585 Wine founders launch new company with acquisition

Two veteran Sonoma wine executives are launching a new venture seven months after they were forced out of the fast-growing wine company they founded.

Dan and Katy Leese, founders of 585 Wine Partners, announced the creation Thursday of a new wine production and marketing company, V2 Wine Group, in a partnership with Quivira Vineyards owner Pete Kight.

The Sonoma company's first deal: acquiring a Dry Creek wine brand, Steelhead Wines, from 585 and Kight. Terms were not disclosed, but Quivira is not part of the acquisition.

Dan Leese has a 30-year background in the wine industry, including executive stints at Beringer Blass Wine Estates and Brown-Forman's U.S. wine group.

In 2005, Dan and Katy Leese co-founded 585 Wine Partners, which markets Red Truck, Picket Fence and Bivio Italia. Steelhead also was part of 585 Wine Partners.

It became one of the nation's fastest-growing wine companies, finishing 2009 as the 27th largest wine company in the United States, according to Wine Business Monthly.

But the couple was forced out of 585 Wine Partners in January when investor Fred Franzia — the man behind bulk wine powerhouse Bronco Wine Co. — took control of the Sonoma company.

Katy Leese wouldn't comment Thursday on the circumstances of their departure from 585, but said she and her husband are glad to be back in the wine business.

"We moved on," she said. "We've been in the industry for years and it's what we love. We're excited to get Steelhead and to begin working on it again."

They hope to produce about 20,000 cases a year with the Steelhead label.

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