A wine executive with a major operation in Man-teca will spend the next year immersed in the statewide industry.
Jay Indelicato, chief operating officer for Delicato Family Vineyards and its affiliated brands, will start a one-year term Sunday as chairman of the Wine Institute.
The San Francisco-based group represents California wineries on issues such as market access, taxation and sustainable grape growing.
Indelicato, who succeeds Mendocino County vintner Paul Dolan, is taking over at a time of relative health for the state's industry.
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"Sales are up for California wines, exports are doing well, and we're starting to grow into the capacity that we've developed," Indelicato said Tuesday.
A couple of years ago, the state's winemakers worried about a glut of California grapes and low-priced competition from Australia and a few other countries. The glut has since abated, and production Down Under has dropped because of drought and frost.
Indelicato said the state's producers also are benefitting from the weak dollar, which helps make U.S. wine — 95 percent of it from California — more affordable overseas.
Growth last year was especially strong for bottles priced at $7 or more, but sales also rose for the cheaper wines made in great volume in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
Indelicato said California wineries can continue to prosper if they meet the demand for diverse products. This can be through the number of varietals offered, the winemaking styles or the regions where the grapes grow, he said.
"I think a lot of that is consumers looking for something new and different, but the reality is that there are a lot of new things coming out of California," Indelicato said.
Delicato is an example of that. It has long produced wines under the family name but recently branched out with catchy labels such as Gnarly Head, an old-vine zinfandel from Lodi-area vineyards, and Irony, which includes several varietals from Napa and Monterey counties.
New name for diverse company
The company renamed itself DFV Wines this year. The name takes in the wines still sold under the Delicato brand, as well as the more recent labels.
DFV is headquartered in Napa but makes much of its wine at a site along Highway 99 near the north end of Manteca.
Indelicato began working at the family business in the 1980s, driving forklifts, repairing equipment and making wine. He is a grandson of Gasparé Indelicato, who started growing grapes near Manteca in 1924.
The company ranked 13th among all producers in U.S. sales last year, with an estimated 2 million cases, according to Wine Business Monthly. E.&J. Gallo Winery of Modesto was No. 1. The Wine Group, which includes Franzia Winery near Ripon, was third. Bronco Wine Co. near Ceres was fourth.
Indelicato said the valley, long the leader in quantity, is poised to move up in quality too.
"Where profit and volume seem to intersect is in the $8to $12-a-bottle price point," he said.
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