Jess Jackson, founder of California winery Kendall-Jackson, has found a new home for production of his Napa Valley brand Atalon. His company, Jackson Family Wines, has agreed in principle to buy Napa vintner Robert Pecota's winery and 40-acre Calistoga vineyard. Terms of the sale, which is expected to be completed in August, were not disclosed.
"We think it's a good fit, and we wanted to move Atalon upvalley," Jackson said.
Since it began production in 1997, Atalon has been made at another Jackson property, Cardinale, located in Oakville, Calif. Production of the Atalon brand currently stands at about 20,000 cases of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from vineyards in several Napa appellations, including Howell Mountain, Mount Veeder and Carneros. Grapes from the Pecota property, which comprises 35 acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and another 5 acres planted to Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot, will now also be used for Atalon.
Although Pecota would not reveal the financial details of the sale, he did say that comparable Calistoga vineyards now fetch about $200,000 an acre. That would represent a tidy profit on the $4,500 per acre that Pecota paid for the property in 1974. Pecota will retain the rights to his Robert Pecota Winery brand, begun in 1978. He's currently in escrow on another 27-acre Calistoga property, located near Chateau Montelena, on which he plans to build a house and a small winery and to plant about 22 acres, primarily to Cabernet Sauvignon. Pecota will continue to make wines, from purchased grapes, at his current facility until his new winery is up and running.
Pecota made 12,000 cases in the 2005 vintage, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with the balance comprised of Sauvignon Blanc and late-harvest Muscat. His winery permit, however, allows for 25,000 cases, which suits Atalon.
"I'm going to be 68 and my two daughters are pursuing their own ventures. So it's time for dad to downsize," said Pecota. His daughter Kara is married to the son of Dunn Vineyards owner Randy Dunn, and has a new wine label called Retro, while his daughter Andrea is a full-time mother. "I have to get back to the things I love the most, driving a tractor, growing grapes and making wine," he said.