North Bay Business Journal

Wednesday, April 18, 2007, 2:44 pm

Napa Valley wine figures pick up Windsor Vineyards, IWA


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    NORTH BAY — Foster’s Wine Group today announced it sold Windsor Vineyards to Patrick Roney, who owns Girard winery in Napa Valley and recently saved Oakville Grocery from bankruptcy, and Dallas-based International Wine Accessories to Leslie Rudd, who bought the grocer and owns specialty grocery chain Dean & DeLuca along with other businesses.

    The terms of the Windsor Vineyards and IWA deals weren’t disclosed, but they were part of A$290 million in sales of wine assets, or about $242 million, as Foster’s divests of its Wine Clubs and Services Group, according to the company. The company last summer identified that group as being a drag on corporate finances.

    An affiliate of Orlando Management GmbH bought Pallhuber in Germany in December. Recently, Amorim Australasia Pty. Ltd. acquired the cork business of Vinpac International, and ABN AMRO Capital bought Cellarmaster Wines Europe.

    That group of companies produced 2.5 million cases of wine and sold them for A$500 million a year, or $418 million. Windsor Vineyards produces 100,000 cases of wine a year, mainly under personalized labels, and has 40,000 active customers. IWA has 60,000 regular buyers of its wine accessories such as cellar rack and chiller systems.

    Mr. Roney said he acquired Windsor Vineyards because it fits his view of the future of wine sales.

    “The direct-to-consumer model is strong, especially with more states opening up and it is like the way consumers shop,” he said. “Pair that with a great tasting room and location for a winery.”

    However, Windsor Vineyards doesn’t have its own winery. Mr. Roney plans to continue Windsor Vineyards’ private-label production at Foster’s Wine Estates’ giant Asti winery, and will retain the Tiburon tasting room.

    Tiburon is where Rodney Strong pioneered the Windsor Vineyards mail-order winery concept in 1959. The Klein family purchased Windsor Vineyards along with the Rodney Strong winery south of Healdsburg in 1989 then sold it in 2000 to Australia’s Mildara Blass, which Foster’s Group acquired.

    Yet, Mr. Roney wants Windsor Vineyards immediately to produce an ultrapremium brand retailing for $15 to $40 a bottle based on Sonoma County grapes. He’s entertaining grape contracts for the brand in addition to existing Windsor Vineyards contracts and is exploring how much of the brand, envisioned to increase to 50,000 cases a year, would be produced at the Asti winery or at the Girard winery at this harvest.

    Ultimately in a few years’ time, Mr. Roney wants to build a winery with a tasting room for the as-yet-unnamed brand. Toward that end, he recently bought a 26-acre vineyard on Westside Road and will be pursuing project approval. The vineyard currently has 30-year-old vines, mostly for pinot noir and chardonnay, which he plans to pull out in a modern redevelopment of the vineyard.

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