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Zinfandel Producer Four Vines Sold

Value-Oriented Purple Wine Company adds Zin and Chardonnay label to portfolio

Tim Fish
Posted: October 15, 2010

Four Vines, a highly regarded California Zinfandel and Chardonnay producer, has been purchased by Purple Wine Company, a little-known Sonoma firm led by one of the founders of the successful Blackstone brand.

The sale price was not disclosed but the deal includes the Four Vines brand and the current wine inventory. Four Vines owns no vineyards and a small production facility in Paso Robles was not included.

Four Vines was launched in 1994 by Christian Tietje, in what he called a garage and surf shack. By the early 2000s, Tietje’s full-flavored wines caught on with consumers and production grew to 120,000 cases.

Two wines form the bulk of Four Vines production: the Old Vine Cuvee Zinfandel and Naked Chardonnay. Both sell for less than $15, which was the key appeal for value-oriented Purple Wine, founded by Derek Benham after he and his partners sold Blackstone to Constellation Brands in 2001. “Four Vines fits nicely into our portfolio,” said Purple Wine president Dennis Carroll. “We don’t have a Zinfandel. It isn’t going to cannibalize our main products.”

Purple Wine focuses on varietal-specific brands such as Mark West Pinot Noir, Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon and Rock Rabbit Sauvignon Blanc. Wines are produced in various facilities around the state, including the firm’s warehouse plant in Graton. Its sister business is Sonoma Wine Company, a custom crush and private label house.

Tietje will continue as Four Vines’ consulting winemaker for at least three years. “At that point,” he said, “we’ll look at it and say ‘How we doing?’” Four Vines partner Bill Grant is staying on with Purple Wine, while Tietje and third partner Susan Mahler retain ownership of the Paso Robles winery as well as the tasting room and gourmet deli, all located in the heart of that region’s wine country.

Tietje also retains ownership of the “Freak Show” division of Four Vines, which features an eclectic lineup of wines with names such as Heretic, Anarchy and Loco made from blends of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Tempranillo and other reds. He is renaming the new company Cypher. “We built a hell of a racecar with Four Vines. It just needed a bigger steward to keep it growing,” said Tietje.

Carroll said Purple will concentrate on expanding production of the Old Vine Cuvee Zinfandel and Naked Chardonnay but the goal is also to retain the quality level of Four Vines’ more prestigious regionally based Zinfandels: The Sophisticate (Sonoma), The Maverick (Amador) and The Biker (Paso Robles).

Chris A Elerick
Orlando, FL —  October 15, 2010 1:45pm ET
i really hope the quality of the sophisticate doesn't suffer. i've never had a better zin.
Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  October 15, 2010 5:33pm ET
I hope the ambiance of the tasting room doesn't suffer! That place is great!
Tim Fish
Santa Rosa, CA —  October 15, 2010 8:48pm ET
Troy and Chris

I think you each raise concerns than many fans of Four Vines have. Loyal customers are always concerned when a business sells. It will be interesting to watch and taste. Thanks for commenting.

Don Rauba
Schaumburg, IL —  October 15, 2010 11:34pm ET
...and I hope they don't go increasing their case production (by not trimming clusters) to get a short term increase in case production and revenue, as one previously great and currently fiercely mediocre Constellation brand did...

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