F. Korbel & Bros., one of the nation’s leading producers of sparkling wine and brandy, announced on Friday, March 30, that it had sold Kenwood Vineyards to New York-based Banfi Vintners. The purchase price was not disclosed. The deal is expected to formally close by June.
Gary Heck, owner and president of F. Korbel & Bros., decided to sell the vineyard he acquired in 1999 so that he can devote more time to the Korbel brand. “Kenwood produces more than 550,000 cases of wine a year. It takes a lot of work and effort,” Heck says. “It’s very profitable, but sparkling wine [consumption] is now at an all-time high [in America], so we want to put all our executive effort and focus on it, and brandy. It deserves all my time.”
Korbel recently released two new lines, Sweet Rosé and Sweet Cuvée, in an effort to attract younger consumers. The sales of those products, Heck says, “are on fire.”
Kenwood Vineyards was founded in 1970—one of several boutique wineries that popped up during that era—and immediately received praise for its bottlings of Chardonnay, Zinfandel and, in particular, the Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon, which gained critical acclaim. In recent years, prices, with the exception of the Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon, have languished around $20 or less.
Banfi Vintners was founded in New York in 1919 by John F. Mariani Sr. Today, it’s helmed by his two grandchildren—James Mariani and Cristina Mariani-May—who share the title of CEO. Dr. John F. Mariani Jr. received Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.
The company also operates the Castello Banfi estate in Tuscany and other wineries around the world. Banfi’s first American acquisition was Washington State’s Pacific Rim Winery in 2010. Kenwood marks Banfi’s entrance into the California market.
Heck said that while several companies expressed interest in Kenwood, he chose Banfi for several reasons: “It’s family-owned, an American company and I know the Banfi people personally. And they’re good marketers,” he says. “They’ll be very good for Kenwood in the long term.”