Korbel sells two Sonoma Valley wine brands
Published: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 10:43 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 7:23 p.m.
F. Korbel & Bros. has sold two of its three Sonoma Valley-based wine brands, the latest sign the Guerneville sparkling wine giant is downsizing its still-wine business.
West Coast Wine Partners, which has roots in the North Coast and Canada, said Tuesday it has purchased Valley of the Moon Winery and Lake Sonoma Winery, a sister brand made at the Glen Ellen winery.
The deal included brands, inventory, wine production facilities and 40 acres of estate vineyards on a 60-acre property. Together, the two brands produce about 45,000 cases per year.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
Korbel owner Gary Heck was traveling Tuesday and unavailable for comment, spokeswoman Margie Healy said.
Heck bought Lake Sonoma Winery in 1995 as he branched out from sparkling wines to still wines. One year later he acquired a stake in Kenwood Vineyards and Valley of the Moon wineries, purchasing full ownership of the two properties in 1998.
But Heck decided to sell all three wineries this year and focus on Korbel, which shipped 1.35 million cases of sparkling wine last year and is one of the largest wine companies in Sonoma County.
A deal to sell Kenwood to New York-based Banfi Vintners fell apart in July. West Coast Wine Partners did not consider buying Kenwood, partner Tony Stewart said.
“That's much bigger than what we're looking at,” Stewart said.
West Coast Wine Partners was founded in 2010 by Stewart, whose family owns Quail's Gate Winery in Canada, and Dan Zepponi, a former executive at Beringer Vineyards with a family history of winemaking in Napa and Sonoma counties.
The two partners teamed up in 2009 to launch Plume, a boutique cabernet sauvignon brand based in Napa, and have spent three years looking in Napa, Sonoma and Paso Robles for an estate property, Zepponi said.
The new owners plan to reestablish an estate program at Valley of the Moon focused on the older vineyard plantings. Zinfandel, sangiovese, petite sirah and barbera can be found among the vines.
“We see that this is a real opportunity to restore the property to a sense of place, where you can go and really get a sense of what's unique about Sonoma Valley,” Stewart said.
The sale closed on Aug. 1, but the new owners kept the deal quiet while they made changes to the product and operations, Stewart said. About a dozen employees, six of them full-time, were retained through the transition and the company plans to hire additional staff.
Zepponi & Co. advised Korbel on the deal.
“For producers that don't have a presence in the U.S., they're trying to get in there because they realize it's such a strong market,” said Matt Franklin, principal at Zepponi & Co.
Lake Sonoma and Valley of the Moon are already distributed in Canada, but the new owners hope to boost sales there, Stewart said.
Zepponi's roots in the wine industry date back to the late ‘60s when his father co-founded ZD Wines in Sonoma. While working for a winery in Canada, Zepponi met Stuart, whose family wanted to expand into California.
Eventually the company would like an estate vineyard in Napa, Stewart said.
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