Hedge Fund Purchases Napa’s Spring Mountain Vineyard

Spring Mountain Vineyard, a historic and sprawling estate covering hundreds of acres on its namesake mountain on the western side of Napa Valley, finally has a new owner. The MGG investment group, a hedge fund based in New York City, announced it acquired the distressed property after a bankruptcy proceeding. The purchase was made at public auction with a credit bid of $43 million. This is MGG’s first acquisition in the wine industry.

The estate was first planted in the late 1800s. The winery’s Chardonnay was included in the famed 1974 “Judgement of Paris” tasting, though the property went on to earn a reputation for its distinctive and long-lived Cabernet-based wines in the 1970s and ’80s. Some of those vintages are still showing well today. More recent vintages have also earned outstanding and classic ratings. The winery has produced roughly 5,000 cases per year in recent years, but there is potential for more.

“I know there is a bright future here,” Peter Ekman, Spring Mountain Vineyard’s new CEO, told Wine Spectator. Ekman has over 25 years of experience in the wine industry, with a résumé that includes senior executive positions at companies including Wine.com and Moët Hennessy. Ekman says the plan to revitalize the estate includes replanting all 225 acres of the current vineyards in the next three years, as well as adding an additional 70 acres of new vines, pending Napa County approval.

“That’s the benefit of having ownership such as MGG. This isn’t going to be a question of investment, but rather just getting the permits,” said Ekman.

They are also planning a renovation of the 20,000 square feet of wine caves beginning this September, as well as an updated hospitality center.

Banker Jacob Safra bought the former Miravalle Estate, which had been renamed Spring Mountain Vineyard, in 1992. The property was famously the site for the filming of the 1980s TV show Falcon Crest. He then added the neighboring Chevalier, Alba and Le Perla estates in 1993 and 1996.

The end result was an 847-acre conglomerate of land with 225 acres of hillside vineyards, comprised of 135 vineyard blocks with eight soil types and every exposure point on the compass, ranging in elevation from 400 to 1,600 feet. All of that adds up to one of the most challenging and unique vineyards in Napa Valley. Many Napa insiders feel that the site’s full potential remains untapped.

In recent years the estate had struggled financially and Safra had taken on loans from MGG. The damage caused by wildfires of 2020 exacerbated the situation. The winery filed for bankruptcy in Sept., 2022.

“There has been quite a bit of work done since those fires, which MGG had been financing,” said Ekman. “They didn’t want the property to digress any further, so they did what they could to help the property improve.”

Winemaker Barrett Anderson, 47, who joined in 2019, will stay on. So too will vineyard manager Ron Rosenbrand, 66, who lost his own house on the property during the fire. Both have their work cut out for them, but seem well-suited for the task at hand. Anderson previously worked with Chris Carpenter, the mountain fruit winemaking specialist behind the Jackson Family wines of Lokoya, La Jota and others. Rosenbrand has managed the vineyards since 2003. They’ll be joined by outside help, via Atelier Melka, the consulting firm of winemaker Philippe Melka.

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Source : https://www.winespectator.com/articles/hedge-fund-purchases-napas-spring-mountain-vineyard

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