French insurer buys notable Sonoma Coast vineyard

The wine division a major French insurance company has bought a highly regarded 39-acre vineyard in the Sonoma Coast region that was originally planted by former tech and wine executive Lew Platt.

AXA Millésimes, which is part of AXA, bought the property from the Russian River Partners investment group, said Eric Flanagan of Flanagan Vineyards on Thursday. Flanagan also manages the investment fund that bought the Platt Vineyard in 2015.

The purchase price was not announced for the deal of the property, which totals 275 overall acres that overlook the town of Bodega and includes permitting for 11 acres for future vineyard planting.

The vineyard is noted for producing some of the best chardonnay and pinot nior grapes in Sonoma County. Flanagan sourced the fruit for his wines alongs with other notable winemakers such as Ehren Jordan, Thomas Rivers Brown and Julien Fayard.

“Having all those guys involved really elevated the profile of the vineyard,” Flanagan said.

AXA Millésimes, which has wine holding in Europe, bought in 2018 the Outpost winery, located on Napa Valley’s Howell Mountain. Company officials could not be for comment on what they intend for the future of the vineyard.

Newton Vineyards reopens tasting program

Newton Vineyard is welcoming guests back to its new tasting room as it recovers from serious damage from the 2020 Glass Fire.

The new hospitality space it located at The Winery at Brasswood, 1171 Tubbs Lane in Calistoga. It is right next to where its winemaking also is taking place.

The blaze almost two years ago destroyed Newton’s winery operations and all but 4 acres of the estate vineyard on its Spring Mountain property. Newton has planted new vines as part of a 10-year replanting strategy to recover from the fire and is developing plans to rebuild at the former winery site.

The winery was founded in 1977 by English businessman Peter Newton and is now owned by LVMH, the French luxury goods company that just recently purchased the Joseph Phelps Vineyards in Napa Valley,

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U.S. House allocates funding for wine programs

The U.S. House passed a funding bill this past week that would provide additional money to help the U.S wine industry.

The bill would provide an additional $5 million for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to continue research into how wine grapes are affected by wildfire smoke exposure. That level of funding would be an increase of 11% over last year’s total and represents $15 million in overall research dollars to the topic over a four-year period.

The measure also would allocate $150 million to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau for its annual budget, which would be a 17% over the current fiscal year. The Wine Institute trade group said the additional funding would help the agency in processing permit approvals and for implementing the Craft Beverage Modernization Act that was originally passed in 2017.

Compiled by Bill Swindell. Submit items to

Bill Swindell

Business, Beer and Wine, The Press Democrat  

In the North Coast, we are surrounded by hundreds of wineries along with some of the best breweries, cidermakers and distillers. These industries produce an abundance of drinks as well as good stories – and those are what I’m interested in writing. I also keep my eye on our growing cannabis industry and other agricultural crops, which have provided the backbone for our food-and-wine culture for generations.

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