Accolade Wines buys Geyser Peak Winery, sister brands

Accolade Wines, an Australian group that has become the world's fifth-largest wine company, announced a widely-expected deal Friday to acquire Geyser Peak Winery and two sister brands, Atlas Peak and XYZin, from Ascentia Wine Estates.

The acquisition is designed to spearhead Accolade Wines' growth in the United States.

"We think Geyser Peak has tremendous heritage and history," said Tim Matz, managing director of Accolade's operations in North America. "It's exciting to be a part of the Sonoma wine community."

Financial terms were not disclosed. An industry source estimated the Geyser Peak transaction closed for around $20 million.

As part of the deal, Accolade will lease the Geyser Peak winery and 98 acres of cabernet sauvignon vineyards outside Geyserville from the properties' owner, Entertainment Properties Trust.

Rumors of an impending sale had been swirling around Ascentia for weeks as the Healdsburg company sells off its remaining assets. Two weeks ago, Ascentia sold Ste. Chapelle Winery in Idaho to Precept Wine.

After the deal with Accolade, Ascentia would be left with Columbia Winery and Covey Run in Washington, which sources say are being sold to E&J Gallo Winery. A Gallo spokesman declined to confirm that a sale had gone through.

"Nothing will happen until Monday at the earliest," Gallo spokesman John Segale said late Friday. "There's a lot of documents and a lot of attorneys involved."

Jim DeBonis, who founded Ascentia Wine Estates, refused to answer questions Friday, but expressed gratitude to employees in a brief statement issued from his Healdsburg office.

"I am very proud of our great team of people at Ascentia Wine Estates," DeBonis said. "They have persevered through a number of challenges. It has been an honor to have led them for the past four years."

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