Lion Nathan USA, an importer and producer of Australian and New Zealand wines, has acquired Sonoma-based MacRostie winery and vineyards, a well-regarded producer of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The winery is the first California brand in Lion Nathan’s portfolio, which includes St. Hallet in Australia, Wither Hills in New Zealand and Oregon’s Argyle winery, among others. The sale includes the brand, inventory and equipment. The terms were not disclosed.
Steve MacRostie, a native Californian, founded the winery in 1987. It focuses on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast and Carneros appellations. It does not own any vineyards; MacRostie purchased grapes from growers in Sonoma and Napa. He also partnered with the owners of the 58-acre Wildcat Mountain Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast to buy fruit under long-term contract for his single-vineyard wines, including his Syrahs.
MacRostie decided to sell because he was thinking of retiring. He said his children didn’t want to take over the company and he needed an exit strategy. He had been looking for a potential buyer for several years before a friend in the industry introduced him to Lion Nathan. MacRostie felt that the company was the right fit since it had a small portfolio and would be able to prudently grow the brand. “That was the appealing thing [about Lion Nathan], that we wouldn’t be folded into a huge portfolio that had a lot of brands to sell,” he said.
Lion Nathan was interested in acquiring a California Chardonnay brand with a regional identity, according to Steve Myers, general manager of Lion Nathan USA. “[We were] specifically looking at key prestige appellations in California,” he said. Lion Nathan USA’s parent company is one of Australia’s larger food companies, with several wineries and breweries. Lion Nathan is keeping the current production team in place and winemaker Kevin Holt will continue to produce the wines. MacRostie will stay on for three years as a consultant and spokesman.
The new owners plan to continue the focus on Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast and do not plan to add new varietals to those already produced. “Our focus is to remain true to the brand that Steve founded,” said Myers. He also said that Lion Nathan plans to slowly increase production by about 10 percent per year toward a maximum production of 45,000 cases.