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Nov 26th
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Home News Latest Gallo purchases Snows Lake Vineyard for undisclosed amount

Gallo purchases Snows Lake Vineyard for undisclosed amount

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Snows Lake Vineyard in Lower Lake, Calif., has been purchased by E. & J. Gallo. Photo by John Jensen.

LOWER LAKE, Calif. – Wine giant E. & J. Gallo Winery has made its first property purchase in Lake County, buying one of the area’s well-known Cabernet Sauvignon producers.

Gallo spokesperson Susan Hensley confirmed to Lake County News that the corporation purchased Snows Lake Vineyard, located in Lower Lake. She said sale terms were not being disclosed.

The land purchase includes 2,000 acres, of which 800 are planted, Hensley said.

“It’s part of our strategy to be in all of the premier winegrowing areas in California,” Hensley said.

Hensley said Gallo looks forward to working with Snows Lake’s customers.

Another Gallo spokesperson, Loree Stroup, confirmed that it’s the corporation’s first land purchase in Lake County.

George Myers, whose family developed the vineyard, said he had no comment on the sale at this time.

Lake County Assessor-Recorder Doug Wacker said the sale recorded last Friday afternoon.

He said there were numerous parcels included in the total acreage, with a 100-percent change of ownership from several entities – Ojai Ranch & Investment Co., Miracle Land Co. and Snows Lake Vineyard – to Gallo Vineyards Inc.

Wacker said a form can be filled out to avoid disclosure of sales prices, and that was done in this transaction.

However, Wacker said, “It’s a pretty significant sale.”

Monica Rosenthal, executive director, Lake County Winery Association, welcomed Gallo to Lake County.

“We’re excited to have Gallo here in Lake County,” Rosenthal said. “It will be fun working with them.”

She said they are sorry to lose Snows Lake, which has been a supporting member of the association. “We hope we have a similar relationship with Gallo.”

Shannon Gunier, president of the Lake County Winegrape Commission, said having Lake County recognized as a premier winegrape producing region, and therefore a draw for big players like Gallo, was a positive factor of the sale.

A downside of the purchase, at least from the commission’s viewpoint, is that Gallo will be exempt from paying the assessment that supports the commission, Gunier said. That’s because the assessment doesn’t apply to operations growing for their own wine production.

Another downside – several full-time Snows Lake employees were let go as a result of the sale, including longtime Chief Operating Officer John Adriance. The laid off staff were reportedly unable to comment due to the sale agreement, and Adriance did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Hensley said she did not have information about staff layoffs.

The Snows Lake purchase is the largest of Gallo’s land acquisitions in the past decade, adding to the 16,000 acres of vineyard and eight wineries across California that it already owned, according to company statements.

Last month, Gallo announced it was purchasing Courtside Cellars in San Miguel, which includes 34 acres and a winery. That followed the purchase earlier this year of 300 acres of vineyards in Monterey County and last year’s acquisition of the 62-acre Edna Valley Vineyard near San Luis Obispo. The William Hill Estate Winery in Napa County, acquired in 2007, totals 140 acres, and the 105-acre Bridlewood Estate Winery, located in Santa Ynez, was bought by Gallo in 2004.

The 2,000-acre Snows Lake Vineyard property in Lower Lake, Calif., is known for producing fine Cabernet Sauvignon. Photo by John Jensen.

Growing reputation for quality winegrapes

The Snows Lake property has produced award winning Cabernet Sauvignon, with the grapes notable for their quality, coming from the rich red volcanic soils of the county’s Red Hills Lake County American Viticultural Area.

A Snows Lake Vineyard map showed that, along with Cabernet Sauvignon, the property has produced a number of other varietals, including Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Primitivo, Petite Syrah, Petite Verdoh, Syrah, Tempranillo and Zinfandel, the last being another grape for which it was becoming known.

Snows Lake was the source of winegrapes for labels including Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, Cakebread Cellars, Rosenblum Cellars, La Famiglia and Dynamite Vineyards, according to the company’s Web site.

In addition to sourcing grapes, Snows Lake also produced two wines of its own, Snows Lake One, 100-percent Cabernet Sauvignon, and Snows Lake Two, a Cabernet Sauvignon blend with Cabernet Franc.

