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Expanding its brands

  • Mike Kenton is the chief executive officer of Ascentia Wine Estates.

Kenton said Ascentia is focusing on expanding its brands, adding varietals and new price tiers.

The Buena Vista Carneros Winery brand will now purchase grapes from across Sonoma County and drop "Carneros" from its name, although it will continue to purchase Carneros grapes and use the appellation designation on its bottles when appropriate, Kenton said.

Former chief executive DeBonis, who had overseen the Buena Vista Winery when it was owned by Allied Domecq in 2001, had decided years ago to remarket Buena Vista as a high-end and low-production wine. He slashed production by 80 percent to focus on pinot noir and chardonnay. Last year, Ascentia produced 60,000 cases of Buena Vista wine.

Kenton now plans to reverse that move and introduce other varietals and expand the brand to include different tiers of wine prices.

"The volume for Buena Vista was not acceptable," he said. "It should be a quarter-of-a-million case brand."

The company is building up its sales and marketing team, which replaced its sales partnership with New York-based W.J. Deutsch & Sons. Bill Deutsch, the sales and marketing firm's chairman, sued Ascentia last year and lost, claiming the wine company was insolvent and accused DeBonis of fraud for allegedly making "fantastical" revenue projections for the brands.

Kenton said the relationship with Deutsch, who is an investor in Ascentia, has not improved.

Now Ascentia has its own sales and marketing team of 24 people, which is expected to continue growing.

"That was built from scratch 9 months ago," Kenton said. "We are a work in progress."

And he does not shy away from the tough tasks ahead.


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