Napa County has garnered two of the four first annual California Green Medal: Sustainable Winegrowing Leadership Awards.

Nord Vineyard Services received the Green Medal Community Award and Trinchero Family Estates was honored with the Green Medal Business Award.

Trinchero Family Estates minimizes water, waste and energy use in both Napa and Lodi. It also focuses on sustainable packaging such as light-weight bottles and recycled glass as well as alternative packaging such as Tetra Pak and recyclable lightweight PET mini bottles. The expansion of the company’s Lodi facility with bottling and warehousing brings it closer to the majority of its grape supply, reducing transportation and emissions.

The other winners were Fetzer Vineyards in Mendocino County, which got the Green Medal Leader Award for adopting earth-friendly practices since 1968.

Benziger Family Winery in Sonoma County was given the Green Medal Environment Award.

The California Green Medal was developed by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, California Association of Winegrape Growers, Lodi Winegrape Commission, Napa Valley Vintners, Vineyard Team and Wine Institute. The winners were selected by a panel of wine and sustainability experts.

For more information, see www.greenmedal.org.

U.S. market trends from Rabobank

The second quarter Wine Quarterly Report from giant Dutch bank Rabobank, a big player in agriculture that bought Napa Community Bank here, observes that the U.S. wine market continued to expand in 2014, though volume growth was under 2 percent, well below rates seen in previous years.

Wine value, on the other hand, grew at a faster pace, as all growth came from wine priced above $9 per bottle. It said, “With broad availabilities of good-quality domestic supplies, domestic wines outperformed imports in 2014.”

Total U.S. import volumes declined 2 percent for 2014, though its value grew 2 percent. The dramatic strengthening of the U.S. dollar in the second half of 2014 may boost imported wines in 2014, but the broad availabilities and good quality of the current domestic supply will continue to make the market highly competitive.

Italian wine declined slightly, but volumes grew 1 percent due to Prosecco’s 13 percent growth. French bottled table wines and sparkling wines sold well (up 2 percent and 6 percent, respectively).

Australian wine imports declined 8 percent by volume and 10 percent by value, and after a strong run, Argentina’s long run of growth in the U.S. market seems to have finally come to an end, as total import volumes declined 15 percent by volume and 7 percent by value in 2014. Chilean wineries seem to have de-emphasized the U.S. market in favor of Japan (up 18 percent) and China (29 percent).

New Zealand, however, grew 19 percent in volume and 17 percent in value in 2014, and Portugal grew 11 percent by volume .

U.S. imports of both bottled still wine and bulk wine declined in 2014 while sparkling wines, vermouths and sangria/coolers registered strong growth.

U.S. wine exports, by contrast, declined 2 percent by volume and 1 percent by value in 2014. The shift in exchange rates was the primary reason combined with the West Coast port strike.

E.U. may require calorie labeling

The European Union might start requiring beverage makers to include calories counts on alcoholic drinks.

In the case of wine, it’s sort of pointless. All reasonably dry wines have about the same counts, 100 to 140 calories. Now, if they asked wineries to list ingredients added during winemaking, that would be interesting and might encourage some wineries to revise their processes. The government allows a huge number of things to be added to wine, though in practice, most wineries use few of them. They’re all considered safe, and many aren’t present in the finished wine, but who wants to pay big bucks for –- or drink –- a wine that contains polyvinyl-polypyr-rolidone or copper sulfate, among many other materials?

Pierce’s-Sharpshooters ballots in the mail

Ballots on whether to renew the Pierce’s disease/glassy-winged sharpshooter assessment are in the mail to California wine grape growers.

They must be returned by May 11.

With the recent discovery of sharpshooters in nursery shipments to Sonoma County, grower are reminded of the importance of the work. It’s kept sharpshooters out of Napa County so far, and is also helping fight other pests.

Some growers will get more than one ballot. This is not a mistake and all should be returned.

Von Strasser Winery property sold

Rudy Von Strasser has sold his estate property on Diamond Mountain Road but not his brand, label, trademarks, inventory or winery business.

Von Strasser Winery still owns a vineyard on Diamond Mountain, and leases and buys grapes from five other Diamond Mountain vineyards. These vineyards will allow von Strasser to continue producing his vineyard —designated wines, as well as his Grüner Veltliner and reserve wines — just not the estate vineyard bottling.

Von Strasser will lease back the winery, cave and tasting room through the end of 2016, and during that time will be making wine and hosting visitors, by appointment.

Von Strasser is evaluating options on where to relocate the brand.

In addition to producing the flagship von Strasser label, he plans to continue producing the value Rudy label and expanding his role as a consulting winemaker.

NakedWines.com, which has its North American headquarters here (in the old Copia building), is being acquired by Majestic Wine, the U.K.’s largest specialist wine retailer.

NakedWines CEO and founder Rowan Gormley will become CEO of the combined group and the NakedWines.com management team will be shareholders in the new group.

NakedWines.com makes wines through crowdfunding, sort of. “Angels” make a payment each month that allows them to buy wines make by winemakers funded by the company. They’ve attracted some well-known winemakers to the fold.

The company also acquired space to make wines in Kenwood, where it has a tasting lounge. It closed its tasting room in downtown Napa after a relatively short run; that space will soon become a Ca’ Momi restaurant.

Majestic paid about $100 million in cash and stock for Naked. The U.K. company has suffered as supermarkets have taken more and more of the retail market in its home territory.

Naked was two-thirds owned by Wein International, the German group and one-third by its employees, including Gormley. The employees have mostly agreed to take Majestic’s shares for their considerations; presumably, much of the cash will go to Wein.

They intend to keep the headquarters here, though may have to have to move out of Copia eventually if the new owners develop the building.

Trefethen slowly righting historic winery

Trefethen Winery has started the slow process of restoring its historic winery building back into place.

As a result of the earthquake, it’s four feet out of vertical, and it will be moved about an inch a day.

Trefethen has also promoted Bryan Kays to winemaker, Dan Blakely i to assistant winemaker and Brendan Brambila to director of viticulture.

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