy of the winery)

On August 18, 2023, The Fladgate Partnership (TFP)—after more than 330 years dedicated solely to Port production with wineries including Taylor Fladgate, Fonseca, Croft and Krohn—has acquired three estates from Ideal Drinks, a producer of Portuguese table wine managed by Carlos Dias. The three properties are all located outside of the Douro: Quinta da Pedra in Vinho Verde, Quinta de Bella in Dão and Quinta Colinas de S. Lourenço in Bairrada. This marks The Fladgate Partnership’s first entry into the table wine market. The new project will be led by Pascal Chatonnet, a wine consulatant for Ideal Drinks, and TFP intends to maintain the current teams at each of the quintas.

August 14, 2023

Molson Coors Establishes Coors Spirits Co.

Mike Montgomery is a co-founder of Blue Run as well as the new Vice President of Coors Spirits Co. (Photo courtesy of Molson Coors)

On August 8, 2023, Molson Coors acquired Blue Run, a whiskey company in Georgetown, Kentucky. Molson Coors, the beer company that produces Coors, Miller, Blue Moon and Leinenkugel, entered the whiskey space with the launch of their Five Trail Blended American Whiskey in 2021 and Barmen 1873 Bourbon in 2022. Blue Run’s founders Mike Montgomery, Tim Sparapani, Jesse McKnight and Andy Brown will remain with the brand, and Montgomery will take on the role of Vice President of Coors Spirits Co., a new division established to continue spirits expansion within the company.

July 13, 2023

Echolands Winery Appoints Brian Rudin as Winemaker

Echolands Winery’s new Winemaker and General Manager, Brian Rudin. (Photo: ©Richard Duval Images)

Brian Rudin is the new Winemaker and General Manager at Echolands, in the Walla Walla Valley. Rudin has made wine at Cadaretta, Buried Cane Vineyards and, most recently, worked for nine years with Duckhorn Wine Company, where he helped launch their Red Mountain label, Canvasback.

July 10, 2023

Ryan Pennington joins L’Ecole No 41

Ryan Pennington is L’Ecole No 41’s new COO. (Photo: Richard Duval)

L’Ecole No 41, based in Walla Walla, Washington, announced that it has hired Ryan Pennington as the winery’s Chief Operating Officer. After an early career position as the Communications Director for the Washington State Wine Commission, Pennington has spent the last decade with Ste. Michelle Wine Estates as VP of Communications and Corporate Affairs.

“I’m really excited about Ryan joining L’Ecole,” says Marty Clubb, who has run the winery since 1989, and now brings a veteran into the fold with years of experience with the state’s wine scene, and the national marketplace. Clubb’s daughter, Melissa, will report to Pennington as brand manager. –Patrick J. Comiskey

June 19, 2023

Shafer Vineyards Purchases Napa Valley Altimeter Vineyard

A view of Altimeter Vineyard in Napa Valley’s Atlas Peak AVA. (Photo courtesy of Shafer Vineyards)

On June 5, 2023, Shafer Vineyards purchased the 10-acre Altimeter Vineyard in Napa Valley’s Atlas Peak AVA. The vineyard is planted to cabernet sauvignon and brings Shafer’s current vineyard holdings to 250 acres. Shafer has been producing wine in Napa Valley since 1978, when the family worked with the original Hillside Estate’s 40 acres. Winemaker Elias Fernandez joined the team in 1984 as assistant winemaker—becoming winemaker in 1994—and marks his 40th vintage this year.

June 2, 2023

Maison Joseph Drouhin Acquires Properties in Saint-Romain and Saint-Véran

Drouhin’s newly acquired Château de Chasselas in Saint-Véran will also open as a hotel in 2025. (Photo courtesy of the winery)

Established by Maurice Drouhin, who acquired the family’s first parcels of Clos des Mouches in 1921, the Drouhin estate expanded in the 1960s when Robert Drouhin added 99 acres in the Côte d’Or and Chablis. Now, the maison has added another 49.50 acres with the purchase of Château de Chasselas in Saint-Véran and the Rapet estate in Saint-Romain. Drouhin has partnered with Millésime, the hotel group, to convert Château de Chasselas into a hotel, scheduled to open in 2025; David Fink, of California’s Mirabel group, is partnering with Drouhin to open Maison 1896, a hotel and restaurant in Beaune, in the Fall of 2023.

