Chalone Wine Group, based in California's Napa County, will announce tomorrow that it is purchasing Hewitt Vineyard, a 57-acre Cabernet Sauvignon-growing site in Rutherford that will provide the backbone of a new high-end brand from Napa Valley. The purchase price for the property -- which includes a 10,000-square-foot house and an additional 12 acres of unplanted land -- was $14.5 million.
A top-of-the-line Cabernet site has been on Chalone's wish list since Tom Selfridge -- formerly the winemaker and president of Beaulieu Vineyard, one of the big names in Napa Valley Cabernet -- took over as the wine group's president in January 1998.
"When this [purchase] came up, it was a no-brainer," said Selfridge. "Vineyards like this don't ever become available. I worked with those grapes for 10 years [at BV]. It's one of the best in Napa Valley."
The Hewitt site is just north of Beaulieu Vineyard, which currently purchases the grapes and has used them in BV's flagship wine, the Georges de Latour Private Reserve. Chalone plans on using the grapes for a single-vineyard, 100 percent Cabernet bottling.
Although CWG's corporate headquarters are near the heart of Cabernet country, its California brands and estates -- including Carmenet, Acacia, Echelon, Chalone and Edna Valley -- have concentrated primarily on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Carmenet winery produces Cabernet but mainly uses it in red blends.
Selfridge said that getting serious about Cabernet has been a goal of his since he started at Chalone. "I'm so pleased that we're going from not being a factor in Napa Cabernet to becoming a major player."
The purchase of Hewitt reflects major changes at CWG. Two years ago, white wines made up 70 percent of the company's output, but by 2003, red wine is projected to account for two-thirds of its production.
Although BV will continue to have a share of the Hewitt crop through the 2005 harvest, the vineyard should eventually yield 18,000 to 20,000 cases of Cabernet for Chalone. Selfridge said that the as-yet-unnamed brand will also be augmented by 30,000 cases of Carneros Merlot, St. Helena Merlot and Rutherford Cabernet grapes purchased from grower Andy Beckstoffer.
Read what senior editor James Laube previously said about Chalone's plans:
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