Just after the sale of a Russian River Valley winery to a Napa Valley vintner family and settlement of a legal battle with the previous landlord, wine producer Truett-Hurst Inc. announced plans to relocate to Dry Creek Valley next year.
Truett-Hurst intends to move its VML ultrapremium wine brand and tasting room from the winery at 4035 Westside Rd. west of Windsor to a production facility for the Truett-Hurst brand at 5610 Dry Creek Rd. northwest of Healdsburg.
“We enjoyed our success at VML’s Westside Road property over the last five years, but now that Hambrecht (Wine Group) has sold the property, it is time to move on to our next chapter,” said Phil Hurst, CEO, in a statement.
Truett-Hurst started up in the Dry Creek Road winery in 2007. It has permits and approved plans for construction of a 40,000-case-a-year winery, but no firm plans for that have been made at this point, according to Paul Forgue, chief financial and operations officer. The 26-acre property also has allowances for more wine tasting, he said. There are some unused spaces at the property that will be outfitted for VML’s tasting room.
Only about 25 percent of production for Truett-Hurst’s own and exclusive brands for retailers has been at the Westside Road winery, Forgue said. The rest has been produced at Sonoma County wineries under custom contracts, except for New Zealand imports for a couple of retailer brands.
Napa-based Huneeus Vintners on July 27 bought the Westside Road winery via a deal signed by a Sonoma County judge June 19 after the facility went into receivership in May to pay off a $7.8 million from First Republic Bank, according to court records. Financial details of that deal weren’t disclosed.
As part of a settlement with Hambrecht Wine Group, previous owner of the Westside Road winery and one of the company’s founders, Truett-Hurst would pay $955,000 and end its lease of the tasting room on Dec. 31 and the production area on May 31 of next year, the company said July 28. Bill Hambrecht, vintner Phil Hurst and winemaker Paul Dolan started Truett-Hurst in 2011. Hambrecht’s investment bank W.R. Hambrecht + Co. led the initial public offering of stock (NASDAQ: THST) June 20, 2013, then left the Truett-Hurst board that year amid disagreements with other members.
After May 2017, the bulk of production likely will be at Sonoma County wineries under custom contracts, Forgue said. Intermediate-term options could be to seek additional capacity under custom-winemaking contracts and build the Dry Creek Road winery.
H.D.D. LLC, the parent company of Healdsburg-based Truett-Hurst, sued Hambrecht Wine Group late last year as it tried to renew its lease of the Westside Road winery. Hambrecht countersued. The recent payment from Truett-Hurst and lease amendment ended that matter.
“For me, VML is all about my love of the Russian River Valley — the combination of fog, soils and varietals planted there,” said Virginia Marie “Ginny” Lambrix, winemaker of the namesake brand and a Truett-Hurst partner.
On top of the Truett-Hurst and VML brands, the company also produces the Colby Red brand with winemaker Daryl Groom plus dozens of exclusive superpremium wines for major retailers such as Albersons, Safeway, Total Wine & More, Target, Trader Joe’s and Kroger.
The price of the company stock was $1.86 a share at the close of trading July 29, up 6 cents or 3.3 percent from July 28. The price had shot up 16 percent July 25 on news of the Westside Road winery sale and lawsuit settlement, peaking at $2.34 on July 26. The price had bottomed at 89 cents a share in September, on the reporting of the lease-renewal problem.
Headquarters: 125 Foss Creek Cir., Healdsburg 95448
VML winery: 4035 Westside Rd., Healdsburg
Truett-Hurst winery: 5610 Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg
Parent company: H.D.D. LLC
Ticker: THST (NASDAQ)