Much of the property has been managed as undeveloped habitat. The Snows Lake Web site said the land is on the Pacific Flyway, and also includes a 240-acre wildlife corridor protected from future development by an open space conservation easement.

Gunier said Lake County is becoming known for putting out high quality winegrapes, and the county’s Cabernet Sauvignon is now getting strong interest.

“We’re getting some real stellar reviews,” Gunier said.

The dream, said Gunier, is that Gallo would do a Lake County or Red Hills brand that would boost the area’s visibility in the wine world.

“We have a lot of Lake County brands, but they’re all really small,” she said.

One thing local industry members are counting on is that Gallo’s purchase will take 20 percent of the county’s Cabernet Sauvignon off the market, which promises a price boost and increased demand for Lake County.    

Gallo has accomplished what Gunier called an “amazing change,” remaking its company image from one that produced inexpensive wines to one with a higher price range of $15 to $20. “We fit right in that,” she said.

“I think it’s a real turn for Lake County,” and something that wouldn’t have happened 10 years ago, said Gunier, who announced last week that she was retiring as the commission’s president, a decision she attributed to Lake County now being very well positioned in the industry.

“We’re on top now,” said Gunier.

Email Elizabeth Larson at [email protected] .

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Comments (4)Add Comment
written by aluchsinger, September 20, 2012
Don't worry too much. Last I heard people don't have to work there if they don't want to.
Gallo is ANTI-UNION?
written by ca215, September 20, 2012
Get one person who does not approve of GalloCorp's stance on unionized employees to apply for a job (and hopefully get hired, that's key to this idea) and then ask him/her to join up, pay dues, and "talk union" with co-workers on his/her/their non-working hours.

Watch "Norma Rae" again, this time with an eye toward "Hey, there's a situation just like what Joe/JoAnne says is going on at his/her job."

Remember some years ago when Safeway Corp tried to thump its' hairy chest and make threats about anyone joining any worker's union?
The motto there, and many employees wore a metal pinned button which proclaimed "Solidarity Works."

I've done a little ground work and it turns out the slogan is up for grabs now. The UNIONIZED chain (hooray!) of markets have to treat employees decently. No back to back work shifts handed out along with the claim that "Well we just don't have enough employees. You are needed to double back and work another shift starting in 10 minutes."

There's a simple solution to "Not enough employees," Duh. Hire more people! Clean up the corner-sitters who hold signs proclaiming their need for work. Hire them on a provisional basis in case ABC Corp or whatever behemoth owns whatever company that is non-union and TELL THEM they will be checked out for use of illegal drugs or any other substance not usually used at work.
Should they test "dirty" after the results of the randomly-picked workers to be tested, the door is that way. Your last check will be mailed to you and no, I don't think this company would be a good one to use for a reference. NEXT!!"

Some employers illegally ban union activity by letter; I have received and framed one such letter addressed to myself from the Easter Seal Society. It stated: "Any person joining any union of any sort or discusses the idea of unionization on company property and/or time will be summarily fired."

Yes I could have gone to NLRB and kept my P**-On job. But I wouldn't do it because I wouldn't want to go on working with the Lewinsky who busted me to the Honcho; also I was ill with flu that was followed nearly immediately with pneumonia.

I'd been sent home because "You are coughing and endangering everyone who works here. Go home!" Off time totalled one work day worth of hours. I got canned for "absenteeism."

What? THEY sent me home! When E S S mails out those whiny gimme letters and includes a pre stamped envelope, I stuff that thing with thrown-away pieces of paper advertising whatever, and send the thing back. E S S has had to pre-pay the postage, see? Just one little way of making a ripple that might turn into a wave.

Just a little something to think about..
Time Will Tell
written by a guest, September 20, 2012
Snows Lake became a good neighbor, after settling with the county and residents of the Murphy Springs area over water use, grading violations, wildlife corridors and other mitigations. It remains to be seen what kind of neighbor Gallo will be. They're right in my back yard, so I will soon find out. Too bad they had to let good people go.
Jess Jackson took on Gallo in an intellectual property lawsuit over label art. I believe he got whipped.
Whatever happens it is sure to be interesting.
Gallo? Yuck!
written by Hal, September 20, 2012
There goes the neighborhood! Nothing says, "We Love You" like Gallo union busting campaigns or cheap wine.

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