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Tougher North Coast wine grape market noted in Atlas-Bowland merger

Citing pressures on wine grape growing operations these days, Santa Rosa-based Bowland Vineyard Management, which has worked with some of the biggest names in North Coast wine, has merged with Napa-based company Atlas Vineyard Management.

Atlas now employs nearly 600 and farms over 3,000 acres of vines in California, Oregon and Washington state, the company announced Tuesday. Chris Bowland, who started his company in 2006 and grew it to work with about 500 acres in Sonoma County and sell grapes to dozens of wineries, joined Atlas as a director of farming.

“Our industry is experiencing increased pressures of labor shortage, tightening of grape prices, and a constant barrage of new regulations,” Bowland said in the announcement. “In order to be successful through these times, I realized I either needed to grow my business significantly or find a partner to share the load. I found a great one in Atlas Vineyard Management.”

Atlas hired all 100 Bowland employees, the company said. Atlas had 490 employees before the merger, according to a spokeswoman.

Bowland was considering business-succession options when he met Tony Bugica, Atlas director of farming and business development, the company said. Bugica joined Atlas in 2016, when Bacchus Vineyard Management was absorbed.

Atlas CEO Barry Belli and President Mike Cybulski started the company in 2012, after working together at Premier Pacific Vineyards.

Bowland trained in agribusiness management at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, and in viticulture at Santa Rosa Junior College. He joined Lloyd Vineyard Management in Healdsburg in 1999. After starting his own company, he grew it to work with 34 properties primarily in Russian River and Bennett valleys. That includes estate vineyards for Willams Selyem, Carlisle and DuMol.

Last year, the company sold grapes to over 40 wineries such as Flowers on the Sonoma Coast, Sonoma Cutrer, Gary Farrell, Massican in Napa Valley, Cruess Wine and Sua Sponte.

The deal price for Bowland Vineyard Management wasn’t disclosed. The company was represented in the transaction by John Holdredge, Esq.

Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction and real estate. Contact him at jquackenbush@busjrnl.com or 707-521-4256.

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