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New owners of Napa Valley boutique winery Stony Hill Vineyard name new winemaker, estate director

The expanding Napa County wine portfolio of billionaire Gaylon Lawrence Jr. has picked up another jewel with the purchase of Stony Hill Vineyard, a boutique Spring Mountain vintner.

Lawrence purchased Heitz Cellar in 2018, Haynes Vineyard in Coombsville last year and this year Howell Mountain’s Burgess Cellar. Burgess burned shortly thereafter in the Glass Fire, but Stony Hill escaped major damage in the blaze that destroyed neighboring Spring Mountain wineries.

Lawrence teamed up again with Heitz CEO and master sommelier Carlton McCoy Jr. to buy Stony Hill on Wednesday from LMR Wine Estates LLC for an undisclosed amount. Tim Hall of Long Meadow Ranch had purchased a majority stake in Stony Hill from the founding McCrea family in 2018.

Stony Hill produces 2,500–3,000 cases annually, priced at $45–$80 a bottle. The winery produced about 5,000 cases a year when the Hall family made the investment, according to a Wine Spectator report at the time.

The new owners do not plan to boost production, but they told the Business Journal they intend to convert the vineyard to Biodynamic practices, as they have done the other wineries.

At the helm of Stony Point now are new winemaker Jaimee Motley and Laurie Taboulet, estate director.

“A great wine in its (purest) form is an expression of the intimate relationship between a passionate vigneron and the unique and exceptional terroir that they have been blessed to oversee,” McCoy said in the deal announcement. “I have admired Jaimee’s wines created under various brands. These wines at times have verged on ethereal and have made it clear to me the potential in Napa that we have yet to fulfill. There are butterflies in my stomach to imagine the wines that will result from her connection with the vines of Stony Hill. I have full faith in Jaimee and Laurie’s ability to continue the legacy of this estate that was started by the McCrea family so long ago. “

Fred and Eleanor McCrea originally purchased the hillside property in 1943 as a weekend getaway then started planting vines a few years later, starting with 6 acres of chardonnay, riesling and pinot blanc grapes then later adding gewürztraminer, sémillon, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah.

After the first harvest in 1952, the wines quickly sold out, according to the winery. By 1954, every bottle was sold via mailing list with a growing wait list. Eleanor ran the business, while Fred made the wine, focusing on a “restrained style and minimalist approach.”

His protégé, Mike Chelini, took over winemaking for over 40 years on Fred McCrea’s death in 1977. In 1991, the McCrea’s son Peter and daughter-in-law Willinda assumed day-to-day management. and in 2011, the founders’ daughter Sarah joined the business.

Motley grew up around her family’s restaurant in Annapolis, Maryland. After graduating from the University of Maryland, she moved to San Francisco to pursue graduate school for painting but went back into the restaurant industry, working at Locanda and with sommelier Rajat Parr at RN74.

From there, she learned the wine business by working in the cellar and vineyard in the northern and southern hemispheres. She scraped money together to travel to Europe to walk vineyards and speak with winemakers and viticulturalists at notable estates.

In 2015 following her studies, Jamiee accepted an assistant winemaker position at Pax Wine Cellars. In the years following, the owners of Pax Wine Cellars, Pax and Pam Mahle, graciously created a space at their winery for small brands to blossom, leading Motley to launch Jamiee Motley Wines.

“Stony Hill Vineyard has held a special place in my heart since my initial visit to the winery in 2011 after the harvest,” Motley said in the announcement. “As you drive up the winding road to the estate, you can sense the power of this mountaintop vineyard. The estate feels as if there are 10 different clos within the property — and each of those parcels has the ability to present us a looking glass into the history of California terroir and the future of transparent winegrowing. I look forward to maintaining a deep reverence with the land, honoring the past, and embracing the future of Stony Hill.”

Demeter Group represented LMH in this transaction, and the Lawrence family was represented by Reidy Law Group in St. Helena.

Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction and real estate. Before the Business Journal, he wrote for Bay City News Service in San Francisco. He has a degree from Walla Walla University. Reach him at jquackenbush@busjrnl.com or 707-521-4256.

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