E&J Gallo buying Locations wine brand from Napa Valley vintner Dave Phinney-led group

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The nation's largest vintner, E. & J. Gallo Winery, on Wednesday said it purchased the Locations, a multinational imported wine brand created by Napa Valley winemaker and distiller Dave Phinney, whose past hit wine innovations include Orin Swift and The Prisoner brands.

Gallo bought Orin Swift Cellars from Phinney in 2016. This time it's a purchase from Shooting Gallery Wines, LLC, made of Phinney and importer Aveníu Brands, a wholly owned subsidiary of Barcelona-based Codorníu Raventós Group. Phinney will continue to be the winemaker for Locations.

Beside the purchase of brand inventory, other terms of the deal weren't disclosed. It's set to close June 29.

"Dave propels innovation to the highest levels by challenging the conventional way of doing things, and removing the barrier of rules in winemaking," said Roger Nabedian, senior vice president and general manager of Gallo's Premium Wine Division, in the announcement. "… This purchase supports Gallo's mission to participate and excel in all segments of the wine market."

The Locations brand purchase is the latest in Gallo's move in recent years toward higher-end wines. Gallo last year purchased the prized 600-acre Stagecoach Vineyard in Napa Valley and earlier this year picked up the Sierra Madre and Rancho Real vineyards in Santa Barbara County.

Locations wines are designed to "pay homage to a place of origin." Those places are France, Spain, Italy, Argentina, California, New Zealand, Oregon, Washington, Portugal, Corsica and Texas.

Phinney said the concept came from a 2008 visit to the Maury appellation in the south of France. That set off work with growers to create the finest wine possible from different grape varieties throughout a region.

"Sometimes I'm buying grapes, and sometimes I'm buying wine," Phinney told North Bay Business Journal. "I'm trying to make the best possible product."

Another Phinney wine project in the south of France is the Department 66 brand, which sources from over 300 acres of old-vine grenache vines.

But Phinney is also diving into spirits. In July, he plans a soft opening for the Savage & Cooke distillery on Vallejo's Mare Island. Phinney already controls seven buildings on the former Navy base for wine and spirits business, totaling about 700,000 square feet.

This year, Phinney launched a venture called Nimitz Group with new Heitz Cellars owner Gaylord Lawrence Jr. to redevelop 157 acres at the north end of Mare Island into 1.2 million square feet of film, wine and beverage production space and offices.

The Gallo makes more than 90 unique brands, including a number that are based or started in the North Coast. Brands include Barefoot Cellars, Dark Horse, and Gallo Family Vineyards, as well as premium box wines The Naked Grape and Vin Vault. Premium offerings include Apothic, Carnivor, Columbia Winery, Ecco Domani, Edna Valley Vineyard, J Vineyards & Winery, Louis M. Martini, MacMurray Estate Vineyards, Mirassou, Souverain, Talbott Vineyards, and William Hill Estate, along with highly acclaimed imports, such as Alamos, Brancaia, La Marca, Las Rocas, Martín Códax, Whitehaven, and LUX Wines, importers of Allegrini, Pieropan and Renato Ratti. Gallo Spirits offers New Amsterdam Vodka and Gin and E&J Brandy, in addition to imported Scotch whiskies from Whyte & Mackay, including The Dalmore, Jura Single Malt and John Barr Blended.

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