Investment firm buys stake in Sbragia Family Winery

  • 9/8/2006: 114: PRE-CONCERT PARTY: Giancarlo Roman, left, of Castello di Gabbiano talks with Ed Sbragia over a glass of wine at Festival del Sole.

    PC: Giancarlo Roman (CQ), left, Chief Winemaker for Castello di Gabbiano chats with Ed Sbragia (CQ), Winemaster of Beringer Vineyards during a special pre-concert dinner held at Beringer Vineyards in St. Helena. The dinner was a part of the the first annual Festival del Sole, a classical music, food and wine festival in Napa. (Savor / Crista Jeremiason) 7/19/06

Bacchus Capital Management, a private equity firm based in Pleasanton, has acquired a stake in Sbragia Family Vineyards of Geyserville.

The firm will put an unspecified amount of money into the Dry Creek Valley winery to enable the Sbragia label to grow, said Peter Kaufman, co-founder and managing partner at Bacchus.

The funds will be utilized for equipment, grapes and staff, Kaufman said. Bacchus also will handle much of the winery's direct-to-consumer, hospitality, sales and marketing operations, said Sam Bronfman Jr., co-founder and managing partner at Bacchus.

"The thinking behind this investment is we want to free Ed Sbragia up to continue making great wines," Kaufman said.

Sbragia, who founded the Sbragia Family Vineyards label in 2001, is a third-generation Dry Creek Valley vintner. He was previously winemaster at Beringer Vineyards in Napa, where he worked since 1976. The Sbragia family purchased the former Lake Sonoma Winery facility in 2006 from sparkling wine giant F. Korbel & Brothers, creating a home for their wines. Before that purchase, the Sbragia family made their wines at Beringer.

"We've grown to a point where I need more expertise," said Sbragia, who is both president and winemaster. "From my point of view, I'm really pleased to have Sam and Peter as partners. I think they've invested in my future, and my family's future, and I look forward to it. You're going to see a lot more good wine."

The deal will enable Sbragia Family Vineyards to nearly double its production to 20,000 cases in five years. The winery now produces about 10,500 cases per year, said daughter-in-law Kathy Sbragia, director of hospitality and administration.

The investment in Sbragia represents Bacchus' first private equity investment in the wine industry, Kaufman said. The firm seeks "control positions" when it provides private equity, according to its website. Kaufman declined to divulge the size of the firm's ownership stake in the winery.

"There's certain information that we are not in a position to share," Kaufman said. "Bacchus has made a significant investment. Ed is going to continue as president and &‘Grand Poobah' of wine making, and we're very excited about this partnership."

Previously, Bacchus has loaned money to five wine companies: Andretti Winery, in Napa; Qupe and Pietra Santa, on the Central Coast; Wine by Joe, in Oregon; and Cameron Hughes Wine, the San Francisco wine negociant company.

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