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04.25.2014  
 

Gallo Buys Solano County Winery

Wine giant finalizes purchase of Ledgewood Creek and 400 acres

 
by Jane Firstenfeld
 
 
Ledgewood vineyards
 
E. & J. Gallo's acquisition of Ledgewood Creek Winery includes 400 acres of vineyards.
Suisun Valley, Calif.—Modesto-based E. & J. Gallo Winery purchased Ledgewood Creek Winery this week for an undisclosed price. The 15,000-case winery, founded in 2001, has 400 acres of producing vineyards and—perhaps most importantly—an ample supply of water.

Napa real estate broker Strong & Hayden closed the deal April 24. The property had been on the market for about 18 months, according to Strong & Hayden principal Gary Van Dam. “It includes acreage, winemaking facility and everything else from trademarks to labels,” he told Wines & Vines.

Although Ledgewood has a tasting room and had sold up to 40% of its produce direct-to-consumer, it was unknown if Gallo would continue the tasting room.

Longtime Ledgewood general manager Rick Wehman confirmed the sale. He said the tasting room has already been closed and that most of the staff is being let go, including himself. Dean Frisbie, the 84-year-old owner, “Is ready to retire. I helped Dean close the sale, and I am not staying on,” Wehman told Wines & Vines.

Van Dam suggested that Gallo, which produces about 75 million cases annually, bought the property based on the quality and pricing of its grapes and a reliable water supply from the Solano Irrigation District (SID), which draws from Lake Berryessa, between Napa and Solano counties.

“The county says supplies are good for another three years, even if the drought continues,” Van Dam said. SID has entitlements for 141,000 acre-feet of agricultural and domestic water for service to many areas in Solano County each year, he added.

Solano County is currently home to 23 wineries, according to Wines Vines Analytics.

Located on the eastern border of Napa County, the property was owned by the Frisbie family, which planted over a pear orchard to vineyards in the 1980s.

Ledgewood Creek released its first wines in 2001, made by Larry Langbehn. The winery produces Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Mourvèdre wines retailing for an average of $16 per bottle. Grapes are appellation Suisun Valley and North Coast.

Solano County is becoming a hub for the North Coast wine industry, especially suppliers. According to PR Newswire, almost 1 million square feet has been purchased by suppliers including Encore Glass and Saxco International LLC in recent months.

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