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Viansa Winery the Latest Buy in Vintage Wine Estates Spree

Comes on the heels of company’s August purchase of Clos Pegase

Tim Fish
Posted: October 4, 2013

In its second acquisition in two months, Vintage Wine Estates bought the long-distressed Viansa Winery and Marketplace in Sonoma Valley’s Carneros region. The sale includes the winery and hospitality facility, the brand and inventory, plus the 168-acre property, which includes wetlands and 14 acres of vineyards.

The sale price was not disclosed, though Laurus Funds Inc., which assumed ownership in a 2007 bankruptcy deal, recently listed it for $25 million.

The deal follows Vintage’s purchase of Napa Valley’s Clos Pegase Winery in August. The Sonoma County-based company has bought several wineries in recent years, including Girard, Cosentino and Windsor Sonoma. Leslie Rudd, owner of gourmet grocery chain Dean & DeLuca and Rudd Winery in Napa, is a key investor.

“It’s a great locale and it’s a wonderful facility,” said managing partner Pat Roney. Perched on a hilltop and styled like a Tuscan villa, Viansa is one of the closest Sonoma wineries to San Francisco, making it a popular destination for tour buses. The winery sold about 30,000 cases of wine last year directly to consumers, largely through its tasting room, Roney said. That success with direct-to-consumer sales was part of the appeal, he added.

Vintage also valued the winery’s expansive use permit, which allows it to stage 180 events a year, including weddings and corporate events, a rarity among Northern California wineries.

Sam Sebastiani started Viansa in 1990 with his wife Vicki after a family feud ousted him from Sebastiani Vineyards in 1986. The focus was on Italian-style wines such as Sangiovese and Nebbiolo, a niche market that was thriving at the time. But as “Cal-Ital” wines faltered in the market and Sam neared retirement, he turned the company over to his children in 2004. A year later they sold the winery for $31 million to 360 Global Wine Co., which had virtually no track record in the wine industry and was later forced to file for bankruptcy. The winery has been on and off the market ever since.

Roney said Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which prosper in Carneros, will become the main players. The winery has a permit to produce about 10,000 cases a year and leases a large winemaking facility a few miles away. Jo Lyn Setian will continue to make the wine, he said. Vintage has plans to plant another 40 acres of vineyards on the main estate and will restore the adjacent wetlands.

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