Log In / Join Now

Exclusive: Former Apple Execs Buy Napa's Brand Winery

Founders Ed and Deb Fitts sell their winery and 15 acres of vines on Pritchard Hill to Jim Bean and Christine O'Sullivan; winemaker Philippe Melka will stay
Brand opened its cellars on Pritchard Hill in 2012.
Photo by: Courtesy Brand
Brand opened its cellars on Pritchard Hill in 2012.

Mitch Frank
Posted: January 15, 2019

When Ed Fitts bought 110 acres on Pritchard Hill in 2005, it was a dream come true. The packaging executive fell in love with the view of Napa Valley and decided to retire on the hillside. Now Fitts and his wife, Deb, are passing the dream off to another couple that loves the view and the valley. Wine Spectator has learned that former Apple executives Jim Bean and Christine O'Sullivan have purchased the Fitts' winery, Brand, as well as 15 acres of vines, the cellars and inventory. The purchase price was not disclosed.

"We were very aware of the spectacular wines being made on Pritchard Hill, wines like Colgin, Ovid," O'Sullivan told Wine Spectator. The couple had been looking for some time for the right opportunity. "We have enjoyed these wines for a long time. Brand was very much in line with our philosophy."

Jim and Christine met while both working at Apple. Bean is the former vice president of retail at the computer titan, where he oversaw the operations of more than 450 stores in 17 countries. Christine worked in software engineering, managing the release of the Mac OS X operating system before leaving to raise their two children. Today both work as investors in technology startups.

Wine has been a lifelong passion for both, and Napa Valley has been their deepest love. They were married at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, later bought a house there and purchased a vineyard in 2013.

"We've been part of the Napa Valley for a while," said Bean. "We got married there, had a home there, became growers there. And for us, this is part of a natural progression of our dreams."

Brand produces about 1,000 cases a year. The 110-acre estate, at an elevation of 1,200 feet, includes approximately 15 acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The wines have consistently earned outstanding scores.

Ed Fitts, 79, spent 40 years in the business world, more than half of that as a partner at Dopaco Inc., which manufactures environmentally friendly packaging for fast-food restaurants. He knew little of the wine industry when he retired and purchased the property in 2005.

He was drawn to the area by its natural beauty and stunning views. “Once we understood where we were, we had to take advantage of what was here,” Fitts told Wine Spectator in 2014. He hired high-profile winemaker Philippe Melka, who was familiar with the region. Their first vintage was in 2009. Over the past decade, the Fittses and Melka built a winery and gradually planted more vines.

Bean and O'Sullivan say that Melka and his team will remain at the winery. They plan to spend at least two years getting to know the estate and its wines before they decide if they want to plant additional vines. "We want to get to know the property and get to know our customers better," said Bean. "We're just starting to build a relationship with Philippe Melka, who has been incredibly welcoming. The Fittses were very selective. It was a two-way interview. We're humbled that they felt we had the skills."

Stay on top of important wine stories with Wine Spectator's free Breaking News Alerts.

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 365,000+ ratings.