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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Wineries and Vineyards Selling Like Hotcakes!

It's another sign the Great Recession is ending. Also, a sign the wine business is picking up faster than other parts of the economy.

In the Napa, Sonoma, and Lake County area there has been a rash of winery and vineyard sales over the past year. One thing helping the vineyard sales is a proclamation at an industry conference last year saying there will be a grape shortage in the near future. This opinion is based on the lack of new plantings during the depth of the recession and the continuing growth in California wine sales.

Some of the properties changing hands in the past year or so:

In 2005 Coppola bought the Souverain Winery
and put lots of money into the property
Accolade Wines, a world-wide wine corporation based in Australia, bought Geyser Peak Winery. A few months later Francis Ford Coppola bought the Geyser Peak buildings and vineyards, but not the brand name. Over the past 15 years Geyser Peak has gone through numerous owners. Without their own facility I'm not sure what will happen to the brand in the long term. For now they are leasing back the property from Coppola. 

Duckhorn bought the Ridgeline Vineyard in Alexander Valley from Artesa -- as Artesa is putting in a huge vineyard in the Sonoma Coast area. (Ridgeline is about Cabernet; the Sonoma Coast is about Chardonnay and Pinot Noir).

The most active buyer has been Bill Foley. In recent years he's purchased Sebastiani and Chalk Hill Wineries plus several others. In the past year he's added Lancaster in Sonoma, Langtry in Lake County, and Sawyer Cellars in Napa. He also purchased a 200 acre vineyard in Carneros at the southern end of Sonoma County. Foley appears to have lots of money from his financial dealings and may not be done yet.

Gallo bought a 2300 acre property with vineyards in Lake County. I guess they took the "future vineyard shortage" proclamation to heart.

Kendall-Jackson bought several hundred acres of land in Oregon, some already planted, the rest to be planted. Jackson also bought the well-regarded Saralee's Vineyard in the Russian River Valley from the Kunde's. The Kunde family has been selling off in the past few years.

Plumpjack bought Stelzner Vineyards. Stelzner is a long-time grower in Napa. The family is retaining some vineyards. 
Any future for them?

Silver Oak bought Sausal Vineyards, a family winery in Alexander Valley known for Zinfandel. Silver Oak hinted there would be changes. All I know is at the time I'm writing this Sausal doesn't even have a web page. Too bad as Sausal was one of the few places you could still buy a great Zin for $20. That doesn't fit the Silver Oak business model well.

The Wilson Winery family bought Pezzi King, including their vineyards -- a small operation known for Dry Creek Zinfandel. The Wilson's also bought the Blackstone Winery facility, but not the brand name, from Constellation Brands. The Wilson's seem to be doing very well as they have several premium winery holdings in Sonoma County.

A couple of ex-winery execs who own a British Columbia winery bought Valley of the Moon and Lake Sonoma from Gary Heck (owner of Korbel) including 40 acres of vineyards. Gary had been attempting to sell off Kenwood Vineyards, but that deal fell through.

A more detailed article on the changes from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.