Constellation sells off 8 brands

Anyone with even a passing interest in the wine industry knows the name Constellation Brands Inc. It is less likely they'd know Ascentia Wine Estates, or its Eight Estates Fine Wines LLC branch.

That might change, since the giant Constellation has just announced the sale of eight wine brands to Ascentia for $209 million -- in cash. The deal would gross Constellation an additional $25 million if certain objectives are achieved by Eight Estates.

The brands involved are Columbia Winery (seen above), Ste. Chapelle, Geyser Peak, Buena Vista, XYZin, Gary Farrell, Atlas Peak and Covey Run. Togethers, they sold about one million cases of wine last year.

Constellation Brands said selling the brands will eliminate "brand duplication and excess production capacity."

Ascentia Wine Estates is a newly-formed company headed by industry veteran Jim DeBonis, former chief operating officer of Beam Wine Estates and now CEO of the new company, with participation by a group of investors that includes the proprietors of W.J. Deutsch & Sons Ltd., a New York wine importer. Eight Estates is its first major acquisition.

Several of the brands have been around a long time, by U.S. standards. Among the California wineries, Buena Vista was founded in 1857 near Sonoma and refers to itself as "California's first premium winery." Geyser Peak was founded in 1880 in the Alexander Valley. Others are comparatively new. Gary Farrell was founded in 2000 in Healdsburg, XYzin in Geyserville, and Atlas Peak in Napa in 1997.

Otherwise, among the Washington state labels, Columbia has been a Washington pioneer, operating since 1962, and Covey Run was founded in 1982. And, Ste. Chapelle is an Idaho winemaker founded in 1976.

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