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Napa's Chappellet Buys Sonoma-Loeb

A family-owned Napa winery decides to try Sonoma

Augustus Weed
Posted: May 9, 2011

Chappellet, a family-owned Napa Valley winery that focuses on Cabernet Sauvignon, has announced that it has purchased Sonoma-Loeb, a producer of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Sonoma County. This is the first acquisition for Chappellet since the winery was founded. The sale includes the Sonoma-Loeb brand but does not include any vineyards. The price of the sale was not disclosed.

Sonoma-Loeb founder John L. Loeb, Jr., decided to sell his brand and approached Chappellet with an offer. Chappellet had not been looking to acquire any other wineries, but Sonoma-Loeb wines have been produced at Chappellet’s facility by Phillip Corallo-Titus, Chappellet’s winemaker, for more than 20 years.

“This was an opportunity that presented itself that seemed to make a lot of sense for us,” said Chappellet general manager Steve Tamburelli. The sale allows Chappellet to expand its portfolio outside of Napa. “It was such a great natural fit in terms of a winery that sold non-competitive varietals from regions that we didn’t do business in.”

Loeb, a former U.S. ambassador to Denmark and delegate to the United Nations, planted his first vineyards in the Russian River and Alexander valleys in 1973. Loeb sold the majority of the grapes to other producers but also purchased fruit for his Sonoma-Loeb wines. He focused on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from cool-climate regions throughout Sonoma County and produced around 9,000 cases a year.

The Sonoma-Loeb wines will continue to be made at Chappellet for the foreseeable future, and Corallo-Titus will remain the winemaker. The plan is to fold the brand into Chappellet’s distribution system. Loeb did not include his vineyards in the sale, but Chappellet will continue to use the same vineyard sources for the Sonoma-Loeb wines.

Chappellet dates back to 1967, when founders Donn and Molly Chappellet decided to try their hands at wine after Donn left the vending-machine business. They bought land on Pritchard Hill, on the eastern slope of the Napa Valley overlooking Lake Hennessy, and established Chappellet. The winery, which is still family-owned, focuses on Bordeaux varieties, predominately hillside-grown Cabernet Sauvignon, and currently has 100 acres of vineyards. Its Cabernets consistently rate outstanding.

Chappellet is still considering its long-term options for Sonoma-Loeb. “It may get its own management team down the road if we decide to aggressively expand the brand,” said Tamburelli. He said the winery is considering expanding Sonoma-Loeb's portfolio into other varietals and may also expand its Pinot Noir offerings, but he noted that nothing had been decided yet. “We’re clearly looking at all those things now.”

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