DeBonis founds Ascentia to keep Buena Vista, Atlas Peak

  • Jim Debonis started Ascentia Wine Estate, a new wine company that he formed after acquiring eight brands from Constellation Brands. (NOTE HE TOLD ME HE ACQUIRED 8 BRANDS, HOWEVER OUR STORY ON THE WEB I SEE SAYS 7 BRANDS)

Jim DeBonis resolved to buy three Sonoma County wineries six months ago at the moment he realized he could no longer protect them.

As the chief operating officer at Allied Domecq and later Beam Wine Estates, the Sonoma County native had always tried to nurture the local brands under his control.

But when Fortune Brands decided to sell its entire wine portfolio to Constellation Brands in December for $885 million, DeBonis knew the only way he could continue developing the brands was to own them.

"I decided I'm not going to live with this," DeBonis said. "From that point my focus was to find a way that I could carry on with these brands and go after potentially acquiring them."

Six months later, DeBonis is chief executive officer of Ascentia Wine Estates, a new wine company based in Healdsburg. On Monday, Ascentia acquired not just the California wineries DeBonis cared so much about, but three other wineries in the Pacific Northwest.

The total portfolio represents over 1 million cases of wine per year, creating overnight one of the largest wine companies in Sonoma County.

"Making this whole thing come together is really a dream come true," DeBonis said.

As chief operating officer at Allied Domecq in 2004, DeBonis helped convince Gary Farrell to sell his pioneering Russian River winery for an estimated $16 million.

Ensuring that Allied executives understood the importance of maintaining the integrity of that brand was very important to DeBonis.

"I always felt like a guardian of that brand in the corporate world," he said.

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