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Arkansas billionaire buys Napa Valley winery

Arkansas billionaire Gaylon Lawrence Jr. has purchased Heitz Wine Cellars in St. Helena, a storied Napa Valley brand that has been popular among collectors and wine enthusiasts.

The sale announced Wednesday includes the Heitz brand, winery and 425 acres of vineyards that includes properties in the Rutherford and Howell Mountain wine regions. A purchase price was not disclosed.

The winery was founded by the Heitz family in 1961 and was owned and operated under three consecutive generations.

“When we met with Gaylon, it seemed a perfect match. Fundamentally, in the wine business we are all farmers and with the Lawrence family’s history in agriculture we feel Heitz Cellars will be in good hands,” said Kathleen Heitz Myers, winery president, in a statement.

Lawrence owns large agriculture and banking companies as well as the country’s largest heating-and-cooling repair distributorship.

He has appointed Robert Boyd as president and CEO of the winery. Boyd was promoted to president at Joseph Phelps Winery earlier this year.

...

Sangiacomo family launches wine brand

The Sangiacomo family, one of the largest vineyard holders in Sonoma County, has launched a wine brand made from grapes from its estate properties.

The wines come from grapes harvested in 2016 and range from a $55 bottle of chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast to a $125 bottle of cabernet sauvignon from Oakville in Napa County.

“Our winery partners have created amazing wine quality from our fruit for many years, and we now hope to make them proud by creating wines that will complement them in the marketplace,” said partner Steve Sangiacomo in a statement.

The family, which bought its first local parcel in 1927, owns 1,600 acres of vineyards in Sonoma and Napa counties.

“While farming is at the heart of my family, it is exciting to start making something from the fruits of our labor. I believe that creating this wine is like creating a history book for our future generations,” said partner Mia Sangiacomo Pucci in a statement. “It encompasses the story of how our family has evolved, while still honoring the legacy of our past.”

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Group releases data on environmentally friendly wines

The Wine Market Council, an industry trade group, has released findings from its recent research survey on environmentally friendly wines.

The survey studied consumer perception and reaction to various green designations for wine production, including products labeled organic, sustainable and biodynamic.

“We uncovered a lot of very insightful data that shows the perceived benefits these ‘green’ wines have to consumers and how relevant these benefits are to the buying decision,” said Steve Burns, president of Wine Market Council, in a statement.

The nonprofit group found consumers are more confident they understand the definition of “made from organic grapes” than similar claims for sustainable or biodynamic grapes.

It also found little difference for consumers between “organic wine” and “wine made from organic grapes,” but substantial differences in consumers’ perception between those wines and biodynamic and sustainable products.

The survey noted that sustainable and biodynamic wines were significantly more often associated with issues such as water usage and climate change, compared to organic wine and wine made from organic grapes.

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

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