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WINE NOTES

Wine Firm Buys Guild

August 22, 1991|DAN BERGER | TIMES WINE WRITER

New York-based Canandaigua Wine Co., one of only two publicly traded U.S. wine companies, said it acquired Guild Wineries and Distilleries of Lodi for $55 million cash.

The deal adds more than 3 million cases to Canandaigua's wine production. The firm now owns the successful Cook's American Champagne brand, of which 1.7 million cases were sold last year.

Guild also marketed the Cribari brand (850,000 cases); Dunnewood wines (57,000 cases), Chase-Limogere sparkling wine (37,000 cases); wine under the Mendocino Vineyards, Vintner's Choice, and Cresta Blanca names, and brandy.

Canandaigua, whose only California facility was a grape juice concentrate plant in the San Joaquin Valley, acquired Guild's large wine and brandy facility in Fresno, two wineries in Lodi and another in Mendocino County.

Guild, founded in 1934, is a cooperative of 200 growers that stretch from the lower San Joaquin Valley to Mendocino. It has had financial difficulties recently and was attempting to retire some old debts. Previously, Guild sold its Cisco brand, a fortified wine, to Canandaigua.

Canandaigua, which had net income of $4.4 million on sales of $180 million last year, also markets Richards Wild Irish Rose, J. Roget, Manischewitz, Sun Country wine cooler and Marcus James wines of Brazil.

Canandaigua, third in U.S. wine production behind E. & J. Gallo and Heublein with 11 million cases, said Guild's sales were $63 million in 1990. A wine industry analyst said it was rare that "the sale price was less than Guild's annual sales figure."

It was the first major U.S. wine deal since 1989 when Heublein paid an estimated $200 million for the Christian Brothers brands, facilities and extensive vineyard holdings.

The only other public wine company is Chalone Inc., which operates Chalone Winery, Acacia, Carmenet and has other wine affiliations.

Canandaigua president Marvin Sands said, "Guild has a good presence on the West Coast and we have a moderate presence there, so this will strengthen our image there." He said no employees are targeted for termination.

The successor to Vintech Wine Group, which operated four bankrupt wineries for the limited partnerships that funded their acquisition, said it will sell two of the wineries by Sept. 1 and that the other two have already reverted to their original owners.

John Moynier, who heads Sonoma Pacific Wine Co., said Lyeth and Laurier wineries in Sonoma County would be sold under demands by creditors' committees.

He also said that Dr. Thomas Mazzocco, a Los Angeles-area eye surgeon, was the only bidder at a July 10 trustee sale of the Mazzocco Winery in Sonoma County and thus re-acquired the property.

Mazzocco had sold his winery to Vintech in 1988. It emerges from bankruptcy court protection debt-free, Moynier said.

The fourth winery in the group, Jekel Vineyards in Monterey County, reverted to founder Bill Jekel on July 31.

The Mazzocco, Lyeth and Laurier wineries all sold for just more than $4 million to Vintech within a two-year period ending in mid-1990. Jekel was sold for $9.6 million to Vintech later in 1990. Sonoma Pacific was created to operate the four wineries after Vintech Wine Group abandoned its role to operate the wineries, said Moynier. The name Vintech was retained by the Vintech's founder, Donald Bade.

The Lyeth and Laurier wineries were appraised recently as having a value of about $10 million each, said a spokeswoman for Sonoma Pacific. Lyeth has about 130,000 cases of wine in inventory, Laurier just more than 40,000 cases.

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