California History: A Topical Approach

By Gordon Morris Bakken | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TEN
Vintibusiness
California Style:
The Wine Industry,
1769 to the Present

Victor W. Geraci

Wine enthusiasts witnessed an amazing first year of the new millennium as wineries merged, small wine businesses profited from buyouts, and consolidations created huge international wineries. Seeking to emulate and compete with the giant corporations, the California wine industry tooled up for an agribusiness explosion. In the first quarter of 2000, two of California's largest wineries planned expansions to secure a better foothold in the global wine economy. Jess Jackson, a proprietor of Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates, started the frenzy with his March purchase of Matanzas Creek winery in Sonoma County.1 Not to be outdone, the Napa Valley– based Robert Mondavi Corporation expanded its California, Chilean, and French empire with a $12.6 million minority share purchase of the Tuscan winery Tenuta dell'Ornellaria.2

Yet, these sales paled in comparison to those conducted in a single week in August, with three transactions that totaled over $2 billion. The buying frenzy started with the Foster's Brewing Group purchase of Napa Valley–based Beringer Wine Estates for $1.5 billion, followed on the same day with the announcement of the $95 million purchase of R. H. Phillips Vineyard by the Vincor Corporation of Canada. Two days later the flurry of activity continued, as the Wine Group of San Francisco purchased six brands from Sebastiani Vineyards, thereby creating the second largest wine producer in the United States.3 Now, the Robert Mondavi Corporation went on a second shopping spree, purchasing Sonoma Valley's Arrowwood Vineyards and Winery for $45 million and announcing plans to establish a high-end winery in the Languedoc region of France.4 The wine giant then made a deal with the Walt Disney Corporation to create a wine-oriented attraction at Disney's new fifty-five-acre “California Adventure” addition to Disneyland.5

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