The families have known each other personally and professionally for decades.
Planted in the 1940s by Fred and Eleanor McCrea, it was their granddaughter, Sarah McCrea, who arranged the sale of Stony Hill Vineyard. Financial terms were not disclosed, and the McCrea family will retain an equity interest in the combined entity. McCrea and Stony Hill’s employees will stay on and the property will convert to organic farming.
“The whole objective when we decided to do this was that if there’s a way to feel good about selling, let’s find it, and we did,” Sarah McCrea says.
“A lot of big things converged,” McCrea adds, about why they wanted to sell. “There are a lot of improvements that need to be made at Stony Hill. Most of our vineyard was planted 70 years ago, with some replanting, but a lot more needs replanting.”
The guesthouse on the property needs a new roof and the projects just kept adding up, according to McCrea. She says they were not in a position to invest in big capital improvements. Additionally, they were not able to offer their 13 employees, many of whom have worked at Stony Hill for 30 years or more, retirement benefits.
“We wanted everybody to benefit from the sale,” she says.
They are also complementary in the wine varieties they offer, Stony Hill having earned a worldwide reputation for its Old World style Chardonnay as well as smaller amounts of Gewürztraminer and Riesling. With two primary properties in the heart of the Napa Valley, one in Rutherford and another high atop the western stretches of the Mayacamas above Rutherford, Long Meadow Ranch has a bigger presence in Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Long Meadow Ranch owns a 145-acre estate in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley, where it makes Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, and operates the Farmstead restaurant in St. Helena, where much of its fruit, vegetables and grass-fed beef is featured.
But the difficulty in finding distribution for Stony Hill’s wines, 85% of which are sold direct, was also a major motivator for the sale, McCrea says. Producing about 5,000 cases, half of which are Chardonnay, McCrea was the only one selling Stony Hill wines in the wholesale market, and could only spend a fraction of her time on that. Long Meadow Ranch has a team that can help.
“We have had a very strong direct business and that doesn’t mean that’s going to change—direct customers have nothing to worry about and visitors will remain able to visit Stony Hill.” she explains. “Wholesale will just be more high-functioning. We’ll continue to do what we’ve done well for a long time. We’re keeping Stony Hill Stony Hill.”
Chris Hall, executive vice president and COO of Long Meadow, says the acquisition will mean to more consistent and additional distribution of Stony Hill Chardonnay in particular. “Stony Hill customers will continue to have access as they always have,” he says. “Wholesale will just see broader access.”
International Wine Associates (IWA), a California-based M&A advisory firm, represented both the McCrea family and Stony Hill Vineyard in the transaction.