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Copaín Reorganizes Its Business Model

Sonoma winery and crush facility gains a new investor as it refocuses

Augustus Weed
Posted: December 16, 2009

Another Sonoma winery is restructuring its business. Copaín cofounders Kevin McQuown and Wells Guthrie are taking on a new investment partner at their winery and separate custom-crush facility in Santa Rosa, Calif. Jay Thomson, CEO of the Murano Group, a holding company, has purchased a majority interest in Copaín Custom Crush and part ownership of the winery, which specializes in Pinot Noir and Syrah.

Sales of small, privately owned wineries in the region have escalated in the past six months as the industry deals with the recession. Earlier this year Kosta Browne sold a controlling interest to investment firm Vincraft. In October, Napa based Cliff Lede purchased Breggo Cellars, an Anderson Valley Pinot Noir producer. The sales are indicative of the tenuous financial situation facing small wineries, industry analysts say. Sources also tell Wine Spectator that several wineries are quietly up for sale but have not found buyers.

Copaín's reorganization comes as McQuown and Guthrie focus on different areas of the business. Prior to the deal they were equal partners in both the winery and crush facility. "Kevin indicated that he wanted to stay involved [in the winery] but didn't want to be as financially involved," said Guthrie. McQuown has sold his share to Thomson but will stay on as CFO. Guthrie, who is still part owner of the winery, will be general manager and continue to make the wines. He has sold his interest in the crush company and will no longer be involved.

McQuown and Guthrie founded Copaín in 1999 after Guthrie, a budding winemaker (and former assistant tasting coordinator at Wine Spectator), met McQuown, a software-development consultant, through a mutual friend. McQuown provided the initial investment for the winery with Guthrie taking on the winemaking responsibilities.

In 2000, the pair expanded their business by opening the Copaín Custom Crush facility in Santa Rosa. More than 30 producers, including Carlisle and Donum, now use the facility. According to Guthrie no major changes are planned for the facility.

Guthrie hopes to recapitalize the winery through the sale. The funds may be used to purchase new vineyards. Copaín currently owns a 20-acre vineyard in Anderson Valley but buys the majority of its grapes from regions throughout the state. "[We] have a couple of vineyards in the works," he said.

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