Feds shut down St. Helena winery for one day

A St. Helena winery on Tuesday served a one-day suspension of its federal permit to sell wine as a result of a national investigation into consignment sales, an illegal practice in which a winery or wholesaler buys back bottles that retailers are unable to sell.

Modus Operandi Cellars shut down for the day as a result of a probe by the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The agency alleged that for over two years Modus Operandi did not charge wholesalers for its wine unless it had been sold to retailers.

In March, federal and state agents visited more than 30 wine-related businesses in Napa and Sonoma counties as part of the investigation.

Modus Operandi owner Jason Moore said in an email on Friday that his New York distributor was the “true villain” in the incident. Moore said it was his first vintage release in the wine business and that distributor dictated the terms of the agreement. He has since severed the contract with the distributor, he added.

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Korbel introduces new rosé mini-bottles

Korbel Champagne Cellars in Guerneville is making its rosé mini-bottles available throughout the year given the popularity of the wine style.

The sparkling winery has re-released its Brut Rosé 187ml bottles that will be packaged in upgraded green glass, allowing it to be preserved longer from damage by sun and heat. The line was initially produced from 2007 to 2013 and bottled in clear glass.

Korbel is joining the segment given that the sparkling rosé category has experienced a 25 percent sales growth over the past year.

The product will be available four-pack at select national retail locations with a suggested retail price of $12.99. Korbel also offers a brut and a sweet cuvée varietal in an similar package.

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Cuvaison Estate Wines hires two new consultants

Napa Valley’s Cuvaison Estate Wines has hired Scott McLeod as its consulting winemaker and Kelly Maher as its consulting viticulturist.

The company owns the Cuvaison winery in the Carneros region and the Brandlin Vineyard, a Mount Veeder winery. It will celebrate its 50th anniversary in business next year.

The company also is replanting Cuvaison’s 200-acre Carneros estate; unveiling new branding and packaging for Cuvaison; upgrading its website; and making significant investments in its winemaking and hospitality programs for both wineries.

McLeod spent three years making wine in Italy before serving as director of winemaking for 18 years at Rubicon Estate Winery in Rutherford. In 2009, he was honored as “Winemaker of the Year” by Wine Enthusiast magazine. Maher worked six years as director of vineyard operations at Domaine Chandon and started his own consulting company in 2002, working with local wineries such as Futo Wines, Dunn Vineyards and Hourglass as well as those in Australia, Argentina and France.

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

Housing construction plunges in Sonoma County

The 2008 recession triggered a sharp drop in construction of new homes. This chart shows the annual net increase (or decline) in the number of single-family homes in Sonoma County since 2001.

2001: 1,923

2002: 1,926

2003: 1,782

2004: 1,425

2005: 1,566

2006: 1,576

2007: 1,552

2008: 1,595

2009: 1,037

2010: 780

2011: 186

2012: 300

2013: 294

2014: 377

2015: 285

2016: 293

2017: 246

2018: (-4,667)

Source: California Department of Finance