Fetzer president Paul Dolan, after nearly three decades at the Mendocino winery, is leaving to pursue other interests -- the latest in a series of management shake-ups at the wine division of Kentucky-based Brown-Forman Corp.
Dolan, who announced his departure to the winery staff in Hopland this afternoon, will end his tenure on April 30. "There are just certain times in your life that you recognize that it's time to do something different," he said. "I just have a really strong entrepreneurial urge right now."
Dolan plans to focus on two wine projects: a new winery named Sauvignon Republic Cellars, which he is working on with friends, and a separate, unnamed project in Mendocino with his sons. Sauvignon Republic will bottle wines from the world's best Sauvignon Blanc regions; the first release, due out this spring, will be a 2003 Russian River Valley bottling, followed in July by a 2004 wine from New Zealand's Marlborough region. The winemaker is John Buechsenstein, formerly of Fife Vineyards.
Dolan's exit was not unexpected. Although he was at the helm of Fetzer for 11 years, he has been president in name only since a corporate restructuring in August 2003. Pat Voss, a former senior vice president at the winery, has been overseeing day-to-day operations, while Dolan was put in charge of new product development.
Dolan began working at the winery in 1977 when the Fetzer family was producing only 30,000 cases, strictly from Mendocino grapes. Over the years, he took on increasingly high-profile positions at Fetzer, and the winery grew to be one of the state's largest. When the winery was purchased by Brown-Forman in 1993, Dolan was named president.
Along with the Fetzer family, Dolan helped pioneer the organic winegrowing movement in California. Last fall, Dolan released True to Our Roots: Fermenting a Business Revolution, a book about his beliefs that successful wineries and other businesses can also practice sustainable agriculture or sustainable development.
"Paul Dolan is truly one of the great leaders in the California wine industry," Brown-Forman Wines president David Dearie said in a statement.
In addition to Fetzer, Brown-Forman Corp. owns Sonoma-Cutrer and Jekel wineries in California and produces spirits, fine china and luggage.
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