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Brewer-Clifton Founders Sell Majority Share in Santa Barbara Winery

Investors buy 70 percent share; Greg Brewer says Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir and Chardonnay star won’t change
Greg Brewer and Steve Clifton make Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Sta. Rita Hills.

James Laube
Posted: February 6, 2015

Brewer-Clifton, one of Sta. Rita Hills' top producers of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, has a new majority owner. A group of investors led by Ken Fredrickson, a master sommelier and wholesaler, has purchased a 70 percent stake in the winery.

Founders Greg Brewer, 44, and Steve Clifton, 50, as well as Crystal Clifton, 36, now each own 10 percent of the Santa Barbara County-based company. Fredrickson previously worked as a sommelier for Charlie Trotter and Wolfgang Puck before serving as vice president of wine marketing and sales for Wirtz Beverage Group, a Chicago-based wholesaler. He is now a partner at wholesaler Tenzing Wine & Sprits. The amount of the investment was not disclosed.

The sale marked the second new owner for a major California Pinot Noir producer in a week. The owners of Siduri, in Sonoma, sold their winery to Jackson Family Wines on Jan. 30.

The goal, said Greg Brewer, is to use the new capital to maintain the brand’s quality and continue their focus on Burgundian varietals. Brewer-Clifton makes about 10,000 cases of wine a year. Its 2012 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot was the No. 8 wine in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 of 2014.

It’s been a steady rise for Brewer-Clifton as it approaches its 20th anniversary. Started in 1996 when the founders produced 240 cases, the winery now uses 100 percent estate fruit. The sale will enable the winery to continue its vineyard development, and tap the financial and business experience of the new partnership, Brewer said.

Brewer and Steve Clifton share winemaking duties, while Crystal Clifton oversees sales and marketing. Steve Clifton also produces wine under his Palmina label, which focuses exclusively on Italian varietals. Brewer is also the winemaker at Melville, a Sta. Rita Hills winery dedicated to estate grown Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah.

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