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Cosentino Closes Its Doors

Napa winery had been in financial distress; founder launches new small label

MaryAnn Worobiec
Posted: November 15, 2010

After thirty years, Cosentino Winery closed its doors Nov. 11. “It’s a sad day,” said Larry Soldinger, chairman of the Yountville-based winery, which has been in financial trouble for several years, according to local media reports. “At the end of the day, we had difficulty with our lender, and our lender had to get out of the financing. We were unable to find someone to offer us refinancing.”

In 1980, Mitch Cosentino started his winery in Modesto and began bottling wines under both the Crystal Valley Cellars and Cosentino Wine Company brands. His focus shifted to North Coast wines, and in 1990 he built a winery in Yountville on Highway 29.

Cosentino was known for an eclectic lineup of wines from Napa, Sonoma and surrounding regions, including the well-known Bordeaux-style blends M. Coz and The Poet, as well as an old-vine Zinfandel called Cigarzin. There was also a label called Legends, a joint venture with basketball legend Larry Bird.

In 1992, Cosentino took on financial partners, Edie and Larry Soldinger, selling his controlling interest to focus on winemaking. The brand began to expand, with land purchases in Napa, Lodi and Pope Valley. A second winery was built in Lodi in 2004 called Crystal Valley Cellars, home to another brand, CE2V. Production expanded from 6,000 cases in 1993 to 75,000 cases in 2005.

In order to raise money for the winery’s expansion, the company made an unusual move—going public by offering shares overseas on the London Stock Exchange. The winery was hoping to raise $30 million to expand further and pay off $20 million in debt.

But the company never found its financial footing. Crystal Valley Cellars was shut down more than a year ago, and last month creditors filed an involuntary petition for Cosentino’s liquidation under Chapter 11. Multiple grapegrowers have filed suit against Cosentino for $1.2 million in unpaid bills, and as a result, the California Department of Agriculture suspended the winery’s license to purchase grapes, according to the Napa Valley Register. There is also a lien on the winery’s property and unpaid back taxes. Soldinger wouldn’t comment on the extent of the problems, only to call some reports “bloated.”

Founder Mitch Cosentino released a statement saying that he is heartbroken over the news, but on a more optimistic note, he has started a new winery in Napa called PURECru Napa Valley. “I had been reminiscing about a small, hands-on entity where I could do it all myself again, like I did in the beginning,” he said.

“Even though we’re getting out of the business," Soldinger said, "we never compromised on quality. Rather than have anyone else get their hands on [Cosentino], we just decided it was time to close the doors.”

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