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News Briefs for December 23, 2013

December 23, 2013

•The sale of Bordeaux’s iconic Château La Rivière to a Chinese billionaire ended in a tragic helicopter accident Dec. 20 and four people are presumed dead, Wine Spectator reports. James Gregoire, 63, co-owner of négociant Vintex, had just sold the estate to Lam Kok, 46, owner of the Brilliant Group, in what is thought to be the largest transaction involving Chinese investors in Bordeaux vineyards. Also on board was Kok’s 11-year-old son Charles and Peng Wang, a professor at Inseec business school, who was acting as interpreter. Kok was a tea and luxury hotel magnate from Yunnan, China. Brilliant Group includes the well-regarded Jingmai resort and spa. The deal was the latest in a wave of Chinese investments in Bordeaux during 2013.

•New Zealand wine producer Fernz has revealed a redesigned logo and label. Debuting on the 2013 Fernz Sauvignon Blanc ($12.99 a 750-ml.), the new design incorporates a symbolic color scheme with the image of a Silver Fern—the national emblem of New Zealand. Grown on 350 acres of family-owned vineyards in Marlborough, Fernz’s wines are bottled onsite. Fernz also produces Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and is imported and distributed by G.K. Skaggs in the U.S.

•Walla Walla, Washington-based winemaker Charles Smith Wines has named David Lawrence chief financial officer. Lawrence, who will oversee Charles Smith’s business operations and finances, most recently served as chief financial officer for Napa’s Luna Vineyards, and has previously also held leadership roles at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and the Wine Service Co-Operative. Concurrently, Charles Smith has appointed Lisa Mauer to the role of director of southeast sales, making Mauer the sixth regional director in the company’s sales team. The Charles Smith portfolio includes the K Vintners, Charles Smith Wines, Vino and Secco Italian Bubbles brands, as well as Charles & Charles, a joint venture between Charles Smith, Charles Bieler and Trinchero Family Estates.

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