Even as the global economy has faltered in the past four years, a handful of privately owned wine companies have become active in acquiring wine operations, brands and vineyards.

"The one consistent trend in the market has been the increased acquisition activity of privately held wine companies and the noticeable absence of publicly traded beverage companies," said Mario Zepponi, whose Santa Rosa-based company has advised buyers and sellers in a number of the recent North Coast wine industry mergers and acquisitions.

Santa Rosa-based Vintage Wine Estates, started by Dean & Deluca founder Leslie Rudd and Pat Roney, expanded its portfolio in July with the acquisition of the 100,000-case-a-year Cartilidge & Browne brand from Greenfield Wine Co. for an estimated $4 million to $6 million. The brand is being relocated from production at Sonoma Wine Co.'s American Canyon facility to the Grove Street winery in Healdsburg.

"It add another level of business for us," Mr. Roney said. "It adds different distributors nationwide to what we’re doing."

The wine group now includes Girard, Grove Street, Sonoma Coast Vineyards, Fire Station Red, Windsor Sonoma, Windsor Vineyards, StoneFly Vineyards and Cosentino Winery as well as International Wine Accessories. The company also acquired a stake in Kunde Estate Winery last year.

Vintage picked up 30,000- to 40,000-case-a-year Cosentino in Yountville out of bankruptcy at the end of 2010 and brought back founder Mitch Cosentino early this year to reopen the facility and revive the brand.

Bill Foley, founder and chairman of Fidelity National Financial, added to his wine group, Foley Family Wines, this year with the acquisition in May of 70,000-case-a-year Te Kairanga Wines of New Zealand through an affiliate in that country and contributing a major portion of a $3 million new funding round for small-scale custom winery Crushpad.

With that boost of cash for Crushpad came new quarters and high-tech tasting room at Sonoma-based Sebastiani Vineyards, which Mr. Foley acquired in 2009.

Mr. Foley said he is "very actively pursuing acquisitions, seeking premium brands that will improve our overall portfolio."

Since he started his wine industry ventures in 1996, his portfolio has grown to nine wineries producing an estimated 900,000 cases a year under 30 labels. Those include Foley Estates in Santa Rita Hills; Eos in Paso Robles;  Lincourt and Firestone in Santa Ynez Valley; Merus, Altvs  and Kuleto in Napa Valley; Chalk Hill acquired just over a year ago; Sebastiani, Three Rivers Winery in Walla Walla, Wash.; and Vavasour, Clifford Bay and Te Kairanga in New Zealand.

In April, Mr. Foley formed a joint venture with Australia-based Wineinc, which has produced Down Under brands Gotham, Wine Men of Gotham, Stalking Horse, Rusty Gate, Mastermind and StepXStep.

Also in April of this year, Ascentia Wine Estates, a Healdsburg-based wine group formed in mid-2008 to acquire eight wine brands from Constellation Brands, sold Buena Vista Carneros brand to St. Helena-based Boisset Family Estates and the Gary Farrell brand to Sonoma-based Vincraft Group.

Boissett, the U.S. arm of the longstanding Boisset family wine company in France, has grown to include U.S. acquisitions such DeLoach in Sonoma County and Raymond in Napa Valley.

In 2008, Bill Price, Walt Klenz and Pete Scott started Vincraft to be a collection of high-end, small production brands. A year later, Vincraft acquired pinot noir producer Kosta Browne of Sebastopol and also made an investment in Kistler.

"Vincraft seeks opportunities where we and the management team have a shared vision of the winery’s unique culture and long-term potential,” Mr. Scott said. "Vincraft expects and encourages each of our portfolio wineries to operate independently, thus preserving the qualities and characteristics that differentiate luxury brands."

A new player in North Coast wine M&A is Roll Global. It's a holding company overseen by Stewart Resnick for beverage ventures Fiji Water.

So far this year, Roll Global has acquired Justin Vineyards & Winery in the Central Coast and Kenwood-based chardonnay producer Landmark Vineyards.