100 wine barrel lots offered at auction

Retailers will be able to bid on 100 different wine barrel lots at the Sonoma County Barrel Auction to be held on April 20 at the MacMurray Estate Vineyards in Healdsburg.

This year’s event will feature a dozen new winery entrants as well as wineries producing lots from the county’s newest appellation, the Petaluma Gap.

The entrants include Silver Oak Cellars, which will have a 100-percent cabernet sauvignon blend from its own Alexander Valley vineyards as well as from fruit from local vineyards such as Terra a Lago and Rotlisberger Ranch; and a group of six wineries representing the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley that will have a special zinfandel lot.

Licensed wine merchants who would like to place absentee bids or request an invitation to attend must do so in advance. For details, visit sonomawine.com/barrelauction.

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Rombauer Vineyards hires new CFO

Rombauer Vineyards has hired Matthew Owings as its new chief financial office for the family-owned Napa Valley winery based in St. Helena.

Owings joins Rombauer after almost 10 years with Jackson Family Wines of Santa Rosa, where he most recently served as vice president of finance.

“Matthew comes to us with a broad finance background that includes responsibility for long-term strategic planning and corporate development as well as day-to-day financial operations,” said Bob Knebel, chief operating officer, in a statement. “His experience in the wine industry, the management consulting field and manufacturing, coupled with his impressive educational background, will be vital to Rombauer Vineyards as we continue our trajectory of growth and success.”

Prior to Jackson Family Wines, Owings worked for Bain & Co. in San Francisco and Sydney, Australia. Earlier in his career he spent six years at Agilent Technologies in product management, strategic planning and manufacturing roles.

A native of Washington state, Owings graduated from Harvey Mudd College in Claremont with an engineering undergraduate degree and has a master’s degree in business administration from UC Berkeley.

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Vintners protest Chinese tariff hike

The wine industry is increasingly speaking out about the potential harm from tariff hikes imposed by the Chinese government against American-made products including wine.

The Chinese commerce ministry on March 23 said it was considering imposing tariffs on 128 U.S. products, targeting a 15 percent rate on agricultural products such as wine, fruit and nuts. The action is in response to the Trump administration’s decision to put tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum products.

China is the fifth-largest export market for U.S. vintners, representing $78 million in sales in 2017, according to the Wine Institute, the trade group for California wineries.

“If implemented, this could have a devastating effect on the American wine industry for years to come by significantly raising the prices of our wines at a time when major competitors like Australia and Chile are benefiting from lower tariffs due to their own free trade agreements,” wrote Jim Trezise, president of WineAmerica, a wine industry trade group based in Washington, D.C., in a statement.

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Compiled by Bill Swindell. Submit items to bill.swindell@pressdemocrat.com.