A group of wine industry veterans have partnered together to aggressively buy wine brands in the hopes of eventually taking the venture public.
"The market has bottomed out," said Phil Hurst, a co-founder in the new partnership. "The pricing on vineyards and wineries are at an all-time value right now."
Bill Hambrecht, a wealthy investment banker and longtime vineyard and winery owner in Sonoma County, is teaming up with the existing partnership of Hurst, Paul Dolan and son Heath Dolan, who together own Truett Hurst Winery in Healdsburg.
"We could buy two or three brands this year, and upwards of five total over the next three years," Hurst said.
They have immediate plans to open VML Russian River Winery in existing facilities on Westside Road, which is permitted to produce 150,000 cases annually.
Hambrecht is now a 25 percent owner in Truett Hurst Winery, which falls under the umbrella of the partnership, H.D.D. LLC. The dollar amount of Hambrecht's investment was not disclosed, but Hurst said it was a "multimillion dollar deal."
The group will focus on organic and biodynamic vineyards and wines, which Paul Dolan has long championed at his Mendocino Wine Company, which owns brands such as Parducci and Paul Dolan Vineyards.
Hurst co-founded Winery Exchange in 1999, which helps retailers such as Albertsons offer unique store brands such as Q Sonoma County, which is a wine packaged specifically for the grocery chain.
Hambrecht is a legend in the tech world, where he helped companies such as Apple, Netscape, Amazon.com and Genentech go public. In 1979, he founded the now-defunct Belvedere Winery in Healdsburg and still owns the winery facility, which will now be leased by VML Winery.
Most recently, the winery facility had housed C. Donatiello Winery until Chris Donatiello and Hambrecht announced their split in January.
VML Russian River Winery is expected to open in March for barrel tasting weekend. Bottle prices will range from $14 to $30 and the group will focus its marketing on the millennial generation.
"By 2012, I'd like to be producing 100,000 cases," Hurst said.