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Purple Wine + Spirits sells, leases back west Sonoma County winery

As part of its continued evolution in the past several years, Purple Wine + Spirits has sold its large west Sonoma County production facility.

But Purple is not saying goodbye to the Graton community, according to President Aaron Webb. After relocation of headquarters offices to Petaluma and bottling to Napa Valley, Purple didn’t need as much of the facility.

“A few years ago, we started really taking a hard look at how we best produce high-quality products for our brands, for our custom crush and bottling clients, and then best utilize the facilities we have,” Webb said. “And that resulted in some strategic choices.”

So on Dec. 7, 2020, Purple Wine Real Estate LLC sold the 184,000-square-foot facility at 9119 Graton Road to FJM Graton Associates LLC, an affiliate of FJM Investments Inc. It purchased the Graton facility for $15.42 million, according to public records.

Purple then leased back about 90,000 square feet for aging wine and bottling Graton Distilling Co. brands such as Redwood Empire Whiskey and Benham’s gins and vodkas. Another new tenant in 21,000 square feet of the facility is In Good Taste, a maker of wine sampling kits that relocated from Southern California.

After the sale of the Mark West pinot noir brand to Constellation Brands in 2012 for $163 million, founder Derek Benham started paring back an organization set up to produce a 650,000-cases-a-year wine, with seven North Bay facilities and 180 employees producing 4 million to 5 million cases annually, largely for other vintners.

In 2018, Purple Wine relocated bottling operations to a large leased winery in American, and in 2019 it moved its headquarters to leased offices in Petaluma. The 30,000-square-foot office is built for up to 50 employees, but only about eight have been working there during the pandemic.

Benham and his brother Courtney had purchased the Graton property in 1992 as the home base for their Codera Wine Company venture, which created the Blackstone wine now owned by Constellation Brands. Derek Benham used his proceeds from the $144 million brand sale to launch Purple on his own in 2001 and acquired the facility. He later purchased the former DeLoach Winery on Olivet Road near Santa Rosa.

Purple now produces about 2 million cases of finished goods annually, two-thirds of which are for client vintners, Webb said. Two key company brands that have been selling well during the pandemic are Redwood Empire Whiskey and Rayburn wine. The whiskeys retail for $40 a bottle, and 25,000 six-packs are set to be shipped this year. The Sonoma County wine brand has hit over 150,000 cases in annual sales, with growth of 50% a year.

Other company wine brands are Avalon and Four vines.

FJM Investments is a San Francisco-based owner of commercial properties concentrated on the West Coast of the U.S. and Canada, according to its website. The principals also have ventures in several Planet Fitness franchises, including the Rohnert Park location, and mortgage origination.

Trevor Buck and Brian Foster of Cushman & Wakefield brokered the sale and lease deals for Purple Wine’s Graton facility.

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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