Haywood Reclaims His Name

    Peter Haywood has announced that he has reacquired his Sonoma Valley wine brand from a business unit of New York-based drinks giant Constellation Brands, the North Bay Business Journal reports. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

     The Haywood Estate brand has been through several corporate acquisitions. “It’s a portrait of the industry over the past 15 years,” Haywood said.

     Haywood and a partner sold the brand in 1991 to Racke International, which also acquired Sonoma-based Buena Vista Winery and the Robert Stembler brands. The 15,000-case Haywood winery, started in 1980, was subsequently sold to Ravenswood, and Haywood retained a minor stake in the brand, working with winemaking and marketing for another six years.

     He continued to supply Zinfandel grapes from 42 acres of his Los Chamizal Vineyard  for the brand. He purchased the vineyard in 1973.

     United Kingdom-based Allied Domecq acquired Haywood Estate and Buena Vista in 2001. Then Fortune Brands picked up the brands, along with wines from Allied Domecq, in 2005, creating the Beam Wine Estates group, based in Healdsburg.

     Haywood became frustrated with corporate management of his namesake brand, concluding that the high-end portion was too small for corporate sales and marketing attention. Racke launched an $8-a-bottle Haywood Vintner’s Select label in 1992, and production of that tier grew to 100,000 cases a year.

     “After a few years, it appeared to me that for a small brand to have a focus, it needed to have direct control,” Haywood said. So he approached Beam Wine Estates about acquiring the brand and trademarks, and they cut a deal in spring 2007 for a two-year transition of ownership.

     It would start with his control over the 2007 vintage and culminate with its release in fall 2009.

     Then Constellation Brands acquired Beam Wine Estates in December of last year, and the transfer of ownership was accelerated. Constellation has been adjusting its product mix since the acquisition of Beam, selling certain brands.

     For example, a former Beam Wines Estates executive acquired Geyser Peak, Buena Vista, Gary Farrell and other Beam and Constellation brands in June to form Ascentia Wine Estates in Healdsburg.

     Haywood’s 2007 vintage will be made through an alternating proprietor arrangement with Deerfield Ranch Winery in Kenwood. Haywood also acquired the inventory of the 2005 and 2006 vintage Haywood Estate Zinfandel wines. The Vintner’s Select tier is being discontinued.

     Thoroughly confused? Such is the state of much of the wine business, circa 2008.

Posted in Wineries of Distinction
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