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A group of Mendocino County investors headed by Paul Dolan, former president of Fetzer Vineyards, announced a deal Wednesday to acquire Parducci Wine Cellars, one of Wine Country's oldest wineries.

Dolan will become president of the Ukiah winery and partner Tim Thornhill, co-owner of 150-acre La Ribera Vineyard in southern Ukiah Valley, will be chief operating officer.

Parducci Wine Cellars is the second-largest winery in Mendocino County, with an annual production of about 150,000 cases. It employs 30 year-round workers.

Dolan and Thornhill refused Wednesday to disclose the purchase price for the historic winery, founded by Adolph Parducci in 1932, but according to Wine Market Report, a trade industry newsletter based in Calistoga, the winery sold for $6.75 million.

Dolan, who got his start in the wine business more than three decades ago with members of the Fetzer family, said Wednesday the acquisition was an "emotional decision for me, as much as a new business venture."

"I'm a Mendocino boy. I love the land, the grapes and the wine," said Dolan.

Under its new owners, Parducci will focus on producing wine from grapes grown in Mendocino County, Dolan said.

"I think we all know there is so much more that can be done to produce and market Mendocino wines," Dolan said.

Dolan formed a limited partnership to buy the winery with the Thornhill family, including brothers Tim and Tom Thornhill and their parents, Tom and Ann Thornhill. The investment group, Mendocino Wine Group, will acquire the Parducci production facility and brands from Chicago financier Carl Thoma.

The deal includes 35 acres of prized syrah and old-vine petite sirah grapes surrounding the winery. Dolan said the vineyards will be farmed and certified as organic.

Thoma will retain ownership of about 63 acres of vineyards behind the Parducci winery. Thoma intends, however, to focus his efforts on Van Duzer Vineyards in Oregon's Willamette Valley, which he acquired before the Parducci sale.

Thoma bought Parducci Wine Cellars in 1996, following a power struggle between Parducci family members and a Newport Beach-based teachers investment group that owned the winery at the time. Winemaker John Parducci lost his bid to regain control of the winery, and by 1994 there was no Parducci family member connected to the historic winery. Today, John Parducci and his grandson, Richard, own and operate McNab Ridge Winery south of Ukiah.

John Parducci said Wednesday that he was glad the family's former winery was returning to local ownership.

"I'm very happy about that," said Parducci.

Leaders of Mendocino's local wine industry hailed Wednesday's announcement.

"I think this is an outstanding day for Mendocino County," said Mark Welch, owner of Welch Vineyard Management Co.

Welch said the sale means local ownership "will be in charge of processing our products. We've been waiting for this for a very long time."

Parducci Wine Cellars' production since the early 1990s has steadily dropped from a high of 500,000 cases a year to the current level of 150,000 as the troubled winery struggled to maintain its footing in the fiercely competitive wine industry.

Dolan said Wednesday he believes the Parducci label can regain its luster, aided by the introduction of new varietals under different labels.

"There is a great heritage and a great strength in the Parducci Wine Cellars history and operations in Mendocino County," said Dolan.

Dolan said he and the Thornhill family intend to "build on that success, and bring honor to the Italian heritage that is so much a part of what makes Mendocino one of the great wine production regions in California, and the world."

As chief operating officer, Tim Thornhill said current winery staff will be retained, including Winemaker Bob Swain and General Manager Claudia Baron.

"There's a capable team already in place at the winery, and keeping it together was a very important part of the acquisition," said Thornhill.

Thornhill said the winery's new owners plan to put their "heart and soul" into this venture.

"This is our opportunity to showcase our own products, and do something for the community as well," said Thornhill.