GUERNEVILLE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--After several months of strategic review, Gary B. Heck, President and Owner of F. Korbel & Bros., has agreed to explore the sale of Kenwood Vineyards as well as its related assets in Sonoma County to Banfi Vintners, one of the country’s leading wine marketers. Mr. Heck’s decision to sell Kenwood will allow him to focus the time and resources of his company on the best opportunities for growth with Korbel California champagne and brandy which have been in his family since 1954.
“After experiencing the worst recession in 70 years, the California wine business is emerging from this difficult period in good shape and it seemed an opportune time to explore the sale of Kenwood Vineyards,” remarked Gary B. Heck, President and Owner, F. Korbel and Bros. “This will allow us to focus the company’s resources on its leading California champagne and brandy business.”
“We are thoroughly impressed at the incredible achievements of Mr. Heck with Kenwood, and hope to become a worthy custodian of this historic brand,” said Banfi co-CEOs James Mariani and Cristina Mariani-May. “We want the transition to be as seamless as possible.”
F. Korbel and Bros. acquired Kenwood Vineyards in its entirety in 1999. At that time, Kenwood was producing less than 300,000 cases and under the F. Korbel and Bros. stewardship, it grew to more than 550,000 in 2011. Founded in 1970, Kenwood has been recognized consistently as a leader dedicated to producing premium wines that capture the best of Sonoma County vineyard character. Included in the sale are the Kenwood winery and trademarks, bottling facility and the Merlot and Zinfandel vineyards at the winery. The sale of Kenwood Vineyards is expected to close June 2012.
Gary Heck is strongly committed to being a major player in the sparkling wine and brandy categories. The Heck Family will retain Korbel Champagne Cellars and its related assets. Its 47-year marketing and sales agreement with Brown-Forman will remain unchanged. Having a stronger focus on Korbel will provide Heck’s company with greater investment and growth opportunities in the future.
Banfi Vintners is a privately held family concern, founded in New York in 1919 by John F. Mariani, Sr. and built into America’s leading wine marketer for the past four decades by his sons, John and Harry Mariani, fathers of Cristina and James, respectively. They founded the Castello Banfi vineyard estate in Montalcino, Tuscany and Vigne Regali Cellars in Strevi, Piedmont. In 2009 Banfi and Gruppo Italiano Vini formed an equity partnership in Italy’s Bolla wines, and last year established the Excelsior Wine Company, a joint venture sales and marketing firm with leading Chilean wine producer Concha y Toro. The Marianis first foray into US wine was with their 2010 purchase of Washington State’s Pacific Rim.
“Our family is dedicated to the global wine business,” said Mr. Mariani. “The next logical step in building on our success as brand builders is involving ourselves with a significant California wine estate. We are making a long term commitment to round out and complement our partnerships in Europe, South America and Australia.”
F. Korbel and Bros. is comprised of Korbel Champagne Cellars, Kenwood Vineyards, Lake Sonoma Winery, Valley of the Moon Winery and Heck Cellars (brandy production facility). The history behind each operation, whether dating back to the 1860’s or as recent as 2011, showcases a commitment to producing varietal wines of excellence which reflect the unique characteristics of the world-renowned appellations of Sonoma County in addition to fine California champagne and brandy.
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