Peak Wines International, the Sonoma County-based owner of Geyser Peak and Canyon Road wineries, has purchased Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards in the Paso Robles appellation of California's Central Coast. Included in the approximately $35 million deal is the Wild Horse brand, the winery and 48 acres of vineyards.
"I basically was in a position looking to the future, looking where the industry is, and trying to make some decisions about family plans," said Ken Volk, who founded Wild Horse in 1982. He will remain as president and director of winemaking.
Wild Horse currently makes a total of 140,000 cases a year of 28 different bottlings, mostly Pinot Noir, Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. It also makes Malvasia Bianco, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Zinfandel, along with Rhône varietals under the Equus label. Most of its wines retail for about $15 to $20 a bottle, and its annual sales total about $14 million.
Volk acknowledged that the economy has been challenging. "Sales have been tough. We're working harder and working later," he said. "I've spent more time in sales and marketing over the last year than I had over the previous three years."
Serious negotiations with Peak Wines started about three months ago and intensified over the past two weeks, according to Daryl Groom, vice president of operations for Peak Wines. Groom and Peak Wines president and CEO Stephen Brauer said they consider Wild Horse an ideal fit.
"We see the Central Coast as having huge potential, and Wild Horse is already a well-known brand," said Groom. "Mostly, there's great synergy. Geyser Peak is Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz. Wild Horse does Pinot Noir fantastically and is very strong in Merlot and Chardonnay, so it's very complementary."
Volk expects that the deal will allow him to focus more on wine production, rather than on the business side of the operation. Decisions about the future of Wild Horse will ultimately rest with Brauer, but Volk thinks that they will pare back the number of bottlings, focusing more on Pinot Noir, Merlot and Chardonnay.
Peak Wines International is a subsidiary of Jim Beam Brands (owned by Fortune Brands), which purchased the company in 1998. Its flagship property is Geyser Peak Winery, located in Sonoma County's Alexander Valley. Canyon Road Winery produces varietal wines under the California appellation.
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