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Vineyard and Winery Acquisitions Continue

June 2014
by Paul Franson
Adelsheim Vineyard
Adelsheim Vineyard recently purchased a 59-acre site that includes Bryan Creek Vineyard (above).

As the race continues to assure grape supply to a perennially growing U.S. wine industry, so does the race among wineries buying vineyards. Meanwhile, acquisitions by large wine producers mean the “big guys” are getting even bigger. The sellers in at least three of the past month’s deals were elderly owners.

Modesto, Calif.-based E. & J. Gallo Winery bought Ledgewood Creek Winery in Solano County’s Suisun Valley from 84-year-old owner Dean Frisbie for an undisclosed price.

The 15,000-case winery founded in 2001 boasts 400 acres of producing vineyards—and plenty of water from the nearby reservoir Lake Berryessa. Water is a growing concern for many growers in California. Ironically, though Lake Berryessa is in Napa County, all its water goes to Solano and Yolo counties.

The climate in Suisun Valley is comparable to parts of Napa Valley, but land is much cheaper.

Although Gallo bought the label and a tasting room, the giant wine company might just want the grapes. A vineyard of Ledgewood Creek’s size could produce 10 times as many cases as the winery currently releases.

The tasting room already has been closed, and most of the staff is gone.

This part of Solano County southeast of Napa is in the North Coast AVA. The county contains 23 wineries, according to Wines Vines Analytics.

Because of its lower costs, Solano County is becoming a magnet for the North Coast wine industry. Caymus Vineyards is building a large production and bottling plant there, and suppliers including Encore Glass and Saxco International have bought nearly 1 million square feet of land in the county in recent months.

Paris-based Pernod Ricard is buying Kenwood Vineyards, a leading Sonoma wine brand from F. Korbel and Bros., leaving that company to focus on sparkling wine and brandy.

Pernod owns Champagne producers Perrier-Jouët and G.H. Mumm as well as California sparkling wine producer Mumm Napa.

Korbel acquired Kenwood in 1999. It agreed to sell Kenwood to New York-based Banfi Vintners in 2012, but the deal fell through. That year, it sold its two other wineries producing still wines (Valley of the Moon Winery and Lake Sonoma Winery) to West Coast Wine Partners.

The French company bought all assets of Kenwood Vineyards including the estate vineyards as well as additional property in Sonoma County totaling 2,000 acres. Kenwood Vineyards makes more than 500,000 cases per year.

Pernod Ricard also owns Brancott Estate Wines in New Zealand, Graffigna in Argentina, Campo Viejo in Spain and Jacob’s Creek in Australia. It introduced Deadbolt California still wine in 2012 and also owns such spirits brands as Absolut vodka, Chivas Regal Scotch and Beefeater gin. It is the second-largest spirits and wine manufacturer after Diageo.

Launched in 2007 by TGIC Importers founder and CEO Alex Guarachi, Guarachi Family Wines has purchased the 62-acre Meadowrock vineyard in the Atlas Peak appellation in Napa Valley. The vineyard, which is planted with 30 acres at an elevation from 1,400 to 1,760 feet, previously housed Meadowrock Winery and Astrale e Terra Winery.

In spring 2013 Guarachi Family Wines bought Sun Chase vineyard in the Sonoma Coast AVA.

Ryan Harms, owner of Union Wine Co. in Tualatin, Ore., has bought Amity Vineyards in Amity, Ore., from Myron Redford. The property contains 15 acres of vineyard, mostly Pinot Noir.

Oregon winemaking pioneer Adelsheim Vineyard has acquired a 59-acre property in the Chehalem Mountains AVA that includes the 20-acre Bryan Creek Vineyard. Grapes from the property have long been used in Adelsheim Vineyard’s wines.

President and co-founder David Adelsheim said, “In this period of major vineyard acquisition by some very large wineries, it is a very important step for us to have the security of owning one of our best estate sites.” Jackson Family Wines of California recently has bought large tracts in Oregon.

Adelsheim Vineyard has 223 acres in the Willamette Valley. The winery produces 40,000 cases annually.

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