Sonoma-based Cecchetti Wine Company announced a deal Wednesday to merge with Racke USA, the U.S. arm of the German firm that once owned Sonoma?s historic Buena Vista winery.

The new wine group, called Cecchetti Racke, plans to ring up $8.4 million in sales this year and sell approximately 140,000 cases of wine annually, according to the companies.

?We expect that this will have a very positive impact for us in the market,? Roy Cecchetti, co-president of the new company, said in a statement.

After years developing successful brands like Pepperwood Grove with his brother-in-law Don Sebastiani, Cecchetti launched his own company in 2007 to market wines from Lake County. It has two brands, Line 39 from Lake County and Redtree with a California appellation.

Cecchetti?s relationships with distributors have allowed him to quickly ramp up production to around 100,000 cases, he said.

?My brands already have built a base of business here in the United States,? Cecchetti said.

By contrast, the Racke family of Germany has been largely absent from the U.S. market since 2001, when it sold Buena Vista for $85 million.

Marian Kopp, president of Racke USA, moved to Sonoma last year to restore the family?s U.S. presence. The company imports Golden Kaan from South Africa, Espiritu de Chile, and Vitae from Italy.

By joining forces, the Racke USA imported brands will benefit from Cecchetti?s strong distributor relationships, while Cecchetti?s wines will gain greater access to international markets, Cecchetti said.

The combined company hopes its broader portfolio of wines will allow it to command greater clout with increasingly powerful distributors.

?Essentially, we are doing what has been done on the distributor level for many, many years,? Cecchetti said. ?We are consolidating.?

Many distributors are reacting positively to the news, he said, in part because the prices of the wines ? between $8 and $12 ? are attractive in the current market.

A key early challenge will be merging the sales and distribution networks of the two companies, Cecchetti said.

?There?s going to be some very hard decisions to make, no question,? he said.

Longer-term Cecchetti said he expects the company to build its own winery, probably in Lake County, which he considers to be an underrated wine region.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or