Russian River Partners Adds to Vineyard Stable

FILED SEPTEMBER 8, 2016

Russian River Partners, managed by Flanagan Vineyards owner Eric Flanagan, has acquired the Brandt Ranch in the Kelsey Bench appellation in Lake County for an undisclosed sum. This is the fund's third major vineyard purchase in the last 18 months, including 30-acres Gap's View Vineyard and 300+ acres Platt Vineyard, per a release.

"Acquiring the Brandt Ranch is a great fit for Russian River Partners. Having a top Kelsey Bench Cabernet source is a thoughtful addition to the highly acclaimed pinot noir vineyards at Platt Ranch and Gap's View, which are both located in the Sonoma Coast AVA," says Eric.

The Brandt Ranch sits on 120 acres, 108 of which are planted to cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc, with plans to migrate the merlot over to cabernet "pretty rapidly, because the cabernet crop is more valuable," Eric tells WSD. When asked whether any of the fruit from Brandt will make its way into Flanagan Vineyard wines, Eric said it most likely won't be a real source.

Eric tells WSD that what attracted him to Brandt was that it offers "a really attractive alternative for wineries that either produce a North Coast label or produce Napa Valley wines or produce Sonoma County wines where they can add in some high quality fruit from another AVA that'll improve the quality of wine and reduce their cost."

Moving forward, Russian River Partners plans to continue adding on vineyards in the North Coast as opportunities arise. And Eric tells WSD areas like Anderson Valley interest him. "It's all about purchasing a great site, where you have the right varietal for the area."

PERNOD LOOKS TO TRIM THE FAT WITH NEW INITIATIVE, REDUCE SKUS BY 30%

Pernod Ricard cfo Gilles Bogaert said the French drinks company plans to cut down "portfolio complexity" through its "operational excellence roadmap" initiative, reports Drinks International. The plan is to reduce the number of SKUs by as much as 30% in some markets, said Gilles to investors and analysts yesterday.

The company believes that reducing the number of SKUs will increase its focus and take advantage of sales opportunities. "The operational roadmap we launched over a year ago is one of our key business priorities. We want to grow the top line but we want to be very serious and active about operational excellence," said Gilles.

We'll most likely see several of the company's non-core brands get the boot. "When we have brands that are not core we are not afraid to sell them," said Gilles. To illustrate, he cited the company's recent sale of Paddy Irish Whiskey to Sazerac [see WSD 05-03-2016].

However, this doesn't mean the company won't be making any new acquisitions. In fact, Gilles also mentioned that for Pernod to target more consumers in the Chinese market it may acquire a "fast-growing premium spirits brand," per Spirits Business.

The operational excellence initiative will be rolled out between fiscal year 2016 through 2020.

NORTH COAST HARVEST IN FULL SWING

Harvest in the North Coast is charging full speed ahead with an estimated 15%-20% of the crop harvested in Sonoma County, reports Press Democrat. And it looks like the 2016 North Coast crop will come closer to the historical average of 463,000 tons, according to Sonoma County Winegrowers president Karissa Kruse.

Alexander Valley Vineyards' Joe Reynoso expects to harvest 700 tons when all is said and done. The vineyard finished picking 200 tons of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc over the weekend, and plans to start picking cabernet, zinfandel and syrah tomorrow.

Grower Joe Dutton says he's picked up the pace picking his 1,200 acres in the Russian River Valley. "I expect the pace to keep going until everything is harvested," says Joe. Meanwhile, Flanagan Vineyards is about halfway through picking pinot and chardonnay.

Sonoma County Winegrowers expects 85% of the crop to be in the tank by mid to late October.

WSD BRIEFS:

CALLING ALL CRAFT DISTILLERS. We have opened up our 2nd annual craft distiller survey, and we could really use your help filling it out. The survey is about 10 questions, and fairly anonymous (unless you announce who you are). It focuses on trends you won't find in most data reports, such as how much distilleries are spending on capacity expansion, how many states they're opening up this year, and how they feel about the term "craft." It'll be open for a few weeks, and we will be publishing the results in a future issue of WSD. To read some of the findings from our report last year, see WSD 11-15-2015.

