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Other Guys allows Sebastiani heirs independence, chance to explore new markets

The heirs to one of the nation's most prominent winemaking families are branching off from their family's Sonoma-based wine company to grow the business in new directions.

The three children of Don and Nancy Sebastiani will soon become sole owners of The Other Guys, the higher-end division of the family's successful negociant wine company, Don Sebastiani & Sons.

Creating an independent company will allow it to explore new wine markets while giving the three Sebastiani children greater independence.

"My dad's always had the desire to give us separate things to do so we're not fighting over the same piece of meat on the plate," said Donnie Sebastiani, 32, the eldest child and head of Three Loose Screws Wine Company, the main wine division of Don Sebastiani & Sons.

Three Loose Screws owns the popular Smoking Loon and Pepperwood Grove brands, among others. The wines generally sell for under $10. The company, which purchases bulk wine from other wineries and markets it under its own label, sold 1.7 million cases of wine last year.

That's down from 2 million cases the previous year, a drop attributable to price increases of about $1 per bottle on most of its wines, Donnie Sebastiani said.

The drop in sales was "a speeding ticket" given to a young company that had grown too fast, and a sign it needed to regroup to set the stage for the next phase of growth, said Don Sebastiani Sr., 56.

Spinning off The Other Guys will let Donnie focus on rebuilding the large wine division while giving his brother, August Sebastiani, the space to experiment.

"The big company has grown up and Donnie, who is the most grown-up of all of us, has been given the keys to the grown-up company," said August Sebastiani, the 29-year-old president of The Other Guys.

The smaller scale of The Other Guys will give him more freedom to try novel marketing ideas, he said.

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