May 31, 2023

Foley Family Wines Expands into Spirits

An interior shot of Foley Family’s newly acquired Minden, Nevada distillery. (Photo: Scott Shearer)

On May 23, 2023, Sonoma Valley–based Foley Family Wines announced its expansion into the spirits business. The wine company, founded in 1996, acquired an American whiskey and white spirits distillery in Minden, Nevada, from the Bently Family. Foley Family will produce both white and brown spirits from locally sourced grains. Foley Family also acquired the existing inventory of Bourbon, Single Malt Whiskey and rye, and will begin operating the Minden facility immediately.

May 22, 2023

Le Tenute del Leone Alato Acquires Duemani

The Duemani winery in Tuscany. (Photo courtesy of the winery)

On May 15, 2023, Igor Boccardo, CEO of the Italian wine group Le Tenute del Leone Alato, announced the acquisition of Duemani, a Tuscan winery with 32 acres of vineyards in Riparbella and Castellina Marittima. Duemani was founded in 2000 by Elena Celli and Luca D’Attoma, and planted with cabernet franc, merlot, syrah and grenache in 2001. D’Attoma will continue to be Duemani’s winemaking consultant. Le Tenute del Leone Alato’s other wineries include Torre Rosazza, Costa Arènte, Bricco dei Guazzi, Tenuta Sant’Anna and V8+.

May 17, 2023

Patz & Hall Names James McCeney as Winemaker

James McCeney (above) will take over as winemaker for Patz & Hall’s James Hall. (Photo courtesy of the winery)

On May 16, 2023, Patz & Hall appointed James McCeney as Winemaker. Founding winemaker James Hall, who has made every vintage of Patz & Hall since the winery’s opening in 1988, had worked with McCeney as his Assistant Winemaker in 2012 and 2013. McCeney has worked at Donum, Dutton Goldfield, Acacia and, most recently, Lewis Cellars. He will take the reins in 2024 when Hall moves into his new role as Winemaker Emeritus.

May 17, 2023

Sonoma-Cutrer Announces New Director of Winemaking

On May 11, 2023, Sonoma-Cutrer announced that Director of Winemaking Michael “Mick” Schroeter is retiring after 13 years in the role. Cara Morrison, who has been Chardonnay Winemaker since 2005, will succeed Schroeter, making her the first female Director of Winemaking since the winery’s launch in 1981. Pinot Noir Winemaker Zidanelia Arcidiacono—who started at Sonoma-Cutrer in 2007 as Harvest Enologist—will be promoted to the newly created role of Sonoma-Cutrer Senior Winemaker, overseeing both chardonnay and pinot noir.

May 11, 2023

Rochioli Promotes Fourth Generation Rachael and Ryan Rochioli

On May 9, 2023, Rochioli Vineyards & Winery announced the promotion of Rachael Rochioli to General Manager and Ryan Rochioli to Assistant Winemaker. The family-owned winery was established in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley in 1938 with the first vineyards planted by Joe Rochioli Sr. and his son, Joe Rochioli Jr.; Tom Rochioli runs the estate today. His daughter, Rachael, received her Business Management degree from the University of Arizona, as well as her Wine Business Management certification from Sonoma State. Tom’s son, Ryan, has obtained his certification of viticulture and winemaking through the UC Davis extension program and has previous experience at Williams Selyem, Landmark and Dutcher Crossing.

March 10, 2023

Marchesi Antinori Takes Full Ownership of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

A selection of bottles from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. (Photo courtesy of the winery)

After 16 years of collaboration with Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Marchesi Antinori is taking over full ownership of Napa Valley’s Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. Marchesi Antinori has been active in the southeastern corner of Napa Valley since 1985, with the 1210-acre property on Atlas Peak once called Antica, now Antinori Napa Valley. The latest move, to add the historic Stags Leap District property to Antinori’s holdings in the valley, is expected to close by the end of June.

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.

April 20, 2023

Dr. Laura Catena Appointed WSET’s Honorary President

On April 19, 2023, the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) held its annual graduation ceremony at the Guildhall in London, England. WSET CEO Michelle Brampton hosted the event, announcing Dr. Laura Catena, Managing Director of Bodega Catena Zapata, as the new Honorary President. Brampton was joined by previous Honorary President Paul Symington CMG, Executive Director Dave Rudman and Regional Director Rachel Webster.

