Crimson Wine Group Buys Domaine Alfred

Purchase is latest in series of buyouts causing buzz about consolidation.

Another family winery has been bought out by a big outfit. Domaine Alfred, in the Edna Valley, was purchased yesterday by Crimson Wine Group, a branch of the New York-based investment group, Leucadia National Corp., an aggressive buyout firm with a market cap of $10.1 billion. The purchase price was not disclosed, although Internet reports have estimated it at $30 million.

Founded just a year ago, Crimson's other wineries include Pine Ridge, Archery Summit and Double Canyon, a new Washington winery. Domaine Alfred, which was started by Terry Speizer, produced its first wines in 1998. The Pinot Noirs, Syrahs and Chardonnays, made from the estate Chamisal Vineyard, have been consistent high scorers at Wine Enthusiast. A call to Speizer was not immediately returned for comment.

The move is the latest in a series of winery buyouts that has the industry buzzing about increased consolidation, including in the distribution system, where small wineries like Domaine Alfred have had a tough time. Crimson's CEO and president, Erle Martin, says the company can "provide support in sales and marketing to Domaine Alfred that Terry [Speizer] couldn't." Martin went on to describe Crimson's market niche as "the luxury space."

Along those lines, Domaine Alfred will explore block-designated Pinot Noirs and continue and possibly expand the unoaked Chardonnay program, as well as plant new vineyards on the estate. As for Crimson's next move, says Martin, "We're not doing any business in Sonoma—yet—but there are clearly some great Sonoma County Zinfandels." If there are any winery targets, Martin's not saying.

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