Exclusive news and research on the wine, spirits and beer business

News Briefs for January 31, 2019

January 31, 2019

•Ste. Michelle Wine Estates posted sales down 1% to $691 million for its fiscal year ended in December, parent group Altria has reported. The sales decline accelerated in the fourth quarter, as revenues were down 11% as a result of a 15.1% decline in shipment volume. For the full year, Ste. Michelle’s shipments fell 3.3% to 8.2 million cases, while adjusted operating profit declined 29% to $104 million, weighed down by higher costs and lower volume. Ste. Michelle Wine Estates’ longtime president and CEO Ted Baseler retired in October, and was replaced by Philip Morris International veteran Jim Mortensen. Parent group Altria recently made headlines with a $1.8 billion investment in Canadian cannabis group Cronos, taking a 45% stake in the company in December.

•Marietta Cellars founder Chris Bilbro passed away Jan. 27, after battling cancer for several years. He was 72. Bilbro founded Marietta Cellars in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley in 1978, renting an old cow barn as his first winery. Sourcing underrated grapes from gnarled old vines scattered around the county, he produced Marietta’s Old Vine Red at a time when consumers were increasingly turning to single-variety wines made from prestige grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon—but the brand took off through word of mouth. Today Marietta Cellars is owned by Bilbro’s son Scot and produces 75,000 cases annually. Bilbro is survived by four sons and six grandchildren. Wine Spectator has more on his life and career.

•Goza Tequila has formed a new sales partnership with Atlanta-based Blue Ridge Spirits and Wine Marketing. Goza’s Blanco ($30), Reposado ($35), and Añejo ($40) Tequilas are currently available in Georgia, New York, South Carolina, and Texas, and are slated to launch in Florida, Colorado, and Tennessee this year, as Blue Ridge welcomes the brand to its portfolio. Goza’s lineup is made from 100% agave, grown and distilled in Jalisco, Mexico.

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