Duckhorn Wine Company owner GI Partners invests in Oakville’s Far Niente Wine Estates

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Lessons from GI Partners’ purchase of Duckhorn

GI Partners’ approach to the fine-wine industry can be seen in its involvement with Duckhorn Wine Company since the 2007 acquisition. Read about that in this interview with Alex Ryan of Duckhorn and Rick Magnuson of GI Partners.

A San Francisco-based private-equity firm that owns Duckhorn Wine Company in St. Helena is investing in the Far Niente wine company in Oakville.

The owners of Far Niente Wine Estates said they inked a deal with GI Partners for properties including Far Niente winery, known for its Napa Valley chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon wines, and the Dolce, Nickel & Nickel, EnRoute and Bella Union wineries. Longtime winery owners Beth Nickel, Erik Nickel, Dirk Hampson and Larry Maguire remain shareholders. Senior sales, marketing and production employees will remain in place, as will the wineries’ long-held relationships with growers, distributors and trade accounts. The deal is expected to close next month.

“We pride ourselves on the personal relationships we’ve built over the decades with our important distributors, accounts, growers, and other clients, and we look forward to many more years of sharing great wines together,” said Maguire, president of Far Niente.

“With shared values and consistent vision, our new partnership clears the way for continued growth and improvement in our group of luxury wineries that we’ve been building since the re-establishment of Far Niente in 1979,” said Hampson, director of winemaking and CEO.

GI Partners invested in Duckhorn in October 2007. The estimated value of that deal was more than $250 million.

“As investors in the wine industry, we were familiar with Far Niente and its owners who have been dedicated to creating outstanding wines and operating an historic estate,” said Rick Magnuson, executive managing director of GI Partners.

The firm shares the Far Niente owners’ vision and goals to remain an independently operating wine company, said David Mace, managing director of GI Partners.“Our investment supports the focus on ongoing consistent production of high-quality wines as well as the team’s continued dedication to the business they have successfully nurtured for decades.”

Gil and Beth Nickel acquired the Far Niente winery property and an adjacent vineyard in 1979. They restored the winery, crushing the first chardonnay vintage there in 1979 and the first cab in 1982. The Oakville winery was started in 1885 but had been abandoned since 1919 because of Prohibition.

“Over the years, we’ve worked hard to create a very special place to experience our wines and Napa Valley hospitality, with our personal touch,” said Beth Nickel. “We look forward to continuing the stewardship of our legendary properties.”

The owners started Dolce in 1989, dedicated to a single-vineyard, late-harvest Napa Valley wine. Next came Nickel & Nickel in 1997, focusing on single-vineyard, all-Napa Valley cab. EnRoute was started in Russian River Valley in 2007, specializing in the appellation’s hallmarks, pinot noir and chardonnay. Bella Union on Bella Oaks Lane in Rutherford had its first Napa Valley cab vintage in 2012. The other component of the company is Vinescape, the vineyard-management arm.

Lessons from GI Partners’ purchase of Duckhorn

GI Partners’ approach to the fine-wine industry can be seen in its involvement with Duckhorn Wine Company since the 2007 acquisition. Read about that in this interview with Alex Ryan of Duckhorn and Rick Magnuson of GI Partners.

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