“Robert Sinskey Vineyards Sold the Winery … and It Bought the Farm.”
By Barbara Barielle
Last week, it was announced that the famed Robert Sinskey Vineyards had been acquired by Stewart and Linda Resnick’s The Wonderful Company, thereby expanding TWC’s winery holdings in Napa Valley. The nature of the acquisition, though, was a bit different from its other winery pursuits.
In a statement, Robert Sinskey, Jr., clarified the transaction and its benefits to his wife, Maria Helm Sinskey, and their family. Basically, the Sinskey family retains the Robert Sinskey Vineyards brand and have arranged a leaseback of the winery, production facility and surrounding winery real estate (including five of the vineyards in the Carneros Valley where the family began grape growing in 1982) for an unspecified amount of time.
The Wonderful Company confirmed the transaction but offered no further comment. The amount of the sale is reported at $26 million but an industry insider disagreed with the figure, noting it was a larger amount.
A dream realized
To visitors or consumers of Sinskey wines, the transition will be hard to detect. But the shift will let Rob and Maria pursue some of their long-time goals, specifically, to create an agrarian environment where vineyards and farming work together for the benefit of both the palate and the environment.
The family transitioned its Carneros properties fully organic and biodynamic in 1991. Over the years, they introduced sheep, owl houses, raptor perches, solar power and water recuperation in an attempt to create an agrarian area where grapes and food grow in harmony, with the help of a few farm animals for balance. Sinskey’s statement announcing the sale began: “Robert Sinskey Vineyards sold the winery … and it bought the farm.”
A growing portfolio
Rob McMillan, EVP and founder of Silicon Valley Bank, Wine Division, has his finger on the pulse of the wine industry, and notes that “while mergers and acquisition activity is dead on Wall Street, it remains vibrant in the North Coast wine industry. It’s part of the ongoing evolution in the change in wineries in Napa and Sonoma.”
McMillan adds that, without the extensive Sinskey Vineyards in Carneros, the winery and surrounding real estate acquired in this deal would not constitute an estate and TWC would likely need to acquire or lease additional vineyards. TWC does assume a permitted winery and production facility that will allow it to either expand one of their existing brands or develop a new wine brand or brands. TWC’s portfolio already includes JUSTIN Vineyards and Winery in Paso Robles, Landmark Vineyards in Sonoma Valley and Lewis Cellars in Napa Valley, as well as almonds, pistachios, Fiji water and The Pom Company, among other holdings.
McMillan says that, while the continuing M & A activity is remarkable given the overall financial climate, there are always buyers for the right kinds of winery properties — especially those with vineyards and assets. These offerings are rare so those who are looking have not stopped shopping. And, although the cost of borrowing money has risen dramatically, it’s still fairly low in comparison to historical interest rates. Transactions are usually a mix of cash and leveraged funds.
He observes that the acquisition of Robert Sinskey Vineyards’ winery and real estate with the leaseback to the Sinskey family for the next few years is likely a transition for both parties. The Sinskeys can relinquish the responsibilities of running the winery and instead return to the farm and build their agrarian village, where fruit orchards, gardens, wildlife and vines come together to create an environment that’s as good for the earth as it is for the people who enjoy the area’s benefits.
A village created
Sinskey states, “the farmstead will evolve into an incubator of progressive ideas to farm better, continue to craft expressive wines with a sense of place and to grow produce packed with flavor by celebrating the microbe, the fungi, the farm animals and the rhythms of nature to foster a positive impact on on the planet; to do their part to undo the the damage done by past neglect and create sustenance of beauty and deliciousness.”
Barbara Barrielle was a longtime publicist in sports and wine before going to the other side as a wine, travel and entertainment writer. She also produces films and has a documentary “Crushed: Climate Change and the Wine Country Fires” releasing in 2021. Current publications Barbara writes for are AARP Magazine, Northwest Travel & Life, East Hampton Star, Napa Valley Register, Oregon Wine Press as well as Wine Industry Advisor. She lives in Healdsburg, travels extensively and studies wine and languages.