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Buena Vista and Gary Farrell Winery Find New Owners

Buyers hope to restore reputations of once promising, now struggling Sonoma wineries

Tim Fish
Posted: May 3, 2011

Two of Sonoma County’s best-known producers—Buena Vista and Gary Farrell Winery—have new owners, thanks to the financially troubled Ascentia Wine Estates’ efforts to thin out its portfolio of wineries.

Buena Vista, which was founded in Sonoma Valley in 1857 and is considered California’s first winery, was purchased by Burgundy wine giant Boisset Family Estates. Sonoma-based Vincraft Group acquired Gary Farrell Winery, a pioneering Russian River Valley producer. It’s only the second winery in the Vincraft stable; the company bought cult Pinot Noir producer Kosta Browne in 2009.

The sale price was not disclosed for either property. Both wineries have gone through numerous owners and winemakers in recent years, tarnishing their once-impressive reputations along the way.

Ascentia was formed by a group of industry veterans in 2008 just prior to its $209 million acquisition of five wineries from Constellation. The wineries included Atlas Peak, Geyser Peak, XYZin, along with Buena Vista and Gary Farrell. But the company has been on shaky financial footing ever since.

The latest sale of Gary Farrell includes the brand, inventory and a winery that sits on 23 acres along the Russian River. Farrell sold the winery in 2004 but continued to make wine there until 2006. Susan Reed is now the winemaker and produces about 25,000 cases annually.

Vincraft was formed in 2008 by three industry veterans: Bill Price, Walt Klenz and Pete Scott. “Gary Farrell Winery is a top-notch producer with the consummate Russian River heritage,” said Scott, the company's CEO.

With Buena Vista, Boisset purchased the brand, inventory and the winery’s historic winery site, which has long been used as a visitors center, not a production facility. Ascentia previously sold the winery’s large Carneros production winery. Buena Vista produces fewer than 60,000 cases a year.

This is the latest of several acquisitions by Boisset. The family bought Raymond Winery in Napa Valley in 2009 and De Loach Vineyards in Russian River Valley in 2003. Jean-Charles Boisset, president of the company, said his eye has been on Buena Vista for some time. “It was the first winery I visited when I came to the United States in the 1980s,” he said. “It’s a piece of history, and I love how Carneros combines both Napa and Sonoma. We want to bring it back into serious winemaking.” Boisset is putting together a winemaking team dedicated to Buena Vista but the wines will be produced at the nearby Raymond and De Loach facilities.

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