jeudi 29 décembre 2011

Etats-Unis : le groupe Racke (Allemagne) revend Donum Estate (Carneros) à des investisseurs danois regroupés dans Winside Inc.

Racke, the German wine and spirits group, announced today that it has sold The Donum Estate, the highly-acclaimed Pinot Noir producer in California’s Carneros appellation, to Winside, Inc., a partnership of Danish investors, for an undisclosed amount. The deal includes a 147-acre Sonoma Carneros property with 45 acres of vineyards and several buildings, the Donum and Stemmler brands, and inventories.

The acquisition keeps in place the team that developed The Donum Estate over the past decade: Anne Moller-Racke, president and winegrower; Kenneth Juhasz, consulting winemaker; Frieda Guercio, national sales director; Lauro Servin, vineyard foreman, and other staff

Donum routinely receives critical praise. In the cover story of the October 15, 2011 issue of Wine Spectator magazine, Donum placed three of the six top-ranked Pinot Noirs (all scoring 96 points), and ranked among the 15 best vineyards and 20 favorite producers in Sonoma, which was proclaimed “California’s Burgundy.”

“We are delighted to secure both the land and the expertise behind the brands, including the person who planted these vineyards and has nurtured them for over 20 years,” said Trond Fredheim, a Winside partner. “Anne and her crew know how to coax every special nuance from these vines.”

As vice president of vineyard operations at Buena Vista Winery, Moller-Racke planted what was then Tula Vista Ranch in 1989-90. When Racke sold Buena Vista to Allied Domecq in 2001, it retained Tula Vista, renaming it The Donum Estate and putting Anne in charge of a project with a single goal – to make the “ultimate Pinot Noir.”

Having long recognized the enormous promise for Pinot Noir on a property sprawled across the first wind-swept hillsides rising from San Pablo Bay, Anne instituted a Burgundian model. Every site was carefully matched to plant material chosen from an array of Dijon clones and heirloom selections, including Calera, Chalone, Hanzell, Martini, Swan and, especially, a Donum Roederer selection. All blocks were individually farmed, and each vine hand-worked to reach its greatest potential. Only when a site consistently yielded extraordinary quality would it be considered for designated bottling as, in effect, a grand cru.

“Happily, we have always been totally quality-driven. Even with the recession, we’ve never jeopardized our ultimate goal,” said Moller-Racke. “Our new owners thoroughly appreciate and support this approach; it’s what interested them. As Europeans who are huge Burgundy lovers and collectors, they see the value of a brand connected to the land and devoted to quality.”

The five Danes who formed Winside have a variety of business interests ranging from clothing to airlines, and all are friends. Trond Fredheim and Daniel Aaxman met Anne after purchasing Donum’s lot at a Hospice of Sonoma auction four years ago, then brought other partners to visit.

Since its inaugural release of 150 cases of 2001 Donum Carneros Pinot Noir at $60 per bottle, Donum has grown to one Chardonnay and six Pinot Noir bottlings, all estate grown, ranging from $50 to $100 retail bottle price and totaling over 2,500 cases annually.

Donum will continue to make estate grown Pinot Noir from the 11-acre Nugent Vineyard in the Russian River Valley, which Anne has farmed continuously since planting it to Dijon clones in 1997.

Donum’s potential for more estate plantings and bottlings was a consideration in the investment, according to Aaxman. “U.S. Pinot Noir, and Carneros wines in particular, have a bright future in the international market,” he said. “Stemmler also enjoys good brand recognition and can be further developed.”

The sale marks the end of 30 years of Racke involvement in Carneros. Anne Moller-Racke arrived in 1981 to help run the German firm’s new acquisition, Buena Vista. As Anne trained in viticulture with industry icons like Andre Tchelistcheff, she was actively involved in forming what is now the Carneros Wine Alliance and establishing Carneros as an American Viticultural Appellation.