Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Stag’s Leap Cellars sold for $185 million

By Jessica Yadegaran
Monday, August 13th, 2007 at 10:41 am in Uncategorized.

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars label

“Bottle Shock,” the movie about the famed 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting, may be leaving out the red wine that put Napa on the map with Bordeaux, but Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars still made headlines this month. Massive ones.

Pioneer and owner Warren Winiarski sold his family’s winery — with its prime spot on the Silverado Trail, between Napa and Yountville — to joint buyers Marchese Piero Cellars (Italy) and Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine Estates (Washington state) for $185 million.

It was just one in a string of vintners selling their family businesses to the big boys over the past week. Duckhorn Wine Company sold a majority interest to private equity firm GI Partners. And the larger-than-life EJ & Gallo bought Napa’s William Hill Estate and Canyon Road.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a new trend, necessarily. Two years ago, Atlas Peak was sold for $14.2 billion to Fortune Brands as part of a 10-winery deal. And, of course, who could forget the sale of amusement-park-turned Robert Mondavi Winery to Constellation for $1.36 billion in 2004. That started everything.

What’s different now is that family drama, soaring real estate prices and competition from smaller artisan wineries that produce far less wine than these recently-sold properties make it easier to get out, and get out rich. The value segment has also exploded and both brick and mortars and Web sites are devoted to scouring the globe to find the best deals on the best wines money can buy.

This is the way of things. The next generation of small family producers will rise. Folks like Reverie on the Mountain and Orin Swift. Let’s just hope the future cousins of that industry-altering 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon non can live up to the name.

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