The organization also welcomed 587 new WSET Diploma graduates from 20 countries—including 131 from the USA. The Outstanding Alumni Award, sponsored by for outstanding contribution in the drinks industry, was awarded to New York’s Alexandra Schrecengost. Schrecengost created Virtual With Us in 2020 and Culture With Us in 2021, platforms designed to bring teams together within remote work models.

April 14, 2023

Cantina Kurtatsch Names Erwin Carli as New Winemaker

Othmar Donà (left) passes the torch to Erwin Carli (right). (Photo courtesy of Cantina Kurtatsch)

Cantina Kurtatsch, a cooperative centered around the Alto Adige village of Kurtatsch, named Erwin Carli as head winemaker in March of 2023. Carli takes the helm from Othmar Donà, who has made the wines at Kurtatsch since 1992 and who had mentored Carli for ten years.

April 7, 2023

Ruffino Extends Vineyard Holdings into Bolgheri

Ruffino also owns the Poggio Casciano Vineyard in Tuscany, pictured above. (Photo courtesy of Ruffino)

On March 29, 2023, Ruffino, a winery in Italy’s Tuscany, acquired 37 acres of vines across two Bolgheri subregions, with 9.9 acres in Via Bolgherese and 27.2 in Sondraie. The first vintage made from the new estate will be 2023, with the intention to release the first wine in 2025. Ruffino plans to build a winery and tasting space on the property over the next few years.

April 5, 2023

Alfred Scheid Passes Away at 91

Al Scheid (Photo Courtesy of Scheid Family)

Alfred “Al” Scheid of Scheid Family Wines passed away last month at the age of 91. Born in Bridgeport, Ohio, in 1932, Scheid came to wine late in his professional life, after successes in the biotech industry. He settled in Monterey County in 1972, where Scheid Family Wines quickly became one of that region’s most important growers—at the time of his death the family’s vineyards well exceeded 4,000 acres, one of the region’s largest growers.

Scheid Family established a winery in 2005, first as a custom-crush facility; Scheid went on to found several brands, including their eponymous label. Scheid, who knew little about grapegrowing when he entered the business, was a founding  member of the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) in 1974 and served on its board and as its chair during the organization’s early years.

He was also a founding member of the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association, as well as the first grower to join the Wine Institute in the mid-’70s, when growers’ voices were still very much in the background, and became a leading advocate for sustainable winegrowing. In fact, the California Grape Acreage Report, an invaluable resource for viticultural statistics for winemakers, grapegrowers, forecasters, not to mention historians and journalists, was started at the urging and under the guidance of Scheid in the early 1970s. —Patrick Comiskey

April 4, 2023

Axel Heinz is Named CEO of Château Lascombes

Gaylon Lawrence Jr. and Carlton McCoy at Château Lascombes. (Photo courtesy of Magrino Public Relations Agency)

On March 24, 2023, Gaylon Lawrence Jr. of Lawrence Wine Estates and CEO Carlton McCoy, Jr., MS announced the appointment of Axel Heinz as Chief Executive Officer of Château Lascombes, a second-growth in Margaux. Most recently, Heinz was the Estate Director of Masseto and Ornellaia in Tuscany—he started as winemaker at Ornellaia in 2005. He has previously worked in Bordeaux at Château La Tour Carnet in Saint Laurent du Medoc and studied oenology at the University of Bordeaux. Lawrence Wine Estates also includes Heitz Cellar, Haynes, Burgess, Ink Grade, Brendel and Stony Hill Vineyards.

March 9, 2023

Angelo Clement Sangiacomo Passes Away at Age 92

Angelo Clement Sangiacomo (Photo courtesy of Sangiacomo Family Vineyards)

On February 27, 2023 Angelo Clement Sangiacomo passed away at his home in Sonoma, CA. Sangiacomo helped pioneer some of the first California vineyard-designated wines, like the 1979 Gundlach-Bundschu Sangiacomo Vineyards Chardonnay, and aided in the creation of the Carneros AVA in 1982.  Sangiacomo Family Vineyards is a third-generation family business, now run by Sangiacomo’s children Mike, Steve and Mia.

