California Wineries Confront Historic Drought, Reports Wine Spectator
Winemaker Elias Fernandez saw something in January that he’d never seen before in three decades: the bottom of the reservoirs at Shafer Vineyards in Napa Valley.
He isn’t the only Californian seeing water turn to sand and dirt. Wine Spectator reports that the state is suffering from a frightening drought. Already, 2013 was the driest year on record, and 2014 has brought no relief. A large high-pressure system, stretching from Mexico to Oregon, has parked itself off the coast, diverting any rain north into Canada and Alaska (and helping create the polar vortex conditions that froze much of the rest of the United States recently).
Winter months are crucial to California’s complex water system—snow normally builds up in the Sierra Nevada mountains during cold months, then melts and provides water for 25 million people and a $45 billion farming sector, including thousands of vineyards. Since Gov. Jerry Brown officially declared a drought January 17, there’s been widespread fear that statewide water rationing will be implemented on residences and businesses. Some cities have already imposed restrictions.
Wine Spectator: High-End Wine Storage Company WineCare To Be Liquidated
Wine Spectator reports that WineCare, the high-end Manhattan storage facility that experienced flood damage during Hurricane Sandy, has been sunk for good. Federal Bankruptcy Judge Robert Gerber of the Southern District of New York ruled December 16 that the company would be liquidated following a year of operational and legal woes, during which most clients were unable to access their wines.
WineCare filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy on January 30, 2013, after being sued by restaurateur Keith McNally for either the return of his wines or $2 million, plus $1 million to cover losses incurred in the months after the storm. In the year since then, creditors have piled on, eventually requesting a motion that the case be converted to a Chapter 7 case—liquidation of the company under the supervision of a U.S. trustee.
After waving off one attempt to install a trustee in June, citing WineCare’s need for time to re-index the 27,000 cases of wine that had become unidentifiable after the storm destroyed a computer database, Gerber ruled it was time to turn over the reins of the company. By December 20, WineCare’s answering machine had been disconnected (earlier attempts to reach Derek Limbocker, founder and CEO of the company, went unanswered) and, according to Gary Kaplan, attorney for four prominent collectors, the trustee had begun securing the premises and contacting experts to assess the situation. A letter sent to 36 creditors and obtained by Wine Spectator instructed them not to file claims for their wines yet, as they are not immediately available.
Wine Spectator reports that 2014 marked another successful charity event for the Naples Winter Wine Festival, whose January 25 live auction raised $12.1 million—a 53% increase in live sales over 2013 and the highest sales total since 2008. Net proceeds topped out at $13.5 million. Some of this year’s highest-earning offerings combined collectible wines with travel experiences. Fetching $280,000, the auction’s top wine lot featured 10 jeroboams of Opus One ranging from 1979 to 2010, along with a nine-day trip for three couples to Tokyo, London and Napa Valley. A package of four jeroboams from Napa’s Staglin and Burgundy’s Domaine Michel Lafarge, which included a six-day wine adventure in France, sold twice for $200,000. The Naples auction has topped Wine Spectator’s Top 10 Charity Wine Auctions list every year from 2004 to 2012. It maintains a strong commitment to supporting children’s charities in Collier County, Florida.
John Parducci, Mendocino Wine Pioneer, Dies At 96
John Parducci, a pioneering Mendocino winemaker and one of the last of the Prohibition-era generation, died Feb. 4 at his Ukiah, Calif., home. He was 96. Parducci joined the family business at age 14, traveling with railcar shipments bound for New Jersey to sell his family’s grapes to home winemakers during Prohibition. When his father started Mendocino’s first winery, Parducci Cellars, in 1932, John worked in the fields as a teenager and was soon helping with winemaking. By 1944 he was lead winemaker.
Parducci and his brother George took over winery operations in 1964, focusing on making Zinfandels and Petite Sirahs, for which Parducci had a special passion. Parducci was the first to bottle varietal wines in Mendocino, the first to use Anderson Valley on a label and the first to promote the Mendocino name around the country.
•Saralee McClelland Kunde, a Sonoma grapegrower who championed the county’s wine and food for nearly three decades and planted her own acclaimed vineyards in the Russian River Valley, died Jan. 26 after a long battle with cancer. She was 66. Kunde was well-respected by vintners and farmers for her passion and commitment to Sonoma’s agricultural communities. She served as a director of the Sonoma County Fair and Harvest Fair and was a founding member of the Russian River Valley Winegrowers. In 1989, Kunde and her husband planted a 200-acre vineyard in the Russian River Valley, naming it Saralee’s Vineyard. The Kundes, who are not affiliated with Kunde Winery, produced 14 different varieties, including Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and their grapes were highly sought by wineries including Acacia, Joseph Swan, Arrowood, Kenwood and St. Francis. The Kundes decided to sell Saralee’s Vineyard in 2012 to Jackson Family Wines, which had been buying their grapes for years.
Sonoma Valley estate winery B.R. Cohn has announced a family succession in which owner and founder Bruce Cohn is stepping down as CEO as his eldest son Daniel assumes the role. Daniel Cohn, 40, has been senior vice president and head of national sales at the winery for a dozen years, during which time B.R. Cohn’s volume grew nearly ten-fold to 84,000 cases. Prior to that, he gained industry experience with Young’s Market Co. As CEO, Cohn will look to grow the winery’s national wholesale and direct-to-consumer businesses, as well as renewing focus on B.R. Cohn’s Olive Hill estate and its ultra-premium wines. Bruce Cohn, who founded the winery in 1984, is stepping aside to concentrate on his duties as manager of musical group The Doobie Brothers, which he’s managed since 1970.