Savoy Vineyards purchased by Sonoma’s Donum Estate

The Anderson Valley vineyard is renowned for its pinot grapes and becomes the only vineyard Donum owns outside of Sonoma County.|

Donum Estate will expand its portfolio of wines this harvest with its first vintage of pinot from the renowned Savoy Vineyard in Mendocino County.

The Sonoma winery this month bought the 52-acre vineyard from the Lede Family that is planted mostly with pinot noir grapes, in addition to some chardonnay. The purchase price of the Savoy Vineyard, prized by many winemakers for its grapes, was not disclosed.

The sale means the 2022 vintage of Cliff Lede’s FEL line, which used grapes from the Savoy Vineyard, was its last. FEL represented the initials of owner Cliff Lede’s mother, Florence Elsie Lede.

In a prepared statement, the Lede Family said, "Having recently celebrated 20 years in Napa Valley, and with the next generation assuming leadership roles, Lede’s vision is to deepen the winery’s original roots with an unwavering focus on Napa Valley."

“Clearly, the Savoy Vineyard is one of the most special vineyards in Northern California. It is one of the greatest pinot vineyards. It has great roots in that area. The vines were planted close to 30 years ago,” said Donum CEO Angelica de Vere-Mabray. “When this opportunity became available in January, it was a no-brainer for us.”

Savoy Vineyard is the only vineyard Donum Estate owns outside of Sonoma County. However, it knows the Anderson Valley well. It leased vineyards there for a decade starting in 2011.

“In 2021 or a little earlier, we made the difficult decision to get away from leased vineyards and draw a line in the sand and only make wine from vineyards we own, where we manage the farming,” de Vere-Mabray said.

Donum Estate’s last vintage from the Anderson Valley AVA was in 2021.

Donum Estate is known by visitors for its expansive outdoor sculpture collection, but it also emphasizes environmental stewardship. All of its estate vineyards are Regenerative Organic Certified. To be certified, a winery must meet certain criteria pertaining to soil health, land management, animal welfare, and how it treats farm workers. The California Certified Organic Farming Association has also certified Donum’s vineyards.

Certification at its newest vineyard is already in the works. Donum Estate is already a step ahead in that the land already was being farmed organically.

Also easing the transition, two employees from FEL Wines have joined the Donum Estate team. Ryan Hodgins was winemaker and director of operations for FEL Wines, while Sarah Green was winemaker for FEL Wines. Both joined the Donum team June 1 when the deal closed.

“Dan Fishman, winemaker at Donum, says what he really tries to capture is the energy that exists in living soils. That is really what we are trying to nurture and create with every vineyard we are fortunate to be the stewards of,” de Vere-Mabray said.

The Savoy Vineyard property is located west of Philo on the cooler end of the Anderson Valley, between the junction of Gowan Creek and Navarro River. Grape vines were first planted there in 1991 by Richard Savoy.

Donum Estate intends to continue relationships with smaller wineries that bought Savoy Vineyard grapes, such as Littorai, Radio-Coteau, Peay and Williams Selyem. Negotiations are underway with them, but de Vere-Mabray said no changes will be made in the near term.

Donum Estate expects to harvest about 750 cases worth of fruit from the Savoy Vineyard this year.

De Vere-Mabray said she and her team want to understand the vineyard better before making concrete plans about how the grapes under Donum Estate’s ownership will be brought to the consumer. De Vere-Mabray added that Donum Estate hopes to grow the chardonnay side of the acreage.

With the purchase, Donum Estate now owns 370 total acres, of which 208 are planted —130 in Carneros, 16 in Russian River Valley, 20 on the Sonoma Coast/Bodega Bay area, and now 42 in Anderson Valley.

While de Vere-Mabray said Donum Estate is not actively negotiating to buy any other vineyards right now, she would not rule out future purchases.

“We are always in the market for very special vineyards that fit into our overall portfolio that fit into overall plans for quality wine growing,” de-Vere-Mabray said.

Napa Valley-based beverage consulting and mergers and acquisitions advisory Azur Associates was the exclusive adviser for the sale of Savoy Vineyard and related assets.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct references to Cliff Lede Vineyards and Lede Family Wines.

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