Viansa Winery, the hilltop estate founded by the Sebastiani family that struggled under a series of ownership changes, is up for sale again.
The winery and its 167 acres of vineyards, gardens and marshland was listed on the Sotheby's International Realty website for $15 million.
Industry veterans are saying that Vintage Wine Estates, the fast-growing Santa Rosa wine company that announced the purchase of Clos Pegase winery last week, is in the process of closing a deal to buy Viansa.
Pat Roney, president of Vintage Wine Estates, said the company is always looking at wineries to potentially buy, but he denied a report in an online trade publication, Wine Industry Insight, that a deal was imminent.
"We don't have anything we're planning on closing in the next few weeks," Roney said. "Nothing to report yet."
The Tuscan-style winery, situated at the entrance to Sonoma Valley, is a popular destination for weddings and tourist buses. It sells about 50,000 cases of wine per year directly to consumers, said Terry Crisler, a real estate agent with Sotheby's who is representing the seller.
Viansa was founded by Sam and Vicki Sebastiani, but it struggled after the couple turned it over to their children in 2004. One year later, the family sold Viansa for $31 million to 360 Global Wine Co., a Connecticut company with little experience in the wine industry.
But troubles soon mounted under 360 Global, which posted $123 million in losses in the first three months of 2006 and eventually filed bankruptcy in 2007. Laurus Master Fund, a $2 billion hedge fund that had invested in Viansa and claimed it was owed $55 million, took over the winery for $40.5 million in a bankruptcy auction. The 400 or so other creditors were left with pennies on the dollar for what they were owed.
The winery is currently run by Lloyd Davis, a co-owner of the property. He was a partner in Laurus Master Fund before he moved out from New York to take the reins at Viansa. Davis did not return repeated calls for comment.
Crisler, the realtor who represents the seller, said the property has received a lot of interest since it was put on the market in April.
"Lloyd would have loved to have purchased the property himself," Crisler said. "He loves the property. But financially, it's not something that he's able to do."
Davis is now acting as the seller for the property, Crisler said. She declined to say whether or not an offer had been placed on the property, citing confidentiality agreements.
"The property itself is absolutely stunning," Crisler said. "In real estate we talk about location, location, location. ... Anyone who's coming up to Wine Country has to drive right by it, and it's one of the first wineries you hit if you're traveling to Napa or Sonoma Valley."
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