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Francis Ford Coppola selling Sonoma County wineries to Napa’s Delicato Family Wines

Filmmaker, vintner and hotelier Francis Ford Coppola has inked a deal to sell his Sonoma County wineries to Napa-based Delicato Family Wines, creating one of the top 10 suppliers of wine in the U.S. and exporters of California wine.

The deal, announced Thursday, includes the Francis Ford Coppola Winery and Virginia Dare Winery brands and the facilities as well as Archimedes Vineyard. Coppola himself would get a stake in Delicato and join its board.

Delicato President and CEO Chris Indelicato would remain in that role. Francis Ford Coppola Winery CEO Corey Beck would become executive vice president for production and chief winemaker for Delicato.

But after the deal closes, expected next month pending regulatory approval, Coppola would continue to own and run his other wine assets, Inglenook in Napa Valley and Domaine de Broglie Winery in Oregon.

If completed, the transaction would make Delicato the No. 5 supplier of U.S. wine overall and in the over-$11-a-bottle category as well as the No. 3 exporter of California wines, the company said.

"Over my lifetime, Coppola has become a household name across America,“ Francis Ford Coppola said in the announcement. ”What started as a dream to buy a family cottage in Napa Valley turned into a million+ case business producing iconic award-winning wines. I am proud to announce that I have found the perfect fit to take our Family winery to even greater heights. Delicato is also family-owned and shares similar core values as both companies are anchored by long-term sustainable focus and a foundation built on family values: Integrity, Respect, Quality, Accountability, Partnership, Excellence, and Community."

Indelicato said the two companies had a “strong cultural fit” with “highly complementary portfolios.”

“This places us in a strong position in key growth categories to capitalize on positive market trends, drive profitable growth and create opportunities for our employees,” Indelicato in the news release. "This is an exciting and significant expansion for Delicato Family Wines as we bring Francis Ford Coppola Winery and their brands under our portfolio. We look forward to leveraging Francis Ford Coppola's creativity and fine wine capabilities that have appealed to consumers, distributors, and retailers globally, further bolstering our portfolio strategy."

The Coppola brands in question have a “stronger footprint” in categories where Delicato’s portfolio doesn’t, according to Delicato spokesman Brent Dodd. Examples of that are the Sofia sparkling wine line and the Diamond Collection labels.

Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Robert Nicholson, whose Healdsburg-based International Wine Associates has represented sellers of West Coast wine assets for decades, estimated the value of the deal to be between $500 million and $1 billion.

“It’s a transformational deal, and there will be more of these similar-type larger deals coming,” Nicholson wrote in an email.

Mario Zepponi, whose Zepponi & Company firm in Santa Rosa has handled a number of major wine mergers and acquisitions, called this a “strategic move” for Delicato and comes from a relationship that Coppola has had with the Indelicato family.

“This is move towards premiumizing and growing and being more relevant with retailers for Delicato,” Zepponi said.

Indelicato in 2016 said the company would undertake a move toward higher-priced brands while also expanding its overall production to 15 million cases. Delicato in early 2019 formed an upscale portfolio ($20-plus to $800 a bottle), Transcendant Fine Wines. Later that year, Delicato took full ownership of Sonoma-based V2 Wine Group, a sales and marketing organization for family-owned luxury brands.

A big Delicato brand is Bota Box, a 3-liter boxed wine with a suggested retail price of $23, equivalent to $5.75 per standard 750-milliliter bottle. Other current ultrapremium brands are Three Finger Jack ($20) and 1924 ($15).

The deal for the Coppola brands would be the biggest move to date in that direction, Dodd said.

Last year, Delicato’s total production passed 17 million cases, he said.

If the deal passes regulator scrutiny, the two companies plan to work toward integrating employees, suppliers and operations in the following few months.

Deutsche Bank is the exclusive financial adviser for Delicato, and Winston & Strawn is the primary legal adviser. J.P. Morgan Securities is Coppola’s exclusive financial adviser, and Nixon Peabody is its primary legal adviser.

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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