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Former Screaming Eagle Co-Owner In Talks With Wind Gap Winery

Charles Banks' investment group Terroir Selections is negotiating with founder Pax Mahle to buy a share

Augustus Weed
Posted: March 12, 2013

Terroir Selections, an investment group founded by former Screaming Eagle co-owner Charles Banks, is purchasing a stake in Sonoma County's Wind Gap winery. The deal, which is in the final stages of completion, includes a 50 percent stake in the winery and brand. The proposed sales price was not disclosed.

Banks, a longtime friend of Wind Gap owner Pax Mahle, said he was interested in the winery because of the style of the wines. “What I love about what Pax is doing is that it’s all site-driven,” Banks told Wine Spectator. “He is really finding vineyards he believes can provide freshness.”

Mahle, who founded Pax Wine Cellars and his wife, Pamela, established Wind Gap in 2006. The winery produces a variety of grapes, including Syrah, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, mainly from vineyards in multiple appellations that are influenced by wind gaps. While the Syrahs at Pax were rich and intense, at Wind Gap he is focusing on cooler-climate sites.

(Mahle left Pax after he and co-owner Joe Donelan got in a dispute. As part of the legal settlement, Mahle retains the rights to the brand name and he told Wine Spectator he plans to relaunch the Pax brand later this year, using several of the same vineyards he produced wine from before.)

The deal will give Terroir a presence in Sonoma and expand its already sizable portfolio of wine brands. The firm, which develops and operates luxury resorts and wine ventures around the globe, currently has seven brands ranging from California to South Africa. After leaving cult Napa producer Screaming Eagle and Santa Barbara’s Jonata in 2009, Banks formed Terroir Capital and its wine arm, Terroir Selections. In 2010, he purchased the Mulderbosch winery, in the Stellenbosch region of South Africa. He is also a partner in Leviathan, the California brand founded by Screaming Eagle’s former winemaker Andy Erickson and his wife, viticulturist Annie Favia.

Mahle was looking for an investor to help grow the brand and wanted to spend more time in the winery. Once the sale is completed, he will continue to make the wines while Terroir will handle the sales and marketing side of the business. “The goal is to continue to let Pax follow his vision in the vineyards and give him capital support in the winery to do what he needs to do,” Banks said. As part of the expansion, Wind Gap is opening a new winery and tasting room at the soon-to-be-opened Barlow, a multi-use complex in downtown Sebastopol, Calif.

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