Domaine Alfred, a leading California Pinot Noir producer located in the Edna Valley of the Central Coast, is being purchased by the Napa-based Crimson Wine Group, owner of Pine Ridge in Napa and Archery Summit in Oregon's Willamette Valley. Included in the transaction, which closes Aug. 28, are rights to the brand, the winery, inventory and the 131-acre property, including 81 acres of vines. Financial details had not been disclosed at press time.
Domaine Alfred owner Terry Speizer, who started the winery in 1994 after selling Electec, his Silicon Valley semiconductor company, had been seeking buyers. "I've been called a serial entrepreneur, and I've been doing this for 15 years," he said. "I've been looking around, and Crimson was out looking [to buy]. I had other offers, but it wasn't clear that they were fully aware or appreciative of what was here."
A source familiar with the property says that Speizer initially sought $30 million, though they did not know the final sale price.
The winery had gained recognition for its Pinot Noirs. Domaine Alfred Pinot Noir Edna Valley Chamisal Vineyards Califa 2004 was rated 96 points on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale, the highest score ever for a Central Coast Pinot. Its Chardonnay, Grenache and Syrah earned outstanding marks.
Vines were first planted at Chamisal Vineyard in 1972, but the property was dormant when Speizer bought it. He first replanted in 1996, and the property now contains 38 acres of Pinot Noir, 25 of Chardonnay, 11 of Syrah, 5 of Grenache and 2 of Pinot Gris. They currently produce about 24,000 cases a year, using estate grapes as well as some purchased Syrah and Chardonnay. Winemaker Fin du Fresne, who started at Domaine Alfred in 2006, will remain with the estate.
With this acquisition, the Crimson Wine Group now owns about 530 acres of vineyards between Pine Ridge, based in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir specialist Archery Summit, and Double Canyon Vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA of Washington state. The company was established in August 2007 by Leucadia National Corp., a New York-based public firm with diverse holdings in everything from lumber to telecommunications. According to its June quarterly report, Leucadia has assets of $9.67 billion.
"Our philosophy is to own and represent brands that are best in the region, and we see Domaine Alfred as the definitive Pinot Noir and Chardonnay producer in the Edna Valley," said Erle Martin, Crimson's president and CEO.
Martin does not envision any major changes at Domaine Alfred in the near-term, though he does think they might bottle some Pinot Noir block selections from the Chamisal Vineyard. Speizer says he will continue to work with Domaine Alfred as a consultant, while embarking on new entrepreneurial projects. "I'm really interested in the solar-power business," he said. "I have some experience in the thermal world from [work with semiconductors], and I'll start doing some homework."
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