California-based Terroir Capital, an investment group founded by former Screaming Eagle co-owner Charles Banks, has entered into an agreement to purchase Mulderbosch, a leading white wine producer in South Africa's Stellenbosch region. It's the second purchase of a South African winery by Terroir, which develops and operates luxury resorts, restaurants and wine-related ventures. The sale price was not disclosed but the agreement includes the Mulderbosch brand, winery and 136 acres of vineyards, as well as the current inventory of wine. Mulderbosch’s sister winery Kanu was not part of the sale.
Larry Jacobs, a retired doctor, founded Mulderbosch in 1989 with the help of former winemaker and co-owner Mike Dobrovic after Jacobs purchased a rundown fruit farm in the Koelenhof area of Stellenbosch. The winery has changed hands several times since then. It has a strong track record in the U.S. market with its white wines, specifically its Sauvignon Blanc, and currently produces around 118,500 cases a year.
Ben Truter, managing director at Mulderbosch, said the winery had grown to the point where it needed to find new financial backing. “I had to make a decision to either extend our credit facilities with our bank or sell the business to a reputable buyer,” he said. Mulderbosch’s U.S. importer, Cape Classics, told him it knew of an interested party and introduced Banks.
The acquisitions are nothing new for Banks, former president of San Francisco-based CSI Capital Management. In 2006 he bought cult Napa Cabernet producer Screaming Eagle with his business partner Stanley Kroenke from winery founder Jean Phillips. Earlier, the pair had founded Jonata, a winery in Santa Barbara County. In 2009, Banks decided to step away from both brands. At the time he told Wine Spectator that he was working on two deals in South Africa.
According to Banks, Terroir is going to completely rebuild the winery and refocus the brand with a greater emphasis on Chenin Blanc. “[We] want to put the brand back to where it used to be,” said Banks, who finds the current wines to be sweeter in style. “[We] want to take it back to a dry approach.” Banks is enlisting Andy Erickson, the winemaker he tapped for Screaming Eagle, to consult on the wines, but he is keeping the current production team, including winemaker Richard Kershaw.
Terroir also purchased Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards, a rising star in the Tulbagh region, in September. According to Banks, the company is investing heavily in the winery, which is being renamed. He also said he is looking for other opportunities in South Africa and is interested in expanding into Italy, Chile and Argentina. “We expect to build a global portfolio,” he said. And he is already developing a new project in California, a brand called Sandhi, which is a partnership between Banks and sommelier Rajat Parr, with Sashi Moorman of Stolpman as winemaker. Banks said the focus will be on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara County and that it will launch in the spring.
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