B.R. Cohn Winery - Olive Oil Company, the Sonoma Valley winery known as much for its classic rock parties as for its wines, is undergoing a generational change.
Bruce Cohn, who founded the winery in 1974, has passed the reins to his eldest son, Dan Cohn, who was named CEO. Bruce and Dan Cohn will share ownership of the Glen Ellen winery, they said.
"It's a big day for the family," said Dan Cohn. "I'm feeling really good. This is what I was really groomed for."
Dan Cohn, 39, grew up at the winery. His parents bought the 91-acre estate when his mom was pregnant with him, he said. The family grew grapes for the first 10 years, and then opened the winery in 1984.
Dan worked in the cellar during the winery's first harvest, when he was just 9 or 10 years old, he said.
"I grew up working alongside a lot of these pedigree winemakers, being a cellar rat, cleaning barrels, and walking the vineyard with my father," Dan Cohn said.
He later worked at wine distributor Young's Market, and then returned to the winery where he was senior vice president and national sales manager for the last 12 years. At B.R. Cohn, Dan Cohn increased sales from 8,400 cases sold to wholesalers in 2001 to 84,000 in 2011, he said.
Now, he plans to produce about 50,000 cases per year and focus on ultra-premium wines. He also plans to expand the winery's wholesale and direct-to-consumer business.
Meanwhile, Bruce Cohn will focus on the winery's well-known annual music festival and on managing The Doobie Brothers, the rock band he has managed since 1970. The music festival has raised $6 million for charities since 1987.
"The transition fulfills a long-term objective of family succession," Bruce Cohn said in a statement. "Dan has distinguished himself in all aspects of the wine business and winery management. He is a dynamic leader who understands fine wine."
Dan's siblings also work in the family business. Vallerie Cohn, 30, handles special events, Tasha Cohn, 28 is a brand ambassador, and Joe Cohn, 37, helps with the winery's organic certification and sustainable farming practices.
Dan Cohn said he intends to use more of the estate fruit in the winery's own brands, and to launch a new "gold label" cabernet sauvignon in the spring, which will be priced at $40 per bottle. He also plans to launch two new, limited-production estate block wines in 2014 that will sell for about $100 a bottle, he said.
As for the music, Dan Cohn plans to host concerts at the winery every week throughout the summer. He'll hold onto the classic rock tradition, but hopes to add some mainstream acts to the mix.
"We want to maintain what my father built on Baby Boomer-wise -#8212; what he built with the classic rock -#8212; and appeal to the Millennials as well," Dan Cohn said.
"I really look forward to building on what my father established," he said. "Great music, great food, great wine, great olive oil, and unique experiences and hospitality for our wine club members and any guests that come to B.R. Cohn."<NO1><NO>