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Australian Producer Expands in California's Central Coast

Jeff Morgan
Posted: February 9, 1999

Australia's largest wine producer, Southcorp, continues to augment its investment in California with the purchase of an additional 140 acres in Paso Robles.

Two years ago, the maker of Penfolds and Lindemans wines purchased 600 acres in the Central Coast near Paso Robles and started a new line called Seven Peaks, which features Shiraz (Syrah) and Cabernet blends. The label is co-owned with Edna Valley's Niven family, whose Paragon Vineyards is among the largest landowners in the region.

About half of Southcorp's newly acquired property is currently under vines -- mostly Chardonnay. The Seven Peaks line is intended to focus on red wines, and the future of these Chardonnay plantings remains uncertain.

Southcorp's acquistion plans may extend beyond vineyards. Late last week, the wine company was reported to have made a bid on Zaca Mesa, the Santa Barbara County winery well known for its Syrah and other Rhone varietals.

Southcorp's vice president of marketing, Carl Jaeger, declined to comment specifically on Zaca Mesa, though he said, "We've made no secret that we've always been looking for acquisitions in California."

Zaca Mesa is owned by John Cushman of Cushman Realty, a commercial real estate brokerage in Los Angeles. The winery farms some 200 acres of vineyards. One of the oldest wineries in the region, Zaca Mesa has been a training ground for such well-known California winemakers as Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat and Bob Lindquist of Qupe.

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