One of California’s Pinot Noir stars has been sold to a partnership of Danish investors. Winside Inc. has acquired Donum Estate and its sister brand Robert Stemmler from Racke, a German wine and spirits group, for an undisclosed amount. As part of the deal, Donum’s winemaking team will stay in their current positions. The sale includes the winery’s 147-acre Carneros property with 45 acres of vineyards, both brands and inventory.
The Sonoma winery specializes in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from vineyards in Carneros and the Russian River Valley. It debuted with the 2001 vintage and in a few short years positioned itself as one of the top Pinot Noir producers in the state. Donum makes 2,500 cases annually, including six Pinot Noirs and one Chardonnay, mainly from estate vineyards. Its wines consistently rate outstanding, and in the past four vintages, five wines scored 95 points or higher on Wine Spectator’s 100-point scale.
The change in ownership should not affect the winery’s focus on quality-driven wines, according to Anne Moller-Racke, Donum’s president and a grapegrower who has been farming in Carneros for more than 30 years. “Our new owners thoroughly appreciate and support this approach. It’s what interested them,” she said. “As Europeans who are huge Burgundy lovers and collectors, they see the value of a brand connected to the land and devoted to quality.”
Moller-Racke remains as president and will continue to oversee Donum’s vineyards. Consulting winemaker Kenneth Juhasz, who also produces wines under his own label Auteur, will continue in his role with the winery, making both the Donum and Robert Stemmler wines.
Donum was created in 2001 when Racke sold Buena Vista Winery to Allied Domecq but retained 200 acres, including the former Tula Vista vineyard, which was renamed Donum Estate. Racke hired Moller-Racke to replant the vineyard using a variety of Pinot Noir clones. The company also acquired and rejuvenated the existing Robert Stemmler label.
Earlier this year, Donum sold off a portion of its Carneros property in a separate deal. The parcel, which was planted in 1989, included older Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines. The Winside sale includes 45 acres of younger vineyards planted in 1990. The winery will also continue to make Pinot from the 16-acre Nugent Vineyard in the Russian River Valley.
Donum is Winside’s first foray into the wine business. Five Danish investors with a variety of business interests from clothing to airlines founded the company. They became interested in Donum four years ago, when partners Trond Fredheim and Daniel Aaxman met Moller-Racke at a Hospice of Sonoma auction after they purchased Donum’s lot. “We are delighted to secure both the land and the expertise behind the brands, including the person who planted these vineyards and has nurtured them for over 20 years,” Fredheim said in a statement.
Company executives say they are considering expansion of Donum’s estate vineyards and bottlings. There are also talks of building a winery on the Carneros property. “There is some open land we want to develop,” said Moller-Racke. “We’ll be starting to replant some of the open land and pull up some of the older vineyards.”