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New Wine Company Purchases Cline's Red Truck Brand

Foster's veterans start up Axiom in Sonoma, with plans to add more wines

Tim Fish
Posted: December 1, 2005

Two former executives at Foster's Wine Estates in Napa Valley have purchased fast-growing value brands Red Truck and White Truck and plan to make them the centerpiece of a new Sonoma-based wine company named Axiom.

Foster's veterans Dan Leese and Doug Walker purchased the brands and existing inventory from Fred and Nancy Cline of Cline Cellars in Sonoma. No winery facilities or vineyards were included, and the sale price was not disclosed.

"The $10 to $12 category is a hot category and I think these brands have huge potential," said Leese, president of Axiom. "Our vision is to have a company of four or five brands, and you need a successful brand like Red Truck to drive a wine company."

Launched in 2002, Red Truck is a red blend that includes Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Mourvèdre. White Truck, a blend that includes Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay, was added in 2004.

The Clines are part of a small group of investors in Axiom, and as part of the deal, Cline Cellars will continue to produce and supply the grapes for the labels.

Leese said the company will add several varietal wines under the Red Truck and White Truck labels. They are also shopping around for other brands, and perhaps wineries and vineyards as well.

"I think it's tough just to create a brand and throw it out there. You have to be either really smart or really lucky," said Leese, who has more than 24 years of experience in the wine and spirits industry. "We're looking for different price points and appellations, and we don't want a lot of overlap in the varietals."

As managing director at Foster's Wine Estates Americas (then called Beringer Blass Wine Estates), Leese was the company's top executive in the United States. He left the company in July. Walker, who will serve as Axiom's COO, has spent more than 18 years in the wine industry; he held top positions at Foster's and was formerly president of Chateau St. Jean.

Leese said it's quite a change to move from a wine goliath such as Foster's to a small start-up. "I'll have to go get my hands dirty now."

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