PA SENATOR PUSHING TO EXPAND WINE SALES. Earlier this year when Pennsylvania passed laws to allow wine to be sold direct to consumer, and in grocery stores, it was widely believed that beer distributors were the losers under the new scenario. Earlier this week Senator Tom Killion submitted a bill (SB 1359) to level the playing field a bit. SB 1359 would allow the state's beer distributors to apply to sell wine as well. You may recall, what Pennsylvania calls "beer distributors" are more or less retailers that can only sell beer in 12-packs, cases or kegs, but not six-packs. The bill has been sent to the Law and Justice Committee, where it will be looked at once the Senate is back in session September 26, reports the Philly Voice.

DRIZLY PUSHES KY STATE LEGE TO REPEAL ALCOHOL DELIVERY BAN, per a local publication. Currently, retailers are prohibited from delivering alcohol or advertising alcohol delivery in Kentucky. Alcohol delivery service Drizly wants to expand into Kentucky. So the company is pushing state legislature to consider a bill that would allow Drizly to operate in the state. As always, some lawmakers have expressed concern, thinking the bill may violate the regulatory system. While others would be in favor, but think the bill should go even further and allow wine in grocery as well. The state's laws may be in for more change. Stay tuned.

WILLIAM GRANT & SONS RELAUNCHES DRAMBUIE. Drambuie, the whisky liqueur, now has a "refreshed visual identity," with a new logo and bottle design, per a release. The new bottle is a modern interpretation of the original, with a slight taper, cast in dark brown glass and topped with red cork. While the logo is reframed with a gold finish and the background is focused on the Jacobite Rose.

WILLIAM GRANT & SONS ALSO RELEASES TULLAMORE D.E.W. SINGLE MALT RANGE. Tullamore D.E.W 14 Year Old Single Malt and Tullamore D.E.W. 18 Year Old Single Malt are both finished in bourbon, Oloroso sherry, port and madeira casks. Suggested retail prices for the 14 and 18 year old are $70 and $110, respectively. Both will start as limited releases this month.

CK MONDAVI APPOINTS NEW HEAD WINEMAKER. Charles Gilmore will be the new head winemaker, replacing John Moynier. John has worked at CK for more than 30 years and will work alongside Charles until his retirement set for later this year. Charles has 17 years of industry experience under his belt, most recently working as senior winemaker at Fetzer Vineyards. "Charlie's vast experience producing a wide range of varietals and working in diverse wine regions is a perfect fit for CK Mondavi," says co-proprietor Marc Mondavi.

PERNOD'S JAMESON FORMS JAMESON CASKMATES DRINKING BUDDIES. Recall, Pernod Ricard released Jameson Caskmastes last year, which is a collaboration between Jameson and craft breweries. Under the Caskmates Drinking Buddies program, Jameson has teamed up with seven US craft brewers, and each will release a Jameson inspired craft beer. The craft breweries and their beers are: Angel City Brewery, Imperial Irish Red Ale; Captain Lawrence Brewing Co., Transatlantic Imperial Red; Deep Ellum Brewing Co., The Fascinating Bellman; Great Divide Brewing Co., The Smoothness; Stoup Brewing, Dublin Down Imperial Red Ale; Cycle Brewing, Buddy Shots; and Fat Head's Brewing, Strange Trip Barrel Aged Imperial Stout. The beers will be available in their respective markets.

DIAGEO LAUNCHES BAILEY'S PUMPKIN SPICE. It's already that time of the year where anything that can be pumpkin spice will be pumpkin spice. And Bailey's Irish Cream is no exception. The Bailey's portfolio now includes Pumpkin Spice alongside Original, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Cinnamon, Chocolate Cherry and Espresso Creme. Bailey's Pumpkin Spice is available now through November at a suggested retail price of $25 a 750ml.

BEAM SUNTORY'S EFFEN VODKA DEBUTS THREE NEW FLAVORS. Effen has added Blood Orange, Green Apple and Raspberry to its lineup. All three are available at select retailers nationwide at $27 a 750 ml.

Until tomorrow,
Your Editors

Emily Pennington - emily@winespiritsdaily.com
Sarah Barrett - sarah@winespiritsdaily.com

"We do not remember days, we remember moments." -- Cesare Pavese

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