North Bay Business Journal

Monday, June 18, 2007, 3:00 am

Windsor Vineyards plans move for growth


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    Town hopes to land anchor tenant to draw more people to square

    WINDSOR – The new owner of direct-wine-sales specialist Windsor Vineyards is looking for much larger quarters to expand, and expectations are running high about a replacement tenant such as a grocer for the vintner’s headquarters that would draw patrons to the town’s central plaza.

    Pat Roney, owner of Girard Winery in Napa Valley, purchased Windsor Vineyards from Australia-based beer and wine maker Foster’s in mid-April for an undisclosed sum.

    Along with previously announced plans to build a winery and tasting room on 26 acres of Russian River Valley vineyard property, Mr. Roney is looking for a lot more room to expand the business, but doesn’t have it at the current location.

    Windsor Vineyards has occupied a 42,000-square-foot office and warehouse on 2.18 acres at 9600 Bell Road in Windsor since the late 1990s. The wine company produces about 100,000 cases of private-label wine at Foster’s Wine Estates’ Asti winery.

    However, Mr. Roney said he needs at least 50,000 more square feet so he can offer order fulfillment for other wineries. He is a big believer in direct wine sales as the future of the wine business and stated that as a reason for buying Windsor Vineyards.

    To meet that need, Mr. Roney is in contract to purchase a 92,000-square-foot facility in the business parks near Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport in about a month. However, Windsor Vineyards likely will stay put until June 2008 under a pending lease agreement with the new owner of the building, he said.

    Richard Mendelsohn of San Francisco acquired the Windsor Vineyards facility from Foster’s for $6.88 million, according to public records.

    “We’ve watched the changes in Windsor in a very short range of time, and we’re lucky to get the property,” he said.

    He has been making frequent trips between San Francisco and Windsor since 1989, when his family purchased a ranch with a small vineyard on Eastside Road near the town.

    The town has been trying to help Mr. Mendelsohn find a replacement tenant. High on the town’s list is a well-known grocer, which would be allowed under the site’s current land-use designation and zoning, according to Town Manager Matt Mullan.

    Mayor Warrin Parker has written a letter for Mr. Mendelsohn to use when contacting prospective grocery tenants, according to Mr. Mullan.

    Contrary to rumors swirling among Town Green Village businesses and residents about a deal with Monrovia-based specialty grocer Trader Joe’s and negotiations with others, Mr. Mendelsohn said he’s still trying to get a handle on what types of tenants would work in the building.

    He’s hired Santa Rosa-based Del Starrett Architects, which designed the building originally, to come up with space planning ideas, perhaps including small tenants facing the Town Green and a larger tenant on the back portion, which has truck-delivery docks. At press time, he hadn’t picked real estate advisers to help with the tenant search.

    A specialty grocer is the kind of anchor tenant downtown businesses have been clamoring for since the beginning of the Town Green Village mixed-use development, now in its fifth phase.

    “A daily reason for people to come down here is fantastic,” said Michael Powell, owner of Powell’s Sweet Shoppe, which is currently one of the main draws of Town Green Village now.

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