E.&J. Gallo acquires Columbia Winery and Covey Run Wine

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Columbia Winer courtesy
Courtesy photo. Columbia Winery in Woodinville
After weeks of speculation and rumor, E. & J. Gallo Winery recently announced the purchase of Columbia Winery and Covey Run Wine brands from Ascentia Wine Estates.

The legendary Modesto, California-based company has officially taken over the operation of the Woodinville and Sunnyside facilities, marking its first expansion into the state.

According to Roger Nabedian, senior vice president and general manager of Gallo’s Premium Wine Division, the company has been keeping an eye on the Washington wine industry for several years, noting that it is the country’s second largest wine-producing state, after California, with 650  wineries and more than 36,000 acres of vineyards.

He says, “We have been watching the Washington wine industry grow and consider these wine brands to be a key part of our premium wine strategy moving forward. This purchase will help us expand our footprint and offer our customers wines from the Columbia Valley and Yakima Valley Appellations.”

Gallo, established in 1933, has become the world’s largest winery and the foremost winery in the art of grape growing, winemaking, distribution and marketing of wines.

Its wine portfolio is extensive and includes brands such as Barefoot Cellars, DaVinci, Ecco Domani, Louis M. Martini, Bridlewood, Frei Brothers, Martin Codax, Don Miguel Gascon, MacMurray Ranch, Mirassou Vineyards and William Hill Estate among others.

Ascentia Wine Estates also sold its Geyser Peak brand to Australia’s Accolade Wines and its Idaho-based Ste. Chapelle Winery to Precept Wine.

Earlier, it sold Buena Vista Carneros to Boisset Family Estates and Gary Farrell to Vincraft.

The Sonoma-based Ascentia, established by wine industry veteran Jim De Bonis, initially demonstrated strong potential, but then became laden with debt after the financial crisis and subsequent recession hit the company hard and its wine sales plummeted.

Ascentia is now in the process of making a full exit from the wine industry.

John Kochis of Gallo is currently serving as the interim general manager for Columbia Winery. He says the company is in the midst of an interview process to determine who will fill positions at the facility.

“We have certain efficiencies,” he explains, “but we will make every effort to fill positions with local people when possible. We are being very thoughtful in our actions.”

Kochis gives assurances that Columbia’s name will remain the same. He notes, however, that a new winemaking team will be assembled, which will consist of a mix of California and Northwest winemakers.

“We can’t be more excited about Columbia,” comments Kochis. “It has 50 years of history and we want to continue this history of excellence in the industry and work towards increasing the relevance of Columbia wines in the marketplace.”

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