(turn and face the strain)
Don’t want to be a richer man
(turn and face the strain)
Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time
Ah, yes, thank-you David Bowie. Such appropriate lyrics for Niagara this year. So many ch-ch-changes.
New owners, winemakers going here and there, wineries for sale, it has been a roller coaster ride for many in the industry.
But none more dramatic than what’s occurred at Alverto winery. The Jordan winery, producer of some of Niagara’s classiest Bordeaux-style reds, Viognier and Nebbiolo, came through an acrimonious sale of the winery that leaves both former partners without any part of the winery they built.
The winery feud between the delightful, warm and dedicated couple, Bruno Moos and Elyane Moos Grenier and their former partner, Morrie Neiss, is now over after a judge ruled that the 50-50 partners must sell the winery and vineyards and go their separate ways.
The sale of the winery, to Zhao Yan, ends 10 great years in Niagara for Bruno and Elyane Moos.
They were the visible 50% partners but put in less capital into the project. They took reduced salaries to make, market and run the retail store for less of a financial contribution in the partnership, Elyane told me at the beginning of the summer.
The way she explained it to me, the differences between the partners had everything to do with the portfolio: Bruno and Elyane wanted to build a quality, boutique brand, the other partner wanted some less expensive, more popular wines to round out the portfolio at the lower end. Once the differences couldn’t be resolved, it went to court and a decision was rendered and the partners were ordered to sell the winery with an order that one could not buy out the other.
“We were just starting to do so well,” Elyane said. “Our preference would be stay here but with a different partner.”
But it is not to be.
The moos have been asked by the new owner to stay and help with the 2012 harvest and then they will move on. Bruno has taken a job with an Italian importer to sell olive oil in Canada.
“The whole thing with fighting (the court case) was aggravating,” Moos told me. “It made everything very hard.”
And Moos says the fighting might not be over. There’s still the assets from the sale to divide and that might take them back to court.
Former Alvento assistant winemaker Grey Yemen was hired by the new owner to be the winemaker and vineyard manager. Yemen says, for the most part, the name and portfolio will remain the same while the label is being reworked as is the tasting room and a possible winery expansion.
Yemen was the assistant winemaker at Flat Rock Cellars under Ross Wise.
Wise left Flat Rock to take on the head winemaking role at Prince Edward County’s Keint-he Winery, which left two roles to fill at Flat Rock.
Enter Jay Johnston. Johnston is now the winemaker at Flat Rock, leaving his brief stint at the Organized Crime on the Beamsville Bench. Ironically, he was at Keint-he briefly before Organized Crime and spent time as an assistant winemaker at Hidden Bench before that.
On a personal note, I am saddened by the loss of the Moos in Niagara. Their dedication to uncompromising standards and high-quality wines in Niagara was admirable. Their hard work was unmatched and the wines, especially in the better vintages for both red and whites, were some of the most collectible in Niagara.
I have a special place in my cellar for Bruno’s wines and will continue to collect the wines from Alvento knowing that Yemen trained under a great mentor and will carry on with the quality and standards that have been established at the winery.
As Bruno told me, he will always be just a phone call away if Yemen needs advice.
Now that’s a big man.