The US winemaker Stimson Lane Vineyards & Estates has reported an operating earnings increase of 9.3% over the first quarter of 2003 to US$6.5m.

"This performance by our wineries, coupled with our continuing commitment to producing the finest wines in the world, is validation that our strategic plan is working and gaining momentum," said Ted Baseler, president and CEO of Stimson Lane.

First quarter premium wine sales increased by 6.1% over the first quarter of 2003.

Stimson Lane revenues for the first quarter of 2004 increased by 5.5% to $45.3m.

The solid sales growth was fuelled by Stimson Lane's luxury wines, core products and new brand introductions, the company said.

"We are particularly gratified by the enthusiastic response to our icon wine programme. This is a credit to the world-class quality of the wines and to the improving fine dining economy," said Baseler.

The wine company's luxury wine portfolio surged upward by 185% versus the first quarter of 2003.