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Wine Notes

Calvin Cooler Sold; Schramsberg Begins Project

July 13, 1989|DAN BERGER | Times Wine Writer

The domination of the marketplace by Seagram's Cooler and Gallo's Bartles & Jaymes Cooler has led to a shifting of the big two's competitors.

Calvin Cooler, owned by Hiram Walker-Allied Vintners, has been sold to Universal Brands Inc. of New York. Some months ago, Brown-Forman licensed its California Cooler, the first popular cooler and the U.S. leader until Gallo entered the scene, to Stroh Brewery Co. Stroh also markets a malt-based cooler called White Mountain Cooler.

Schramsberg Vineyards, one of California's most prestigious producers of sparkling wines, has announced a unique joint venture with a series of Portuguese grower cooperative wineries to produce premium sparkling wine.

Schramsberg, based in the Napa Valley, has been involved in joint ventures in the past, including one to produce premium brandy with Remy Martin of France. Schramsberg pulled out of the project after four years.

Jack Davies, owner of Schramsberg, said he had been looking into producing sparkling wine in the French methode champenoise and he said he selected the Alto Douro of Portugal because of its cooler climate and the soil, which he said were appropriate to the production of base wines for sparkling wine.

The cooperative, Caves Riba Tua e Pinhao, is situated in Alijo, Portugal, and is the largest association of port- and table wine-producing cooperatives in the region.

The first products of this venture won't be seen for some years, Davies said. After a period of experimentation, which started in 1988, commercial-scale production will begin in 1992, he said.

"We'll probably be making wine from a dozen different grape varieties this year to determine which ones will be the best to use in a cuvee for premium wine," said Davies.

Geyser Peak Winery in Sonoma County announced that its wine maker, Armand Bussone, is retiring and will be replaced by an Australian wine maker who has worked at Geyser Peak's new joint venture winery, Penfolds of Australia.

Daryl Groom, 31, will move to Sonoma County to head premium wine-making operations at the Geyserville-based winery.

Penfolds, a huge Australian winery, bought a 50% interest in Geyser Peak last month.

Groom, who has been with Penfolds for the last nine years, earned a degree in enology at the respected Roseworthy Agricultural College, considered the most prestigious wine training school in the Southern Hemisphere.

Groom said Penfolds produces wines similar to many Australian wineries, offering rich, broad aromas and softer, fuller-bodied tastes, and that philosophy will be investigated at Geyser Peak.

"Our wines under the Penfolds label are full-bodied, but they have the fruit and weight to carry them," Groom said. "We want to produce a wine that people can put down for a length of time."

Groom said at Geyser Peak, "We'll be working on all the wines to try and improve them a little bit more. Penfolds is a winery that got to its size (9 million cases a year) by acquisition, and what we've managed to do is combine the best of wine-making practices, and get the best out of each winery."

Since 1982, Penfolds has acquired a number of wineries and brands. In 1982, it bought Kaiser Stuhl. Three years later it acquired Seaview, then in 1987 it bought Tollana Winery as well as Loxton Cooperative and Tulloch. It also acquired the brands Killawarra and Stock.

The Penfolds-Geyser Peak venture will market a range of wines in the United States under the Seaview brand.

Penfolds, founded in 1844, has its production facility in the Barossa Valley. Among its products is the fabled and expensive Grange Hermitage red wine.

Patricia Schneider, who worked for 11 years as director of health and social issues with the Wine Institute, will become executive director of the American Wine Alliance for Research and Education, a newly formed wine industry trade group.

The announcement was made by Alan Shoup, chairman of AWARE, which was formed last December.

Schneider, who recently left Wine Institute after a philosophical dispute with the trade organization's executives, will have a headquarters office in San Francisco.

"I want to be in a position to be of the greatest service to the wine industry, and I believe strongly in addressing health and social issues and in providing a balanced view about wine's positive cultural values and its role in society," said Schneider.

Wine Institute announced that Elisabeth Holmgren, who has been with the trade organization for about two years, will replace Schneider as director of health and social issues.

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