CLOVERDALE -- Treasury Wine Estates, part of Australia-based beer and wine giant Foster's Group , sold Winemakers Cooperage in Cloverdale to France-based Groupe Charlois.

With the deal, the Charlois family, which is said to be the largest French oak barrel stave producer in that country, established its first U.S. cooperage and landed its first major customer in Treasury, which produces wine brands such as Beringer and Chateau St. Jean in California and others overseas.

"The exceptional opportunity presented by Winemakers Cooperage allows us to bring our vision of exceptional quality, sustainability and service to the United States, building on the Charlois family history of enhancing the work of winemakers," said Fabrice Gautier, chief executive officer of Groupe Charlois.

As part of a new group called Charlois Cooperages USA, the Cloverdale operation ultimately will offer American and French oak barrels made with the fire, water or steam methods for bending staves the family has used in France for generations, according to Mr. Gautier.

Groupe Charlois will employ the 11 workers at Winemakers Cooperage, which has been producing 33,000 barrels a year from the 53,000-square-foot Cloverdale facility. Treasury and the French company will continue to work together on research projects. Treasury will retain ownership of French oak staves stored in California, Missouri and France.

Other terms of the transaction weren't disclosed.

The Cloverdale cooperage was set up in 1999 by Treasury predecessor Beringer Wine Estates to build barrels for Beringer and other brands in the portfolio. Foster's Group acquired Beringer Wine Estates in 2001 and has been divesting itself of portions since, the most recent being a planned demerger of Treasury in the first half of this year.

However, the decision to sell the cooperage was made before Foster's announced the start of a study on whether to spin off the wine group, according to a spokeswoman.

"Yes, we decided to focus on what we do best," said Nicole Carter, vice president of public relations for Treasury.

The Charlois family operates five cooperages, three stave mills and a saw mill to produce the Saury, Leroi, Ermitage and Berthomieu brands. Group Charlois currently has a sales office in Napa.

In March of last year, Groupe Charlois, a huge French oak stave maker, merged with Tonnellerie Saury, the world's fifth-largest cooperage at the time producing 75,000 barrels annually.