California wine giant E. & J. Gallo has purchased Pahlmeyer winery, a top Napa Valley producer of Bordeaux-style red wines as well as Chardonnay, from the Pahlmeyer family. The purchase price was not disclosed. The deal includes two brands, Pahlmeyer and Jayson by Pahlmeyer, and inventory, but not the Waters Ranch, Pahlmeyer’s 55-acre estate vineyard on Atlas Peak; Gallo will instead buy its grapes from Pahlmeyer through an initial four-year lease agreement.
“Pahlmeyer fits nicely into our existing luxury portfolio and we are excited about the potential for both brands. We are committed to providing our customers and consumers with quality products at every price point,” Roger Nabedian, senior vice-president and general manager of Gallo’s premium wine division told Wine Spectator. Gallo spokesman Lon Gallagher said Gallo was interviewing current staff about remaining at the winery. Consulting winemaker Jennifer Williams will stay in her position.
Cleo Pahlmeyer, 36, founder Jayson Pahlmeyer’s daughter and president of the winery since 2017, will work at the winery to help during the transition to Gallo ownership. Pahlmeyer and Jayson are made in a leased facility. The sale does not include Cleo’s Wayfarer brand, which makes Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast, nor the Wayfarer Vineyard. She will continuing to manage them as well.
"We ran a sale process and at the outset I didn't know much about Gallo, but I'm really impressed by their integrity and commitment to quality," Cleo told Wine Spectator. "I'm staying on as a consultant with Gallo and my goal is to help with the transition."
Jayson Pahlmeyer, 75, is retired and currently living in Hawaii. In 1985, he left behind a career as an attorney to found the winery. His goal was to create a California wine in the image of the Bordeaux first-growth Château Mouton-Rothschild.
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The winery produced its first proprietary Cabernet blend in 1986, and that blend remains the flagship, consistently garnering scores of 90 points or higher from Wine Spectator. Both the estate vineyard and the nearby Stagecoach Vineyard, which Gallo purchased in 2017, are sources for its fruit. The 2016 Pahlmeyer Napa Valley ($200) scored 94 points.
Pahlmeyer also makes an outstanding Merlot; another top-scorer is its Chardonnay. The 2015 Chardonnay Napa Valley was among Wine Spectator’s 2017 Top 10 Wines of the Year.
In 1992, Pahlmeyer started a second label called Jayson, which today includes a Cabernet Sauvignon blend as well as a Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc, with the wines ranging in price from $30 to $75. Together, the Jayson and Pahlmeyer labels are estimated to produce more than 20,000 cases a year.
Gallo has not been shy on the acquisitions front in recent years. In April, the company agreed to buy approximately 30 wine and spirits brands from Constellation Brands for $1.7 billion, along with related facilities located in California, New York and Washington. The deal is still awaiting regulatory approval. While most of those brands are value-oriented, the company has been expanding its luxury portfolio as well. It acquired Dave Phinney’s Orin Swift Cellars in 2016 and purchased Stagecoach Vineyard, a 1,300-acre hillside estate on Napa Valley’s Pritchard Hill, in 2017.