The Mariani family, owners of Banfi Vintners, an importer and distributor in Long Island, N.Y., and the Tuscan estate Castello Banfi, has bought Pacific Rim Winemakers, a Riesling specialist in Washington state. James Mariani and his cousin Cristina Mariani-May, co-CEOs of Banfi, purchased Pacific Rim from its founder, Randall Grahm, owner of Bonny Doon Vineyards in Santa Cruz, Calif., Banfi announced Tuesday. Grahm, who started Pacific Rim in 1992 as a California Riesling label, spun it off as a separate enterprise and moved it to Washington in 2007. Terms of the sale were not announced.
Pacific Rim produced 196,000 cases in 2010 and expects to make 271,000 cases this year. Almost all of its wines are Riesling at various sweetness levels, some from single vineyards. It also produces a small amount of Gewürztraminer and framboise liqueur.
The new owners intend to retain winemaker Nicolas Quillé and co-founder and marketing director Shawn Bevaresco, who make and sell wines from the dramatic Wallula Vineyard and other sites in the Columbia and Yakima valleys. Banfi has no plans to distribute the wines themselves or change the winery philosophy.
"One thing Cristina and I learned from our fathers was that from time to time you get a chance to partner with people who are specialists and extraordinarily dedicated, and they are at the right timing to deliver to consumer," said James Mariani. "Something like this is a rare investment for the family. The wines are extraordinary and the consumer is very happy. That's something the family is dedicated to."
"We love the family aspect," said Quillé, who was born in Lyon, France, and has degrees from the University of Dijon in Burgundy, the University of Reims in Champagne and the University of Washington. "We would hate it if this were a corporate takeover, but it's an acquisition by a winemaking family. "
"I think they recognized that we have had a lot of success at a time when a lot of wineries have been struggling," said Bevaresco. "And we have the freedom to keep doing the things we've been doing."