|Martin Ray, Fountain Grove and Angeline Wines to be Produced at the Historic Sonoma Country Winery; Management Team Led by Founder of Blackstone Winery|
Martin Ray Winery today announced it is acquiring controlling interest of Martini & Prati Winery, a historic property in Sonoma County. Formed last year by a group of wine industry veterans, the company will produce Martin Ray, Fountain Grove and its recently introduced Angeline brands at the winery as well as offer a full array of custom winemaking services to industry clients.
Under the leadership of Courtney Benham, founder and former national sales director of Blackstone Winery, Martin Ray will commence a series of planned improvements and upgrades to the 103 year-old property, widely recognized as one of California's oldest wineries.
"This is an exceptional opportunity for us to produce our fine wines on one of the truly special properties in the entire state," said Benham, president and CEO of Martin Ray. "We fully anticipate preserving the winery's unique heritage and historical facilities while greatly expanding its winemaking capacity."
The acquisition is a key element in the company's strategy to enhance the production and identity of its fast growing Martin Ray brand. According to Benham, Martin Ray is experiencing strong growth again this year after achieving record shipments in 2002. "We can now control the entire winemaking process and we can concentrate our efforts on producing Martin Ray and our entire family of wines to the very highest standards," Benham said.
Gary Hawke, COO and CFO for Marin Ray Winery, said the agreement giving the company controlling interest in the 34-acre Martini & Prati winery includes a purchase option that it intends to exercise. Martin Ray also plans to create a separate management corporation, Russian River Winery, Inc., for the winery and wine brands. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
In addition to Martin Ray and Fountain Grove, the company also plans to produce Angeline, an affordably priced wine just entering its first full year of national distribution. Benham plans to increase sales and marketing efforts for the entire family of wines, following his previously successful strategy of building brands through broad market distribution, focusing on independent retailers and restaurateurs. Benham also noted that the acquisition would provide Martin Ray wines with its first tasting room -- well known to the winery's visitors as Elmo's Groceria.
In addition to Courtney Benham and Gary Hawke, the Martin Ray management team includes Bryan Davison, who serves as director of winemaking, Rhonda Miles, assistant winemaker and cellarmaster, and Bill Batchelor, assistant director of winemaking.