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Ascentia sells Buena Vista, Gary Farrell brands

Ascentia Wine Estates on Thursday sold its Buena Vista Carneros and Gary Farrell brands as part of its continued efforts to reposition itself in the hard-hit wine market.

"This positions us great," said Mike Kenton, who was hired as chief executive of the Healdsburg company in January. "It was all done for the same reason, for stability and focus. And now we have both."

The company, which still owns its flagship Geyser Peak Winery in Healdsburg and Washington-based Columbia Winery, has been working with its lenders and partners for several months to get out from underneath heavy debt that dates back to its formation in 2008, when it essentially borrowed $209 million to purchase eight brands and five wineries from Constellation Brands.

Boissett Family Estates, based in St. Helena, acquired the 35,000-case Buena Vista Carneros brand, but not a winery or vineyards.

Gary Farrell Winery, a Healdsburg producer that made its reputation bottling pinot noir, was sold to The Vincraft Group.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

The Vincraft Group, a Sonoma-based company founded in 2008, purchased the Gary Farrell inventory and the 21,000-square-foot winery located on 23 acres off Westside Road.

"I'm excited with it," said Pete Scott, Vincraft's chief executive.

Gary Farrell Winery is the second brand purchased by The Vincraft Group. It acquired a majority share of coveted pinot noir producer Kosta Browne in 2009 for $40 million. The company is trying to build a portfolio of luxury wine brands that have limited production and can be sold directly to consumers and restaurants, Scott said.

Kosta Browne produced about 14,000 cases of pinot noir and chardonnay last year, and Gary Farrell produced about 25,000 cases of pinot noir, chardonnay and a little sauvignon blanc, syrah and zinfandel.

The Vincraft Group purchased the winery facility from Entertainment Properties, a publicly traded real estate investment firm from Kansas City that acquired the assets from Constellation as part of the 2008 deal with Ascentia, which had agreed to lease the properties back.


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