Napa, Sonoma Wineries Still Selling

A roundup of done deals, pending transactions and available properties

by Paul Franson
Black Stallion Winery Delicato Family Vineyards
Napa's Black Stallion Winery (above) is one of the Northern California wineries to change hands during the past several months. Delicato Family Vineyards purchased the site in May for an undisclosed sum.
Napa, Calif. -- Relatively few wineries and vineyards in Northern California have changed hands during the past 15 months compared to previous periods, but there have still been quite a few notable transactions. Sales have been hampered by a lack of available financing, concern about grape sales and prices, and sellers’ perceptions of value not matching those of prospects.

Here are some of the recent transactions in Napa County and nearby:

The biggest announced deal is an anomaly. Giant liquor producer and marketer Diageo sold 2,000 acres of vineyards plus the historic Beaulieu Vineyard winery and iconic Sterling Vineyards winery for $269 million to Realty Income Corp. in a leaseback deal. Most observers consider this more of a financial transaction than a conventional sale and suspect there’s a buyback provision in the deal.

Other deals are more conventional:

In October 2009, Peter Michael, who owns a namesake winery in Knights Valley, bought the 41-acre Showket Oakville Vineyard, which included a home and 26 acres of vineyards for an undisclosed but reportedly high price.

Bill Foley bought high-end 1,200-acre Chalk Hill Winery in Sonoma’s Alexander Valley. Fred Furth and Peggy Furth, former owners of the 40,000-case facility, have divorced. Foley previously bought 300,000-case Sebastiani Vineyards in Sonoma, Merus (1,000 cases) in Napa Valley and 70% of 10,000-case Kuleto Estate in Napa County. He also owns wineries on the Central Coast.

Bill Harlan bought the 6,000-case Diamond Oaks Winery on Oakville Grade in Napa Valley, formerly La Famiglia and Vichon. It has minimal vineyards but one of the best views in Napa Valley, and it’s close to Harlan’s existing vineyards and winery. The owner of the property had run into financial difficulties.

In May, Delicato Family Vineyards from Manteca bought Napa’s Black Stallion Winery (4,000 cases) for an undisclosed sum. It plans to add Napa brands to its sizeable stable of wines from Monterey County and the Central Valley.

In April of 2009, Boisset Family Estates, which owns De Loach Vineyards (200,000 cases) and Lyeth Vineyards in Sonoma County, bought 150,000-case Raymond Vineyard & Cellar in St. Helena. It acquired the winery and more than 250 acres of Napa Valley vineyards from Kirin Holdings Co. of Japan, which bought it from the Raymond family in 1988. Jean-Charles Boisset, who is married to Gina Gallo of Gallo Family Vineyards, is part of a French family that owns numerous other wineries.

Silverado Premium Properties has bought two 40-acre parcels, one in Rutherford and one in Oakville, both top Napa Valley locations. Manager David Freed won’t disclose the prices, but he implied they were good deals from buyers who needed to sell.

Also sold under distress was Havens Winery (500 cases), which was recently bought by the Trinchero family. The winery and property had earlier been sold by Michael Havens, while Billington Imports bought the brand and leased back the property before running into financial problems and defaulting. The Trincheros have not disclosed their plans. Some years earlier they bought Napa Wine Cellars and Folie a Deux wineries, turning the Folie property north of St. Helena into a showpiece for their Trinchero Family Estates wines. Now Folie à Deux wines are sold at the Napa Wine Cellars tasting room on busy Highway 29 in Oakville.

Reportedly, Patrick O’Dell sold a 40-acre parcel on Money Lane in Oakville to vintner Lesley Rudd, who owns Dean & DeLuca and Oakville Grocery, as well as Rudd Winery (7,000 cases).

The 240-acre Bailey Ranch in remote Conn Valley also changed hands, reportedly for $5 million, but it contains little plantable land.

Some deals aren’t completed: Custom-crush Silenus Vintners (30,000 cases) north of Napa, with only three acres, is under contract, and a 13-acre parcel on Crane Avenue in St. Helena is in escrow.

Brokers who wish to remain confidential named some of the properties offered for sale, including a ghost winery with permit just north of St. Helena, 2,500-case Graeser Winery just outside Calistoga on the way to Santa Rosa. Palisades Vineyard, with an 8,300 case winery permit in Calistoga is on the market; the associated


brand is also for sale independently of the property.

The 1,000-acre Keith Winery in Chiles Valley, which lies in the Napa Valley AVA, is for sale as are two 40-acre parcels on Big Ranch Road in Napa owned by the Hall family.

Phelan Vineyards and Winery (700 cases), on Mt. George east of Napa, has been on the market for some time. Its asking price is $4.8 million.

Marin Artukovich’s MJA Vineyard, the former Judd’s Hill Winery in Conn Valley, is also reportedly for sale; the Finkelstein family sold it a number of years ago to move to their new site on the Silverado Trail in Napa.

Other properties are on the market, but most owners try to keep the news as private as possible for fear of losing customers for wines or grapes.

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