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Friday, September 9, 2011

Consolidation in the California wine industry

The number of actual family-owned wineries seems to drop by the day as many are gobbled up by other companies.   The good news in this is that more small owner/winemaker operations are always springing up.

The bigger takeovers make the news and people hear about changes with Constellation and Treasury and the other big guys.  But there are smaller, private companies and individuals that are buying up wineries.

The Boisset family of France acquired Deloach when it was in financial trouble then more recently a long-held family winery in Napa, Raymond (they make great Cabs, by the way), and the historic Buena Vista Winery.

Three guys with years of experience in the business end of the wine industry started Vincraft and have acquired Kosta Browne and Gary Farrell.  Poor Gary Farrell Winery seems to have changed owners once a year in the last decade.  I hope things settle down for them.  Vincraft is also part owners of Kistler.
Hawley Winery of Sonoma Co.
Where John and sons do most of the work
Image from

Vintage Wine Estates, started by the owners of the high-end Dean and DeLuca stores, own Girard, Windsor Vyds, and recently got Cosentino from bankruptcy.  Cosentino has had a number of hard years of mismanagement, but Vintage Wine has brought back the founder, Mitch Cosentino, so maybe things will turn around.  They own several other small brands, also.

Bill Foley has an impressive collection of medium to high-end wineries including Chalk Hill, Firestone, Kuleto, Sebastiani, plus some others.  Chalk Hill is an amazing estate started by Fred Furth, an anti-trust lawyer in the AT&T breakup.
Hartford Winery
Part of the Jackson über family
Image from

The Astencia Wine Group has been in financial difficulty because they bought at peak prices.  So they are the sellers of Buena Vista and Gary Farrell.  They still own Geyser Peak plus a few smaller labels.

Recently the private holding company Roll Global bought a small winery in Napa then Sonoma's Landmark Vineyards.

Illinois wine distributors, Terlato,  owns Alderbrook, Chimney Rock, Rutherford Hill, and Sanford plus others.

Heck Estates, owned by Gary Heck of Korbel
Kenwood, Lake Sonoma, Valley of the Moon
Where he's turning brands into labels (same production facilities, same winemakers)

Trinchero, the Sutter Home family
Folie a Deux, Montevina, Napa Cellars

Not a consolidation but the latest sale I'm aware of is Limerick Lane, a small winery that's been around quite a while and known for their Zinfandels. Their equipment and property sold to a local person.  The sale didn't include the liquor license so it sounds like the Limerick Lane name is gone.

Some of these companies are based locally and run by people familiar with the local wine business; others are not.   It's hard times in the wine industry as with many other businesses and the sell-offs won't end anytime soon.

Following is a list of the big guys and some of their major holdings (not a full list).  With all the changes it'll probably be out-of-date by the time you read this.

Spirits maker Brown Forman
Fetzer and Sonoma Cutrer though these are reportedly for sale.

World's largest wine company, headquarted in NY, Constellation Brands
Blackstone, Clos du Bois, Franciscan, Mt Veeder, Ravenswood, Robert Mondavi, Simi

Headquartered in London Diageo at one time owned Burger King
Beaulieu, Chalone, Sterling

Gallo owns lots of labels for wines made at their Modesto plant, plus Gallo Sonoma
They bought Napa's iconic Louis Martini Winery a few years ago

Jackson Wine Estates, the Kendall-Jackson family
Arrowood, Cardinale, Freemark Abbey, Hartford, La Crema, Matanzas Creek, Murphy-Goode
Hartford and La Crema were started by Jess Jackson, the others were purchased

Treasury Wine Estates was formed when Foster's spun off their wine brands. Treasury is reportedly for sale (plus Foster's is in the middle of a hostile takeover)
Beringer, Chateau St. Jean, Meridian, St. Clement, Souverain, Stags Leap