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High-end cab maker to get 2nd Sonoma County facility

Roshambo, the hipster winery known for its irreverent attempts to reach new wine drinkers, is selling its stylish Russian River facility to Silver Oak Cellars, the upscale Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon specialist.

The deal, which is not yet complete, would give the Oakville-based producer of $100 cabernet sauvignons its second Sonoma County production facility and help extricate Roshambo's owners from debts incurred in building a $10 million, modern-styled winery on Westside Road.

Neither side would comment on the deal Tuesday, but people familiar with the transaction say a sale has been a long time in coming.

Roshambo, named after the popular rock-paper-scissors game, opened in 2002 but soon ran into financial trouble when the value of the family trust funds behind the venture decreased in value.

"Our job was to stabilize the winery and advise them on a future course," said wine industry adviser Alan Hemphill, hired by the winery in 2003. "We told them to run the business for one or two years, without the vultures circling, and then sell it."

Hemphill is not directly involved in the sale, but said he represented another client who bid on the winery and lost out to Silver Oak.

He said the winery's problem has always been that its owners, the heirs of the late Frank Johnson, overspent on a showcase winery and tasting room before the brand had enough momentum to cover the costs of the debt.

"They built a $6 million winery for $10 million," Hemphill said.

The deal involves the facility and about 35 acres of vineyards surrounding it, but not the brand, Hemphill said.

Naomi Brilliant, owner of the winery and the granddaughter of dental instrument pioneer Frank Johnson, declined to comment until January.


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