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French company buys Winemakers Cooperage in Cloverdale

  • Gilberto Arellano adds oak wood chips, matching the wood type from the barrel, to stoke the fires at the Winemakers' Cooperage in 2004. (PD FILE, 2004)

One of France’s largest wine-barrel manufacturers is expanding its operations into the United States, starting with a facility in Cloverdale.

Groupe Charlois purchased the business, Winemakers Cooperage, from Treasury Wine Estates — formerly known as Foster’s Wine Estates.

The deal is expected to add jobs and increase barrel production over the next few years.

“There is no doubt at some point they will expand. It might not happen in two weeks, but it will happen,” said Michael Kluczko, senior vice president of supply at Treasury Wine Estates.

The Foster’s Group, an Australian beverage giant that makes Foster’s Beer and also owns a cadre of wineries and vineyards in Napa and Sonoma counties, is trying to sell its wine division. The company concluded the barrel plant was not a core part of Foster’s wine business and decided to sell it independently, Kluczko said.

“We have been looking at this for over a year,” he said.

The company did not want to rush the sale and chose Groupe Charlois because the French company is committed to keeping the facility local and to supplying Treasury Wine Estates with barrels, Kluczko said.

“We had other potential buyers,” he said. “But quite frankly they would have bought the cooperage, closed it and moved fabrication to France.”

The purchase price was not disclosed. Under terms of the agreement, Treasury Wine Estates will continue buying the same number of barrels it manufactured for its own use before selling the facility.

The 36,000-square-foot production plant in Cloverdale was opened eight years ago by Treasury Wine Estates. It manufactured French and American oak barrels for Foster’s wineries, including Chateau St. Jean and Asti in Sonoma County and Beringer Vineyards and Stag’s Leap in Napa County.

The facility has the ability to produce 33,000 barrels annually, but has been operating at less than half that capacity, Kluczko said.

Groupe Charlois will continue producing enough barrels to meet its obligations to Treasury Wine Estates and is expected to expand production to serve other companies.

Groupe Charlois will introduce new technology at the plant and eventually offer barrels made using fire, water or steam bending. The French company will also partner with Treasury Wine Estates on joint research projects to develop new barrel techniques, Kluczko said.

A Groupe Charlois spokesman was not available for comment Friday.

The purchase includes leases in Cloverdale for the 36,000-square-foot production facility, a 12,000-square-foot warehouse and 5,000-square-foot office space. It also included some oak tree inventory in California, Missouri and France.

All 11 cooperage employees were retained when Groupe Charlois took over on Jan. 1, according to the companies.

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