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Mendocino County's Oldest Winery Changes Hands

Parducci Wine Cellars sold to group headed by former Fetzer president

Tim Fish
Posted: April 30, 2004

Mendocino County's oldest and second-largest winery will soon have new owners. Parducci Wine Cellars is being purchased by a group of local investors headed by Paul Dolan, who recently resigned as president of Fetzer Vineyards.

The group bought the winery from Chicago financier Carl Thoma. The purchase includes a Ukiah winery, 30 adjoining acres of Syrah and old-vine Petite Sirah, several hundred thousand cases of inventory and four wine brands: Parducci, Hidden Cellars, Zingaro and Sketchbook. Thoma retains ownership of his Van Duzer winery in Oregon, which he owned before acquiring Parducci.

A purchase price was not disclosed but published reports estimated it at nearly $7 million.

"For me it's all about getting back to Mendocino," Dolan said. "The Fetzer brand got so big that the wines were from around California, not Mendocino."

Dolan says his group plans to use Parducci's winemaking facilities and access to grape sources to launch new, Mendocino-based brands. "Seventy percent of the growth in the industry now is from new products," he explained. "Consumers are into discovery. Look at cars. The same thing is occurring with all consumer goods." Details about these new products have not yet been decided.

The winery currently produces about 150,000 cases, Dolan said, down from a high of about 350,000 in the 1970s and '80s. Seven varietals are currently produced but Dolan expects that to change. He plans to focus on Petite Sirah and may add Pinot Grigio and Primitivo, an Italian grape akin to Zinfandel.

The fruit comes almost exclusively from Mendocino, a focus that Dolan said he will continue as he slowly increases production. "It will never get back to the 300,000 cases it once was," Dolan said.

Winemaker Bob Swain and the rest of the winery staff will remain on board. Dolan will serve as president. His partners include brothers Tom and Tim Thornhill, owners of La Ribera Vineyards in Mendocino, and their parents, Tommy and Ann Thornhill.

Once considered one of California's most-reliable value brands, Parducci has struggled over the years, following a number of ownership changes and with increased competition from large corporations with deep pockets. "I think they tried to compete on a big brand scale but you can't do it that way when you're that size," Dolan said.

The winery had its origin in Mendocino County when Italian immigrant Adolph Parducci built a winery in 1932 and it became one of the first champions of Mendocino grapes.

The Parducci family sold a majority interest in the winery to a group of investors in 1972 and remained involved until 1994. Thoma bought the winery two years later.

Parducci, Dolan said, will remain separate from Sauvignon Republic, a wine project Dolan launched after he announced his departure from Fetzer in March.

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Read more about Parducci Wine Cellars:

  • May 31, 2003
    Catching Up With ... John Parducci

  • Jan. 31, 1995
    John Parducci Ousted as Manager of Mendocino Winery

  • April. 30, 1994
    Reflecting on Parducci and His Wines
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