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Moët Hennessy Invests To Boost Napa Valley’s Newton

January 13, 2020

Moët Hennessy is pouring tens of millions of dollars into its Newton Vineyard winery in the Napa Valley, aiming to bolster the brand’s vineyards, winemaking, and hospitality operations. Newton has seen a $10 million investment over the past three years, and is in the process of finalizing another outlay of at least twice that amount for the next half-decade, according to Newton CEO Jean-Baptiste Rivail.

Rivail, a Moët Hennessy veteran, was appointed CEO of Newton two years ago after previously leading business development in the Americas region for Hennessy Cognac. He sees the push as critical to repositioning the Spring Mountain-based winery as a terroir-driven brand. “About two-thirds of the investment is going to our vineyards,” Rivail tells SND. “Our unique terroir is the most important thing we have.”

Newton’s estate vineyard on Spring Mountain currently has about 73 acres planted and producing, and it’s expected to be fully certified organic by the end of next year. The company has similar acreage in Yountville and on Mount Veeder, and also farms Chardonnay in Carneros—all of which will be transitioning to organic viticulture in the coming years. Moving forward, Newton will market single-vineyard Cabernets from Spring Mountain, Yountville, and Mount Veeder, respectively, as well as two single-vineyard Chardonnays from Carneros.

While the single-vineyard bottlings will be limited in size and sold mostly direct-to-consumer, Rivail sees broader market opportunity for flagship wine The Puzzle (retailing at around $135). The Puzzle was de-emphasized over the years in favor of Newton’s Unfiltered Cabernet ($59) and Chardonnay ($55) offerings, but will now be brought to center stage. “The decision to make this wine out of our three properties—Spring Mountain, Mount Veeder, and Yountville—will not only create an exclusive blend of terroirs and a unique Napa expression; it will also give us access to more estate fruit to continue to grow the program,” Rivail says. “This wine has been on allocation lately due to high demand in the U.S. and Asia particularly.” He adds that price increases are in the offing across the range, with the change expected to be more dramatic on Newton’s Cabernets than its Chardonnays.

For the 2016 vintage, Newton produced about 8,000 cases of Unfiltered Cabernet and 10,000 cases of Unfiltered Chardonnay. The Puzzle has been at around 1,000-2,000 cases in recent years, but is slated to expand in the future.

Other upcoming initiatives include a small-batch “Pagoda Series” nodding to one of the defining architectural features of the Newton winery—initially to include a Spring Mountain Cabernet Franc and a Mendocino Chardonnay—as well as a downtown Napa tasting room expected to open within the next two years. What isn’t expected to change is overall volume for Newton, which is currently around 30,000 cases in total. “Our aim isn’t to produce more,” Rivail explains. “It’s to make sure that each bottle represents the place where the wine was made.”—Daniel Marsteller

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