Vintage Wine Estates is betting big on California's Central Coast. The Sonoma-based wine company has purchased Laetitia, a Pinot Noir and sparkling wine specialist that helped pioneer the cool Arroyo Grande Valley in the Central Coast region. The sale includes the brand, the winery and 287 acres of vines planted mostly to Pinot and Chardonnay, as well as an additional 400 plantable acres. The sale price was not disclosed, but an industry source told Wine Spectator that it's in the range of $30 million to $40 million.
Laetitia winemaker Eric Hickey will remain in his role, but owner Selim Zilkha, 91, will be stepping back from the business. The winery produces 35,000 cases of still wine a year, but has the capacity to produce 120,000 cases, and Vintage plans to make the facility a hub for its Central Coast wine production, including its canned wine brand, Alloy Wine Works. It also plans to build a new winery for Qupé, another Central Coast brand it recently bought, on the nearly 2,000-acre property.
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"Laetitia has a great history and great scores," Vintage Wine Estates CEO Pat Roney told Wine Spectator. He says Laetitia's sparkling wines were also a draw, filling a category that was missing from the company's portfolio.
Laetitia was the former home of Maison Deutz, which was built along Highway 101 in southern San Louis Obispo County by France's Champagne Deutz in the 1980s, as its California outpost. It was later renamed Laetitia.
Zilkha, who was born in Iraq and moved to the U.S. as a child, made his fortune as founder of several energy companies before he bought the winery in 2001. Laetitia continued to make sparkling wine but it is best-known for its still Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay.
"We are very proud of the winery we have created here," said Hickey, who has been working at Laetitia for nearly 22 years. "I'm excited about the energy that [Vintage Wine Estates] is going to bring, and their focus."
Roney says Vintage will boost Laetitia's wine production up to 70,000 cases annually. It plans to grow the vineyard, adding Rhône varieties, and will use some of the grapes to bolster its other labels, such as Layer Cake and Cameron Hughes. But the company does not plan to change the trajectory of Laetitia's wines. "We bought [Laetitia] because of the fabulous style of the wines and won't change that," said Roney.
The deal is part of Vintage Wine Estate's larger move to expand into the Central Coast. The company has been on a buying spree of late, acquiring Santa Barbara–based Qupé in November 2018. Earlier this year it purchased the Alloy Wine Works brand from Field Recordings in Paso Robles, adding canned wine to its lineup.
Vintage now owns more than 30 brands, representing roughly 2 million cases of annual production. "We think the Central Coast is a strategic area to be in," Roney explained, adding that Laetitia will give the company greater access to markets in Southern California.