Canadian vintners buy Sonoma winery owned by TV’s 'The Bachelor'

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A Canadian winemaking family announced Monday that it has purchased Envolve Winery, which gained national attention after co-owner Ben Flajnik appeared on the TV series “The Bachelor” in 2012.

The Stewart family, a third-generation winemaking family from British Columbia, bought the Sonoma label and its assets for an undisclosed price. It will be an addition under its Bacas Family Estates portfolio.

The transaction marks the latest move for the Stewart family, which began in the wine industry in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley with Quails’ Gate winery, which produces 55,000 cases annually. The family attracted notice in local wine circles when it purchased the Valley of the Moon Winery and its sister brand Lake Sonoma Winery in 2012 from F. Korbel & Bros.

They renamed Valley of the Moon to Madrone Estate Winery — though it kept the historical name as a wine label — and undertook a series of improvements at the Glen Ellen winery, focusing on pairing its estate wines with small bites.

“We’re not about getting bigger for the sake of growing,” said Tony Stewart, chief executive officer for Bacas Family Estates. “We are really looking a portfolio of smaller properties.”

Envolve wines, which produces up to 2,000 cases annually, will be produced at the Glen Ellen facility and will be sold at the Lake Sonoma Winery tasting room right off the town square in Sonoma, he said.

The deal was a result of Stewart looking for a tasting room in Sonoma and having subsequent talks with members of the third generation of the Benziger family — Mike, Kate and Chris — who owned Envolve along with Flajnik. Envolve had a nearby tasting room in Sonoma since 2012.

As the talks continued, the Benziger family became more comfortable with selling to another family winery, Stewart said. The second generation of the Benziger family already sold the Benziger Family Winery to The Wine Group last year.

Stewart said he also admired Envolve’s philanthropic efforts, which was personal as Mike and Kate’s brother, Chris, has cerebral palsy and participated with Becoming Independent — a community group helping people with disabilities live meaningful productive lives.

“We are confident the Stewart family will continue the brand mission of bringing high quality varietals into the marketplace and encourage enthusiasts to ‘get envolved’ by helping support local charities,” said Kate Benziger in a statement.

Flajnik said he left Envolve’s day-to-day operations in 2014. He said he was proud of the winery, which was founded in 2008, given that it was operated by 20-somethings who were learning their way in the wine business. “We did fairly well for a while,” he said. “It was fun.”

He now produces Fernet Francisco, an Italian-style herbal liqueur, with a partner at a Richmond facility. He said has had recent opportunities to get back into the wine business, but has so far declined. “I might dip my toe in,” he said of a possible future in the industry.

You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 521-5223 or bill.swindell@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @BillSwindell.

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