Up until now, Farrell has been producing his Gary Farrell Wines at Davis Bynum Winery, where he has been winemaker for more than 20 years. Known particularly for his highly rated Pinot Noirs, he also makes Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot and Zinfandel. Farrell said a new winery will give him the space he needs to expand. Since he started his own brand in the early 1980s, production has grown from 100 cases to 10,000 cases a year.
The winery is being funded by Hambrecht's acquisition of a 20 percent stake in Gary Farrell Wines. "I love his wine. I think he's a great winemaker," said Hambrecht, who runs his own San Francisco-based investment firm. "I believe in someone who does a quality job and builds a brand over time." He did not disclose exactly how much his investment amounted to, but did acknowledge that it was in the range of "a couple million dollars."
Hambrecht is a big player in the California wine scene. He owns Sonoma's Belvedere and Grove Street wineries, is a partner in Napa's Carneros Creek Winery and has investments in Chalone Wine Group and Saintsbury, among others. His firm, W.R. Hambrecht & Co., is handling Ravenswood's upcoming public stock offering. He also owns about 600 acres of Sonoma County vineyards.
"Hambrecht's significant holdings in Sonoma could be key to our future," commented Farrell. His new 30,000-case winery will be built near Davis Bynum; Hambrecht is selling Farrell a portion of a ranch that he recently acquired. About 25 acres of the ranch will be converted into vineyards. "It's an absolutely ideal Pinot Noir site," said Farrell. "I'll be involved in developing the vineyards, and they'll be producing fruit for our brand, but they will be owned by Hambrecht separately."
Farrell added that he has no intention of dropping his current vineyard sources, which include Rochioli, Allen and Bien Nacido. But he and his wife have also purchased 25 acres in the Russian River and planted that to Pinot Noir. "We have some options here for careful expansion," he said.
Though Farrell is still in the permitting process for his winery, he hopes to have the new facility ready in time for the 2000 harvest. Even after that, he will continue to work for Bynum as its consulting winemaker.
For reviews of Gary Farrell's wines, check the Wine Search.
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