Betz Family Winery, which has produced some of Washington’s top-rated wines from its Woodinville cellar since its founding in 1997, has expanded its family. Steve Griessel, who owns the private equity company Insync in Phoenix, and his wife, Bridgit, purchased the winery this week for an undisclosed sum.
Betz wines have consistently scored among the best in Washington in Wine Spectator tastings, most scoring in the low to mid 90s. Betz Syrah La Côte Rousse, made from Red Mountain grapes, earned 95 points for both the 2004 and 2008 vintages.
Bob Betz, who founded the winery with his wife, Cathy, while working at Chateau Ste. Michelle just down the road, has been seeking a buyer for more than a year. Although they entertained offers from several California wine companies, they chose the Griessels for their management savvy and to maintain a family aspect to the winery. The Betzes remain under contract for the next five years, with Bob responsible for making the wine.
“We needed to carve out some time for ourselves,” Betz, 62, told Wine Spectator. “Now we can just concentrate on the fun stuff, making wine, instead of talking to insurance agents and finding parts for the coffee machine.”
In 1997, Betz made six barrels (150 cases) while still employed at Ste. Michelle as vice president of enology research and education. In 2005 they moved into their current winery, which currently produces 3,500 cases per year, made entirely from grapes purchased under contract from some of the top vineyards in the state.
Griessel thinks that business model “makes tremendous sense,” adding, “The estate model has been very much a trend, but I like the idea that there’s a significant difference between being a grower and making wine.”
The Griessels looked at several wineries on the West Coast before meeting the Betzes. “We loved the combination of pursuit of excellence with really good financial discipline,” Steve said, “and the humility with which they approach the business.”
The Griessels, originally from South Africa, owned sports marketing and tourism businesses there. After moving to the U.S. nine years ago, he turned around several large but struggling companies and then sold them, most recently American Community Properties Trust in 2009. Last year he started Insync.
The couple plans to move to Woodinville this summer. “My wife and I are passionate about wine, been collecting it for years, traveling to wine regions and made friends throughout the world,” he said. “It’s always been a dream to get into the industry. We want to watch how Bob and Cathy do it, document the DNA of this business and live by the DNA of the business. Ten years from now I want Bob to look back and see his fingerprints all over it.”