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Wine In The News

NEWS ALERT: Media Mogul Rupert Murdoch Buys Moraga Vineyards

Rupert Murdoch is getting into the wine business. The founder and CEO of News Corporation leaked the news himself May 10, tweeting that he has agreed to buy Moraga Vineyards in the hills above the posh Bel Air community of Los Angeles. “He let the cat out of the bag,” Jim Kline, the real-estate agent who is handling the sale, told Wine Spectator.

A sale price was not disclosed, but the property was listed for $29.5 million. The sale includes the 16-acre estate, as well as the winery and cave, brand and inventory, plus a 7,500-square-foot private residence.

 

Pennsylvania Privatization Push Points Toward Scaled Down Version Of Original Plan

The Pennsylvania Senate’s Law and Justice committee held the last of its three hearings on the potential privatization of the state’s wine and spirits retail monopoly yesterday. Committee chairman Chuck McIlhinney is expected to unveil a plan the week of June 17 that’s scaled down from the full privatization bill passed by the state House of Representatives.

McIlhinney has expressed skepticism about privatizing the wholesale side of Pennsylvania’s wine and spirits business, which House Majority leader Mike Turzai has called essential. McIlhinney hinted that his bill may propose loosening restrictions on retailers to allow them to diversify their alcohol sales, while keeping the overall number of retail licenses the same as in the current system.

 

Château Haut-Brion Owners Buy St.-Emilion’s Château L’Arrosée

Domaine Clarence Dillon, the ownership group that includes the famed first-growth Château Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion, has added another Right Bank estate to their portfolio: Château L’Arrosée in St.-Emilion. The deal closed May 29. A purchase price was not disclosed.

 

Top Burgundy Winemakers Will Testify Against Alleged Counterfeiter

Federal prosecutors have begun to show their hand in the upcoming prosecution of alleged wine counterfeiter Rudy Kurniawan, Wine Spectator reports. On May 6, federal judge Richard Berman granted U.S. attorneys permission to present videotaped testimony from three of Burgundy’s top winemakers: Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Christophe Roumier of Domaine Georges Roumier and Laurent Ponsot of Domaine Ponsot. The three men are expected to testify on allegedly fake bottles sold by Kurniawan.

Lead prosecutor Jason Hernandez had hoped to bring all three winemakers to New York to testify in person. But since the trial, scheduled to begin Sept. 9 in a Lower Manhattan courtroom, coincides with the start of harvest, Roumier and Ponsot are unwilling to interrupt their work by traveling to New York. De Villaine has not yet indicated whether he will appear at trial or also be deposed by videotape. The depositions, for which Kurniawan and his lawyers will be present, are to be taken in the United States.

 

Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi Sales Up 3%, As U.S. Exports Offset Italian Struggles

Tuscany-based wine group Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi saw sales increase 3% to $108 million last year, as rising exports to markets like the U.S., Canada, Germany, Russia, China and Japan helped overshadow the continuing economic malaise in Italy. The U.S., representing 14.7% of group sales, remains the largest export market for Frescobaldi, whose properties include Castello di Nipozzano, Castello di Pomino, CastelGiocondo, Tenuta di Castiglioni, Tenuta dell’Ammiraglia, Santa Maria and Costa di Nugola, Conti Attems and Tenuta dell’Ornellaia. Frescobaldi’s brands are handled in the U.S. by Folio Fine Wine Partners.

In addition to ongoing progress in the U.S. and other core markets, Frescobaldi has seen strong growth in developing wine markets like Russia and China. Domestic Italian sales, however, were down 5.1% in 2012. “Export markets are critical for our business, especially at a time when Italy’s internal wine consumption is consistently decreasing,” said Frescobaldi CEO Giovanni Geddes Filicaja, adding that the group invested $13 million last year to continue modernizing its vineyard and production facilities to fuel global expansion. Exports account for more than 60% of Frescobaldi’s business. Geddes told SND late last year that Le Serre Nuova (Ornellaia’s second wine) has been among those driving growth for the company.

 

Charles Banks and Partners Buy Mayacamas Vineyards

Napa Valley’s historic Mayacamas Vineyards has been sold by longtime owner Bob Travers and acquired by investor Charles Banks and his wife, Ali, in partnership with retail entrepreneur Jay Schottenstein and his son, Joey, reports Wine Spectator. The sale price was not disclosed.

One of California’s oldest boutique Napa wineries, Mayacamas Vineyards made its reputation on distinctive, long-lived Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Banks, the former president of CSI Capital Management in San Francisco, served as managing partner at Napa’s Jonata and Screaming Eagle wineries before leaving in 2009 to found Terroir Capital, a winery, restaurant and hotel investment group. The Schottenstein family purchased Carmel Winery in Israel earlier this year.

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