The Hess Collection, a Napa Valley winery that built its reputation on Cabernet Sauvignon in the 1990s, is acquiring MacPhail, a small family winery in Sonoma that focuses on Pinot Noir. The sale includes the MacPhail brand and inventory but doesn’t include the MacPhail winery, located in Healdsburg. Founder James MacPhail will stay on as winemaker. The price of the sale was not disclosed.
MacPhail told Wine Spectator he sold the winery because he wanted to spend more time making wine. He had been running MacPhail, with help from his wife, since its first vintage and found himself spending more time on the sales side of the business and less time on producing the wines. “[The sale] allows me to get back to hands-on winemaking and more research,” said MacPhail.
MacPhail entered the wine industry in his late 20s after a career in hotel administration. He moved to Healdsburg in 1993 and spent time at Quivira and Pelligrini, where he worked with Merry Edwards. He debuted his first Pinots with the 2002 vintage and later built the winery in Healdsburg. MacPhail buys grapes from Anderson Valley, Mendocino and Sonoma but doesn’t own any vineyards. The winery produces 4,000 cases a year.
MacPhail started talking to the Hess Collection about a possible sale two years ago. “It was a natural fit of sharing resources and sharing the same ideals and philosophy,” MacPhail said. The sale made sense because he had been working for Hess Family Estates, the parent company of the Hess Collection, since 2007, producing Pinot Noirs for the Sequana brand using grapes from the Green Valley of Russian River and the Santa Lucia Highlands.
Swiss entrepreneur and art collector Donald Hess founded the Hess Collection after he purchased vineyards on Mt. Veeder in 1978. The winery has vineyards in Napa Valley and purchases grapes from around California for its Hess Select label. Donald Hess recently retired from the winery, but the Hess family still owns the company and Hess Family Estates, which includes six other brands such as Bodega Colomé in Argentina, Glen Carlou in South Africa and Peter Lehmann in Australia.
Hess Collection president Gary Bulger says there will be no changes to the MacPhail brand. James MacPhail will still make the wines at the MacPhail winery, which Hess will lease. Bulger believes the brand will complement Sequana’s Pinots. “Without competing appellations, the MacPhail Family Wines brand is a natural and perfect fit into the Hess Collection portfolio,” he said.
Eric Hall — Healdsburg, CA — July 11, 2011 3:50pm ET
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