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Huneeus Forms Partnership with Flowers

Owner of Quintessa and Veramonte makes a substantial investment in Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir producer

James Laube
Posted: January 6, 2009

Huneeus Vintners, owner of Quintessa in Napa Valley and Veramonte in Chile, has formed a partnership with Flowers Vineyards and Winery, a well-regarded Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and Pinot Noir specialist, bringing their wineries together in one company. As part of the deal, Huneeus has made a longterm financial investment in Flowers.

Neither side would discuss financial details or indicate how large a share of Flowers Huneeus has bought. However, company spokesman Agustin Huneeus Jr. described the investment in Flowers as a longterm commitment that will infuse cash into the business and allow founders Joan and Walt Flowers to retire and ease some of their financial burdens while retaining part-ownership of their winery.

"We're finally going to pick up a golf club," Walt Flowers told Wine Spectator Tuesday from his home in Sarasota, Fla. "Rumors about the winery being for sale weren't true, but Joanie and I sat down, talked about the future [and] thought what we should consider is to find really good partners to carry on what we've been putting in for the past 22 years. We didn't want to sell and walk away."

Flowers added that the Huneeus family—including founder Agustin Sr., his wife, Valeria, and their son Agustin Jr.—offered experience and continuity. "We were looking for that young blood [in Agustin Jr.] that had the enthusiasm and commitment to what we tried to do over all the years," Flowers said.

Huneeus Vintners' main California property is Quintessa in Napa's Rutherford appellation, where they produce a Bordeaux-style red table wine, along with a second label called Faust. Several years ago, the company made an unsuccessful joint bid with Domaines Barons de Rothschild for Chalone Wine Group, which owned Chalone and Acacia, two Chardonnay and Pinot Noir producers. "We've been interested in pursuing the Pinot and Chardonnay business for some time, and this is an ideal fit," Huneeus Jr. said. "We formed a small list of people we liked and made a decision that we wanted to buy someone who had vineyards, and when this opportunity came up, with Walt and Joan Flowers, it was perfect."

The Flowers were pioneers on the true Sonoma Coast. They found their property through a three-line classified ad in Wine Spectator before the region became well-known for Pinot Noir. They planted a vineyard and originally sold grapes to Kistler before starting their own winery in 1994. Flowers' outstanding 1995 Chardonnay earned it a mention as one of the "wineries to watch" in a 1998 Wine Spectator report on California Chardonnay producers. Production today is 25,000 cases a year, sourced from their two estate vineyards and several leased sites.

Running the winery from its remote coastal local "just was nonstop," said Flowers. "We just worked and worked and worked and [now] we're excited, we're committed and we're happy [to have partners]."

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