Napa Valley winemaker Tony Soter is selling his highly regarded Etude brand to Beringer Blass Wine Estates, the giant company formed by the merger of California's Beringer Wine Estates and Australia's Mildara Blass.
The deal includes only the brand and existing inventory, as Etude does not own a winemaking facility. The sale price was not disclosed, but Beringer Blass spokeswoman Mora Cronin said that financially, "This is a small acquisition."
Etude is sold almost exclusively in restaurants, and its Cabernet Sauvignon is consistently among Wine Spectator's top-rated Napa Valley Cabernets. Soter also makes a respected Carneros Pinot Noir.
Soter, who was not available for comment at press time, will continue in his duties at the winery. In a statement, he said: "I've known many of the people at Beringer Blass for years and have a great deal of respect for their wines. I'm confident and pleased that Etude's home and future will be in the portfolio of a company where quality is a core value."
Walt Klenz, who was promoted to managing director of Beringer Blass this week, said in a statement: "In the last 20 years, Tony has built Etude into one of the most highly respected wineries in California."
Soter founded Etude in 1982 and currently produces more than 9,000 cases annually in a leased facility in southern Napa Valley. Beringer Blass may build a separate winemaking facility for Etude. "That's something we're going to be looking at," said Cronin.
By joining the Beringer Blass portfolio, the Etude brand gains access to the company's vast marketing and distribution channels, as well as to top-flight Pinot Noir vineyards in Carneros.
Beringer Blass, which produces some of California's top Cabernets and has been expanding its production of Pinot Noir, gains the expertise of one of California's most experienced winemakers. Until he retired from his consulting business in 1999, Soter worked with labels such as Araujo, Dalla Valle, Niebaum-Coppola, Spottswoode and Viader.
The purchase of Etude is the latest in a long buying spree for Beringer Blass. Parent company Foster's Group of Australia bought Napa Valley-based Beringer Wine Estates in a blockbuster $1.5 billion deal last year, merged it with its Mildara Blass wine division and renamed it Beringer Blass.
In July, the company bought International Wine Accessories, a provider of wine cellars, cooling units, wine racks, high-end glassware, corkscrews and other wine-related accessories. In April, Beringer Blass paid $4.5 million for controlling interest in New Zealand's highly regarded Matua Valley Wines.
The Beringer Blass portfolio also includes Chateau St. Jean, Chateau Souverain, Meridian, St. Clement and Stags' Leap Winery in California, as well as Wolf Blass, Greg Norman Estates, Jamiesons Run and Black Opal in Australia, and Italian estates Castello di Gabbiano and Campanile.
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