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French brand buys stake in Napa winery

LVMH Group, the French luxury goods business that owns Louis Vuitton and Dom Perignon, on Tuesday announced it bought a 60 percent stake in Colgin Cellars, a St. Helena winery known for its well- regarded cabernet sauvignon.

Under the deal, Ann Colgin and her husband, Joe Wender, will retain 40 percent ownership and continue in their leadership roles. Colgin founded the winery in 1992 by focusing on small-lot wines from grapes that were harvested from hillside vineyards around St. Helena.

The winery’s chief operating officer, Paul Roberts, and its winemaker, Allison Tauziet, also will remain in their positions.

Colgin said in a statement that she met Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH, a few months ago and concluded during negotiations that she could not have found a better partner “to preserve our founding spirit and our exquisitely handcrafted red wines.”

LVMH also owns Domaine Chandon in Yountville and Newton Vineyard in St. Helena.

Gary Farrell Winery wins top honor

Wine Enthusiast magazine has named a chardonnay from Gary Farrell Winery in Healdsburg as its top wine for 2017.

The magazine said the Gary Farrell Winery 2015 Russian River Selection Chardonnay took the top spot in its 100 best wines for the year. It’s the first white wine picked as No. 1 in the Wine Enthusiast top 100 list in more than 10 years.

“Our Russian River Selection is a symphony of vineyards in the Russian River Valley, and we are grateful to these fine growers for their dedication to quality. Their hard work affords us the opportunity to make beautiful, refined wines,” Gary Farrell winemaker Theresa Heredia said in a statement.

The magazine cited the wine’s “display of excellent quality, competitive pricing and wide availability” in naming it to the top spot.

Major wine wholesalers announce merger

Republic National Distributing Co., a New Orleans-based distributor of premium wine and spirits, and Breakthru Beverage Group, a New York- headquartered wholesaler of beer, wine and spirits, on Monday announced a merger to create a business that would have a $12 billion sales footprint in North America.

The deal is the latest step toward consolidation in the alcoholic beverage distribution sector, following on the heels of last year’s merger between Southern Wine & Spirits and Glazer’s Inc. to form Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits, which is now the largest wholesaler in the country.

Republic operates in 20 states and the District of Columbia and employs more than 9,500 people. Breakthru distributes in 12 states as well as the District of Columbia and throughout Canada, employing more than 7,000 people. Neither company is represented in California, where Southern Glazer’s, Young’s Market Co. in Tustin and Wine Warehouse of Los Angeles all have major stakes in the market.

The mergers have put greater pressure on wineries to bulk up their portfolios if they want to get the attention of distributors to sell in the retail market as well as to bars and restaurants.

In an interview two months ago, Bill Foley of Foley Family Wines in Santa Rosa said “the little guy has a tough time getting enough attention” of wholesalers, which are looking for large players who can offer a wide variety of labels and styles.

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

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