NAPA -- Napa Carneros pinot noir and chardonnay winery Saintsbury today said it sold its Garnet ultrapremium-priced pinot noir brand to longtime grape supplier Silverado Winegrowers of Napa.
Silverado now has a pinot noir brand to pair with grapes of that variety grown on its 11,000 acres of California coastal vines. The partners of Saintsbury plan to focus on production of higher-end wines as they see demand for pinot noir wine overall is slowing in proportion to supply.
Further terms of the deal weren't disclosed.
"There has been a change in the pinot marketplace," said Dick Ward, a partner in Saintsbury. "This recession obviously has shown that the growth of pinot noir acreage exceeded demand in the marketplace."
He noted that quite a bit of the excess has been sold to negociants, who buy wine in bulk to produce brands, and bottled pinot noir has appeared on store shelves at "attractive" prices.
The Garnet brand retails for $20 a bottle and can be purchased for $16 in some stores. It also has a presence in restaurants by the bottle or glass.
"In the last couple of years pricing of wine by the glass generally dropped because restaurants were looking to offer more affordable choices and so much negociant stuff was available," Mr. Ward said. "We became at the higher end of wines by the glass."
Mr. Ward and David Graves started Saintsbury in 1981 and released the lower-priced Garnet label in 1983. Production of the label peaked in the mid-1990s with 19,000 cases a year and has ranged between 12,000 to 15,000 cases annually.The company produces a total of 45,000 cases a year, down 20,000 cases annually from four years ago.
With growth of chardonnay and Garnet sales at that time, Saintsbury set up a leased winemaking facility on Eighth Street East south of Sonoma to make room for the higher-end pinot noir and single-vineyard wines at the main winery on the Napa County side of The Carneros winegrowing region.
Saintsbury now will focus on the Carneros chardonnay, which retails for $20 a bottle; Carneros pinot noir, $25; Brown Ranch Carneros pinot, $60 a bottle; and Vineyard Series pinot noir and syrah selections, $45 a bottle. Cardonnay production returns to the Napa County winery in 2011.
Silverado Winegrowing's sister company Plata Wine Partners has been turning grapes not under sales contracts into wine for sale in bulk since 2005. Winemaker Alison Crowe will produce the Garnet label from the 19,000-square-f0ot Sonoma winery as well as from coastal facilities Plata has used for custom winemaking, according to Jonathan Goldman, one of the managing partners.
"We've been making bulk wine more out of necessity than choice in certain varieties, and many of our customers are asking for finished wine rather than buying grapes," he said.
Vintage Point of Sonoma will be marketing and selling the Garnet brand.