St. Francis Winery is selling its original Kenwood facility to Pacific Wine Partners, which will use the winery to produce a new line of reserve wines for its popular Blackstone label.
The sale price was not disclosed, but the deal includes the winery, which has the capacity to handle 125,000 cases, as well as the tasting room and a few acres of grapes surrounding the property.
Pacific Wine Partners, a joint venture between Australia's BRL Hardy and New York—based Constellation Brands, bought the Blackstone brand for $140 million in October. The workhorse in Blackstone's stable is its $10-a-bottle California Merlot, which is expected to total more than 90 percent of the winery's 700,000-case production this year, according to Dennis Hill, Blackstone's senior winemaker.
Blackstone is expanding its line to include more appellation-specific wines, such as its Napa Valley Merlot, which sells in the $16 to $18 range. It is also adding a new line of reserve wines, which will retail for about $30, Hill said.
Blackstone has traditionally rented space at other wineries to make wine or has purchased wines on the bulk market. Its main blending and bottling plant is in Graton, in western Sonoma County. "The main purpose for the [Kenwood] winery is to do our hands-on work for the reserve-quality fruit," Hill said.
St. Francis moved to a new winery just north of Kenwood several years ago, but maintained a tasting room at the old location, which had been its home since 1979, until a new visitors center was completed last fall. The old St. Francis facility was briefly used by Buchanan Cellars, a failed venture by Sonoma Valley vineyard manager Alan Buchanan, but has remained empty since then.
Pacific Wine Partners also owns the Farallon label, another value-priced brand, and it is the exclusive U.S. importer for seven Hardy brands: Australia's Banrock Station, Hardys, Leasingham, Barossa Valley Estate and Chateau Reynella; Nobilo of New Zealand; and La Baume of France.
Check our recent ratings of Blackstone wines.
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