In its latest round of cost-cutting, Robert Mondavi Corp. is selling 1,000 acres of vineyards as well as its former Byron winery and visitors center in the Santa Maria area of California's Central Coast. The asking price is $38.5 million.
"It's really a matter of just selling some nonstrategic acreage and a facility we no longer use," said Mondavi spokeswoman Regina Lutz.
Since 1996, when Mondavi completed a new winemaking facility for Byron, the old winery has been used as a business office and visitor center. The vineyards have been used largely as a grape source for Mondavi's Coastal brand.
The Byron brand and Byron's original estate vineyards are not for sale, Lutz said. Mondavi has owned Byron -- which specializes in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris -- since 1990.
News of the sale came on the heels of renewed speculation from financial analysts that Mondavi could potentially merge with Australian wine giant Southcorp within the next few years. The two companies launched a joint venture last year to produce two high-end, Syrah-based wines, one made in California and the other one in Australia.
"There are no merger plans whatsoever," said another Mondavi spokeswoman, Sandra Timpson. "We're not merging with Southcorp."
Only two weeks earlier, Mondavi announced that it is buying famed Italian wine producer Ornellaia, in which the California company has held a stake since late 1999, and will bring in the Frescobaldi family of Tuscany as partners in the estate. The cost of the deal is reported to be about $35 million, with each of the partners paying half.
With sales slowing amid a stagnant economy, Mondavi began looking for ways to trim costs last summer. Its La Famiglia di Robert Mondavi winemaking facility was put on the market in August, and in October the company reduced its role in the much-touted Golden Vine Winery attraction at Disney's California Adventure theme park in Anaheim, Calif.
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