One thing I've learned about wine is this: You can never count anyone out.
Vineyards may get sold or replanted, but they seldom disappear.
Brands that fail often take on second lives that are greater than their first go-round. Witness Charles F. Shaw, a.k.a. Two-Buck Chuck, which ended up selling hundreds of millions of cases after Fred Franzia resurrected the defunct name.
Winemakers usually only bow out when they are too old and Father Time comes knocking.
That's why I expect the Seghesio family is merely shifting gears. They have sold their winery, perhaps for a handsome sum, which should put them in the position of doing what they want, giving them a new lease on life.
The winery and business they transformed from a jug-wine factory into a house of fine wine will always be a source of pride and accomplishment. The future of that brand name, though, now lies in someone else's hands, and that company stepping into big boots.
If the new owners aim to outdo the Seghesios, more power to them. The track records of others taking over a successful family business is mixed. Some succeed and ratchet quality up another notch. Some bleed the business and increase volume at the expense of quality. This change in ownership will be closely followed. Wine lovers know how good the Seghesio wines are.
The Seghesios I've known the best are cousins Pete and Ted, Ted's dad Ed and Pete's late mother, Rachel Ann, who died last year. This great family shared a common vision and purpose of proving that they could do what many aging or underfinanced wine companies can't: Reinvent themselves—and they did so in style.
Looking back through our database of wines, we have 150-plus Seghesio reviews spanning three decades, mostly flattering of late.
But here's one of the first reviews, the 1983 Northern Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon:
Heavily vegetal with green bean and bell pepper along with some tarry, earthy nuances and ripe berry aromas. Finish gets a bit murky and earthy. -JL
Rating: 69. Price $7.
That's what it looks like starting out at the bottom. Still, the family persevered, ultimately making consistently very good to outstanding wines at reasonable prices.
In 2008, their Sonoma County Zinfandel 2007 was number 10 in Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of the Year.
Selling the winery no doubt proved difficult. Few of us own a family business. Fewer of those last a century. There are plenty of family-owned wineries in California, and elsewhere, and most will end up being sold. That's the nature of business. That's a part of the American Dream that's overlooked.
I've no doubt that the Seghesios—Pete, his wife Cathy, Ted and Ed—will do their best to maintain their standards so long as they're involved during the transition. But I expect that soon enough they will all be back in the wine business, on their own. Wine runs through their veins. They may step back and think things over. But don't count them out of wine.
Tom Kuhn — Mexico — June 7, 2011 8:40am ET
Morewine Bishar — Del Mar, California — June 7, 2011 8:09pm ET
Mark Lyon — Sonoma, CA; USA — June 7, 2011 9:45pm ET
Pete Seghesio — Healdsburg — June 8, 2011 2:06pm ET
Doug Wilson — Healdsburg — June 8, 2011 4:44pm ET
George Sliney — Rancho Cucamonga, CA USA — July 24, 2011 9:17pm ET
Robert Lapolla — san diego, CA USA — September 20, 2012 11:52pm ET
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