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Rodney Strong Buys Sonoma Vineyard from Hambrecht

Sales of the 516-acre Rockaway site helps Hambrecht reduce its debt and helps Rodney Strong winery supplement its production.

Daniel Sogg
Posted: October 23, 2003

Sometimes even heavy hitters need to downsize. Hambrecht Vineyards and Wineries, owned by prominent financier William Hambrecht, has sold its 516-acre Rockaway Vineyard property to Rodney Strong Vineyards.

Terms of the sale were not disclosed, but HVW had been asking for $13.5 million for the hillside site in Sonoma County's Alexander Valley. Rockaway contains 125 acres of vines, mostly Bordeaux varieties and Syrah.

With the purchase, Rodney Strong Vineyards now owns 580 acres of vineyards in Alexander Valley and a total of more than 1,000 acres throughout Sonoma County. Winery owner Tom Klein said the Rockaway grapes initially will be used to augment production of Rodney Strong's other labels, which total 500,000 cases. "But if the grapes turn out to be as high quality as I expect, someday it could get its own vineyard designation or a separate brand," he said.

The deal, which closed last week, was made so that HVW could reduce its debt. This spring, HVW also sold its Floodgate Vineyard in Mendocino's Anderson Valley; the company was asking $4.5 million for the 60-acre site, which is planted to Pinot Noir and Gewürztraminer.

"Carrying debt in hard times is not so easy," said Tom Christensen, COO for HVW. "Fundamentally, we deleveraged the business by selling off the assets."

HWV now focuses on three brands: Belvedere, which produces primarily Russian River Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays that retail for between $10 and $36; Bradford Mountain, which makes Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel that sells for about $30; and Jest Red, a nonvintage red blend that sells for about $10 a bottle.

Hambrecht is best known as one of the cofounders of Hambrecht & Quist, a preeminent Silicon Valley banking firm that took companies such as Apple Computer and Adobe Systems public. In 1999, Hambrecht handled the public offering of Ravenswood Winery.

Hambrecht started acquiring Sonoma vineyards in 1982. He discovered the Rockaway Vineyard along a favorite bike route and purchased the land in 1991. Despite his attachment to the site, Hambrecht made it clear in an interview earlier this year that sentimentality would not interfere with good business. "The goal has always been to operate HVW as a stand-alone business," he said.

# # #

Read more about Hambrecht:

  • Jan. 15, 2003
    Financier Falls on Hard Times: California Winery Investor to Sell Some Holdings

  • Dec. 31, 2002
    Bill Hambrecht Banks on Wine

    Read more about Rodney Strong Vineyards:

  • April 30, 2001
    Revival at Rodney Strong
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