There has been a lot M&A activity in Napa Valley in the past few years probably more than usual and probably more on the corporate side than a property or label passing say to another wine producer or family.
I recently past along on Twitter a Tweet about Constellation purchasing Schrader and I think there was a chord of response. I know, for example, when Goosecross was acquired by Golden Equity I was well.. disappointed. Not just myself but many people like that family connection with wineries. I think there is desire that a brand remain in family hands and after all that does happen more often in Europe than say California.
Napa Valley more than any other wine region in North America has seen more M&A activity and high end producers will certainly encourage more turn over.
But what we see today is just an continuous change over. Coca Cola owned Sterling, then it was purchased by Seagrams then Diageo and now Treasury. Heublein, a former American holding company that owned A1 Steak Sauce, food service companies like KFC and wineries owning at one time Beaulieu and Inglenook.
I think people mourn the loss of a family owned business that becomes corporatized. Corporations will not have the same feel and touch as a family owned business. For example, I visited a large wine holding company operation in Napa and the visit was well… not compelling or interesting. It was a dry and an un-emotional experience–I will not go back because simply there is no reason to go back.
As long as valuations are sky high the urge and temptation to sell to highest bidder will not just be a phase but a continuous activity. I do understand why people are surprised…even dismayed.
It isn’t just Napa Valley or Sonoma but through all wine growing regions in North America. There is not the same value of a family holding on to a wine business for many generations like in Europe. And maybe just maybe the value of holding onto a family business for many generations will develop in North America not now but at some point in the distant future.
James the Wine Guy
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