Kozlowski family puts Forestville property on the market
The Kozlowski Farms family, known for its legendary pies and specialty food items that have been a staple of the natural foods realm for generations, has decided to put its 21-acre Forestville farm on the market for $8.9 million.
Members of the family have no intention of closing their business. Instead, they want to test the market and decide if it makes sense to continue food production on the property.
“It’s kind of an expensive place to do food production the way we do,” said Perry Kozlowski, whose parents, Carmen and Tony, bought the property more than 60 years ago. “It’s a spot that actually needs to be a winery.”
The property, which supports a 15-acre vineyard of pinot noir grapes, also includes a 2,500-square-foot, four-bedroom home where Carmen still lives, a separate second living unit, several warehouses and the 10,000-square-foot production facility and retail store.
The family doesn’t make wine now, but sells its grapes to third-party wineries. Carmen’s eldest granddaughter, Tracy, and her husband, Joe Dutton, do use some of the grapes to make a special blend at their Dutton Estate Winery near Sebastopol.
“This is an exercise to see if it’s worth as much as we think it is,” said Perry Kozlowski, who along with Carmen and his sisters, Carol Kozlowski-Every and Cindy Kozlowski-Hayworth, decided to pursue the listing as part of an effort to ensure that the business can be operated smoothly and successfully into the family’s third generation.
For instance, if the bids come in lower than expected, the family may opt to change direction and open their own winery instead, Perry Kozlowski said.
“We are keeping all of our options open,” he said.
The listing should generate interest, though, as pinot noir is the most expensive grape in Sonoma County at $3,669 per average ton last year, and the farm is located in the Green Valley region, prized among vintners such as Kosta Browne Winery in Sebastopol.
The family has applied for a winery production permit, which is pending with the county. It could factor into their own future contingency plans or serve as an enticement to prospective buyers.
The move represents another sign of agriculture’s evolution here; the farm started as an apple orchard and later was planted in raspberries, grown between the trees. That planting gave a start in 1969 to its popular raspberry jam, the secret of which was Carmen’s decision to sweeten it with apple juice and dried apples. The farm now sources a lot of its fruit from Oregon, Washington and even Canada.
The family planted the vineyard around the turn of the 21st century, as the price of grapes made it a much more profitable endeavor. A few apples trees remain on the land.
While the farm doesn’t conduct tours, its retail store is still a popular stop for visiting tourists and locals. Its products are available in more than 20 states and its pies — from the double-crust Gravenstein apple pie to the crumb-top blackberry pie — are a ubiquitous presence at local retailers such as Safeway and Oliver’s Market, especially during the holiday season.
The company employs about 20 people, including six family members.
Its biggest seller is its apple butter, Perry Kozlowski said, which continues to attract sales, especially among the health-conscious who appreciate that it’s made without sugar. Sales of its chipotle sauces also have grown in recent years.
Also, he said, the company may further develop its direct-to-consumer business in the future.
“What works this year maybe wasn’t around five years ago,” Kozlowski said. “You have to keep up, bringing in new products.”
You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @BillSwindell.