February 27, 2023

Two New Masters of Wine

On February 24, 2023 the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) announced Poland’s Wojciech Bońkowski and the USA’s Joshua Grainer as Masters of Wine. There are now 416 MWs—267 men and 149 women, from 31 different countries. Bońkowski is a wine writer who founded the wine website Winicjatywa and wine magazine Ferment; he is also the first MW from Poland. Grainer is the managing director and winemaker for Virginia’s RdV Vineyards. The MW exam consists of a theory and practical exam as well as an in-depth research paper on a wine-related topic. 2023 marks the 70th anniversary of the first Master of Wine examination, held in 1953.

IMW also welcomed the Catena Institute of Wine as its third academic and research associate, alongside the Australian Wine Research Institute and Wine in Moderation. The Catena Institute was founded by Laura Catena, the Managing Director of Bodega Catena Zapata, to advance Argentina’s winemaking regions through scientific research. Catena will be the closing keynote speaker at this year’s international symposium in Wiesbaden, Germany.

February 14, 2023

ASI Announces Best Sommelier of the World

First runner-up Nina Jensen, winner Raimonds Tomsons and second runner-up Reeze Choi (Courtesy of ASI)

Raimonds Tomsons of Latvia earned the title of Best Sommelier of the World at the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale’s competition held in Paris on January 12, 2023. France’s Pascaline Lepeltier placed fourth; China’s Reeze Choi was second runner-up and Denmark’s Nina Jensen first runner-up. The three finalists competed in a series of challenges to test their knowledge, including a guessing game in which the contestants were asked to identify a wine based on a sequence of five photographs, with the most points going to a correct guess from the fewest images. They were judged for their grace under pressure and their accuracy in describing and identifying several wines blind; they were also judged on their knowledge and service skills, not only for wine, but for all elements of a diner’s experience over the course of a meal.

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.

February 2, 2023

Rombauer Acquires Sonoma Vineyard, Carriger Two

Rombauer’s Carriger Two in Sonoma Valley (Courtesy of Rombauer)

On January 25, 2023, Rombauer Vineyards acquired Carriger Two, with its 54 acres planted to vines. The Sonoma Valley vineyard has been a primary source for Rombauer’s sauvignon blanc—a wine they added to their portfolio in 2014—and is adjacent to Carriger One, a vineyard they purchased in 2022.

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.

January 26, 2023

The TTB Officially Recognizes Bolivian Singani

Steven Soderbergh partnered with Casa Real to create Singani 63 in 2014. (Courtesy of Singani 63)

On January 17, 2023, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) recognized Bolivian Singani as a unique type of Brandy. The spirit must be distilled from Muscat of Alexandria and grown at a minimum altitude of 5,250 feet in specified regions of the country. Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh led the eight-year campaign lobbying the TTB; he had partnered with Bolivia’s Casa Real to create Singani 63 in 2014. In exchange for U.S. recognition of Singani, Bolivia will become the 44th country to legally recognize Bourbon Whiskey and Tennessee Whiskey as distinctive products of the United States.

January 16, 2023

González Byass Appoints New Winemaker in Chile

Gonzalo Bertelsen in the vineyard. (Courtesy of Viñedos Veramonte and Viña Neyen de Apalta)

Gonzalo Bertelsen has been named head winemaker for González Byass’s two Chilean wineries Viñedos Veramonte in Casablanca (including Ritual) and Viña Neyen de Apalta in Colchagua (including Primus). Bertelsen’s resume includes experience at TerraMater, Caliterra and Finca el Origen.

January 10, 2023

The Roots Fund’s Second Annual Auction Gala

From left: Madeline Puckette of Folly Enterprises with The Roots Fund founders Tahiirah Habibi, Carlton McCoy, Jr and Ikimi Dubose-Woodson at last year’s gala. (Photo: Kyle Huey)

The Roots Fund, a non-profit dedicated to addressing diversity within the wine industry, will partner with Zachys Wine Auctions for the second annual Roots Fund Auction Gala on March 5, 2023 in NYC. The gala includes a dinner and both in-person and virtual auctions of wines. Selections include wines from Domaine Dujac and Heitz Cellars, as well as experiences, like trips to South Africa and Champagne, donated by wineries from all over the world. The 2022 auction raised over $400,000, used to fund education, mentorship and job placement opportunities for the BIPOC community within the wine industry. For information, visit RTF’s website. []

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.

Based in Los Angeles, California, Alissa Bica is the Spirits Editor and Critic at Wine & Spirits. She is also a Certified Sommelier 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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