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Sonoma's Patz & Hall sold to Washington's Ste. Michelle Wine Estates

Patz & Hall, a Sonoma-based noted maker of single-vineyard chardonnay and pinot noir wines, has been acquired by Washington-based Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, the nation's third-largest wine company.

The sale includes the wine inventory and interests in the winemaking facility and Sonoma House visitor center on Eighth Street East south of Sonoma, it was announced April 19. Patz & Hall will continue to buy grapes from renowned chardonnay and pinot noir vineyards in Russian River Valley, Carneros and Sonoma Coast such as Hyde Vineyard, Hudson Vineyard, Dutton Ranch, Chenoweth Ranch, Gap's Crown Vineyard and Alder Springs Vineyard.

All four founding partners — Donald Patz, national sales director; James Hall, winemaker; Anne Moses, California sales director; and Heather Patz, VIP brand ambassador — will remain with the winery to provide expertise and ensure continuity with the winery's operations, according to Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.

Other terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

'Patz & Hall is the ideal addition to our 'string of pearls' collection of domestic and international wineries,' said Ted Baseler, Ste. Michelle president and CEO. 'The families who founded Patz & Hall have created extraordinary Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, which complement the iconic wines in our luxury portfolio.'

Patz & Hall chardonnay and pinot noir wines consistently earn 90-plus ratings from critics at publications Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and Wine Advocate.

'While we had no intention of selling,' Donald Patz said. 'We were actively planning for the future. The more we got to know the people of Ste. Michelle, the more impressed we were. Its wineries are pioneers and leaders in their respective regions throughout the world. They understand a winery like ours, and they know how to preserve what makes it special.'

Ste. Michelle shares the partners' vision for the brand, James Hall said.

'Our approach has always been to work with the very best vineyards to make wines that are benchmark expressions of their sites,' he said. 'This will continue with Ste. Michelle. In fact, as part of finalizing the sale, we renewed our contracts with our best grower partners.'

Patz & Hall produces a collection of appellation and single-vineyard designated wines each vintage, including several vineyard-designate wines that are released exclusively to members of its Salon Society wine club.

'We have been impressed by the families' commitments to creating wines that authentically reflect the quality of the vineyards from which they are produced. I can't think of a better fit for Ste. Michelle right now,' Baseler said.

Distributed throughout the U.S. to all channels, Patz & Hall enjoys a particular following among the on-premise trade. The 2014 WINEMETRICS Luxury Wine On-Premise Report ranked Patz & Hall among the Top 50 Luxury Producers. Its 2013 Sonoma Coast chardonnay ranked No. 2 for by-the-glass and No. 8 for by-the-bottle. The 2013 Sonoma Coast pinot noir ranked No. 5 for by-the-bottle.

Santa Rosa-based Zepponi & Company was Patz & Hall's exclusive financial adviser and brokered the sale.

Patz & Hall owns no vineyards and leases its winemaking and visitors facilities in the city of Sonoma, according to Wine Specatator, which first reported the story. Today the winery produces about 35,000 cases annually, relying on more than 30 different vineyards sources around California, according to the publication.

Chateau Ste. Michelle was started in 1934 in lumber baron Frederick Stimson's 1912 home and was owned for several years by U.S. Tobacco. In 2009 it was sold to Altria, owner of Philip Morris, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco and John Middleton cigars and pipe tobacco manufacturers.

The Ste. Michelle label was first introduced in 1967, and the company has expanded vineyard holdings to more than 3,700 acres in Washington and California. The company's 'string of pearls' portfolio includes Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, partly owned by Italy's Antinori family, Conn Creek and Villa Mt. Eden in the Napa Valley. Also part of the string are Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest, 14 Hands, Northstar, Spring Valley Vineyard, Col Solare, Michelle sparkling wines, Red Diamond, Snoqualmie and Erath, in Dundee, Ore.

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