Vintage Wine Estates Buys Clos Pegase Winery
Famed architectural property a deviation from previous Vintage purchases
Vintage bought the winery and property including vineyards in Calistoga as well as a lease on Los Carneros vineyards that total 450 acres. Included is a 40-acre parcel across Dunaweal Lane from the winery that is now planted in vineyards, but which Roney admits would be a great site for a new Girard Winery.
The new owners
The acquisition, which is being financed by Bank of the West, is a big departure for Vintage. Other than Girard, most of its acquisitions had been troubled or secondary properties, including bankrupt Cosentino Winery in Yountville, Calif., pioneering direct-to-consumer Windsor Vineyards, Sonoma Coast Vineyards and the Cartlidge & Browne Winery brand.
Vintage also bought the former McDowell Valley Vineyards & Cellars in Hopland, Calif., from Weibel Winery and upgraded the facility to make part of its portfolio of wines including a brand called Ray’s Station after a pioneering local vintner.
Roney admits that Clos Pegase didn’t seem to fit his firm’s model of mostly low-asset acquisitions when the winery went on the market some time ago. “Over time, we saw the possibilities, including growing the business.”
He said that Clos Pegase is strong in direct-to-consumer sales, a special strength of Vintage. “There are also opportunities for expanded hospitality and events.” He added, “It has very good vineyards. We could do a lot more with them.”
Though Clos Pegase has a permit for 80,000 cases, it only makes 25,000 at present. The Clos Pegase wines are priced slightly above Vintage’s current Girard flagship wines, which include Cabernets from famed Pritchard Hill in Napa Valley.
By comparison, Vintage produced about 700,000 cases last year.
Roney plans to add Clos Pegase wines to Vintage’s own sales force’s portfolio and expand distribution.
Jan Shrem was born in Colombia of Jewish-Lebanese heritage, then grew up in Jerusalem and moved to the U.S. as a teenager. After studying at the University of California, Los Angeles, he built a successful publishing business in Japan, where he met his wife in 1960. He also acquired property there.
Shrem then studied enology at the University of Bordeaux and founded Clos Pegase Winery in 1984, naming it after the famous mythical flying horse, Pegasus.
The winery was designed by celebrated architect Michael Graves after an architectural competition hosted by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. One of the most architecturally significant wineries in Napa Valley, Clos Pegase is a prime destination for lovers of art and design as well as wine. The winery and Shrem’s home on a knoll above it contained 1,000 pieces of famed art and sculpture from Roman and Greek statues to modern masterpieces by artists like Henry Moore, including the winery’s most photographed art: a giant thumb emerging from a vineyard.
Clos Pegase’s caves feature a unique theater popular for chamber music concerts.
A few years ago, discouraged that his children weren’t interested in the wine business or the winery, Shrem announced that he was going to turn the winery over to a nonprofit group, the Jan and Mitsuko Wine and Art Educational Foundation, to run as a museum and educational facility, but that didn’t prove practical.
After his long-time wife and muse Mitsuko died in 2010, Shrem joined with fellow arts patron and former U.S. Gucci, Fendi and Mark Cross executive Maria Minetti Farrow to donate $10 million to the University of California, Davis, in late 2011 for an art museum. It is adjacent to the Robert and Margrit Biever Mondavi Arts Center and Robert Mondavi Center for Wine and Food Science. Shrem and Maria Manetti Farrow married early in 2012.