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North Bay Business Journal

Thursday, May 10, 2012, 11:24 am

Healdsburg wine company gets $2.5 million investment

‘These guys had developed a truly disruptive wine business model’

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    HEALDSBURG — A San Francisco venture capitalist is investing $2.5 million in a 5-year-old wine producer, the company announced today.

    Daniel Carroll, managing partner in the San Francisco office of private-equity firm TPG Newbridge Capital, made the investment in H.D.D. LLC, whose principals are Winery Exchange co-founder Phil Hurst and his wife, Sylvia, pioneering green wine business advocate Paul Dolan, his son Heath Dolan, investment banker and vintner Bill Hambrecht, winemaker Virginia Marie Lambrix and chief financial officer Mark DeMeulenaere.

    Sales of Sonoma and Napa brands VML Winery, Truett Hurst Winery, Bradford Mountain, Healdsburg Ranches and Stonegate have grown to an expected $20 million on 250,000 cases this year, compared with $500,000 from 2,500 cases sold in 2008.

    “From the minute I met the team behind the wines, the brands and the marketing and sales I knew these guys had developed a truly disruptive wine business model,” said Mr. Carroll in a statement. “Gone are the days when cutting-edge products require years to develop only then to be painstakingly brought to market. Consumers want the highest quality, most unique, exciting and innovative premium wines now and they are prepared to buy them via a number of modern channels of distribution. This team is only just getting started.”

    Rather limiting sales to the traditional three-tier distribution network for alcoholic beverages (producer, wholesaler/distributor, on-premise/off-premise consumption seller), H.D.D. brands are sold directly to consumers, to on-premise accounts such as restaurants and hotels and to off-premise  accounts like wine shops and other retailers.

    H.D.D. said its “disruptive wine business model” embraces changing consumer motivation for selecting wines to purchase, in which “”decisions are made at point of purchase based on mood or occasion.”

    “Our model is high-touch, innovative and ultimately quickness to market,” Mr. Hurst said in a statement. “We’ve seen explosive growth by exercising more flexibility and ingenuity now embraced and expected by the wine trade.”

    Commenting on the announcement, wine writer Steve Heimoff questioned how “disruptive” this approach is, especially when a social media strategy wasn’t mentioned.

    “What is really new about ‘a purchase based on mood or occasion’?” he wrote. “Gallo understood that 60 years ago. Retailers have been trying to influence the shopper’s mood forever.”

    However, the H.D.D. management team has in-depth industry experience, he wrote.  

    H.D.D. said Mr. Carroll’s investment will help the release innovative packaging concepts in the next few months and add ecommerce to sales efforts.

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