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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, June 24, 2013, 6:45 am

Spotlight on leaders of independent wine companies

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    Following are profiles of the top day-to-day leaders from the Business Journal’s lists of the largest independently owned wineries under 100,000 cases, published in March, and the largest wine companies, published in May.

    Listed alphabetically by company name.

    Hank Wetzel

    Alexander Valley Vineyards

    8644 Hwy. 128, Healdsburg 95448, 707-433-7209, avvwine.com

    Harry “Hank” Wetzel, proprietor and winemaker, and his wife, Maggie, purchased the property in 1962 from the family of Cyrus Alexander, after whom the valley is named. Their oldest son, Hank IV, launched the winery in 1975. Last year the winery shipped 162,000 cases. The operation farms 200 acres of vines.

    Mike Benziger

    Benziger Family Winery

    1883 London Ranch Rd., Glen Ellen 95442, 888-490-2739, benziger.com

    Mike Benziger

    General manager, winegrower and Tribute winemaker Mike Benziger and his wife, Mary, co-founded the winery in 1980, and since that time the family business has been a leader in environmentally friendly winegrowing and advocate for Biodynamic farming.

    Last year, Benziger produced 150,000 cases. The family business farms 100 acres of vines.

    Jean-Charles Boisset

    Boisset Family Wines

    849 Zinfandel Ln., St. Helena 94574, 707-963-6172, boissetfamilyestates.com

    Jean-Charles Boisset

    Jean-Charles Boisset is president of Boisset Family Wines, the U.S. arm of a wine and spirits operation that among the largest wine producers in France and the U.S. Last year, the 33-year-old company made 6.5 million cases of wine globally and 750,000 in the U.S.

    The U.S. portfolio added Central Coast brand Lockwood Vineyard in November to previous acquisitions Buena Vista in Sonoma Valley, Raymond in Rutherford and DeLoach in Russian River Valley.  In the past few years, the company has been upgrading facilities for Buena Vista and Raymond, including bringing wine production back to Buena Vista and developing a Biodynamic-wine program at Raymond.

    Mike Jaeger

    CK Mondavi Family Vineyards

    2800 Main St., St. Helena 94574, 707-967-2200, ckmondavi.com

    Mike Jaeger was brought in as chief operating officer in May 2011 by proprietors Peter Mondavi and his sons. The Krug brand started in 1861 and was acquired by Cesare and Rosa Mondavi in 1943. At 1.5 million cases of mass-market CK Mondavi and higher-end Charles Krug produced last year, the company is among the North Coast’s largest producers.

    Mr. Jaeger also is a senior adviser for Bacchus Capital Management. His alcoholic beverage industry experience started in 1987 with a dozen years in marketing for Joseph E. Seagram & Sons then Trinchero Family Estates, followed by a dozen years in top management at Constellation Brands, Vincor International, Partida Tequila and Wilson Daniels.

    Roy Cecchetti

    Cecchetti Wine Co.

    P.O. Box 637, Vineburg 95487, 707-996-7221, cecchettiwineco.com

    Roy Cecchetti

    Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Roy Cecchetti and his wife, Rachael, started the company in 2007 with brands Redtree and Lake County-focused Line 39. That has expanded to five brands with on-premise-focused Backhouse in 2011, Exitus last year for Beverages & More, and Austerity, red and white blends released this spring at retail prices $16–$17.

    Total sales in 2012 increased to 340,000 cases, up 30 percent from 2011. The biggest growth came with a nearly doubling of sales for Backhouse to 62,000 cases. The company is projecting sales this year will grow by 15 percent to 20 percent from 2012, reaching around 400,000 cases.

    Cecchetti Wine made the Inc. 5000 list of fast-growing companies for the second straight year, ranked No. 1241 based on three-year revenue growth of 248 percent to $11.8 million in 2011.

    Mr. Cecchetti was part of the Cecchetti Sebastiani Cellars with brother-in-law Don Sebastiani until they parted ways in 2001.

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