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Fiji Water Owners Acquire Sonoma’s Landmark Vineyards

August 3, 2011

The owners of the Fiji Water brand have announced their second California winery acquisition in less than a year, according to Wine Spectator. Fiji Water and parent company Roll Global are buying Sonoma’s Landmark Vineyards, known for high-quality Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah. The deal includes the winery, inventory and an 11-acre vineyard. The sale price wasn’t disclosed.

In December, Roll Global purchased its first wine property—Justin Winery in Paso Robles—and company officials told Wine Spectator they plan to continue building a wine portfolio. “We felt (Landmark) met our profile for a good quality brand, and what I’d consider the affordable premium area,” said Stewart Resnick, chairman and owner of Roll Global, the Los Angeles-based holding company that owns Fiji Water, one of the largest brands of imported bottled water. Roll’s holdings also include Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice, flower delivery service Teleflora, Paramount citrus, which grows and sells fresh citrus, and Paramount Farms, which does the same for almonds and pistachios.

Bill Mabry and his family founded Landmark in 1974 in Windsor, California. One of the original investors, Damaris Deere Ethridge, took over control of Landmark in 1989 and relocated it to Sonoma Valley, where she built a winery. Ethridge is a descendant of John Deere, founder of the world’s leading manufacturer of agricultural equipment. Her son Michael Deere Colhoun and his wife Mary joined the company in 1992 as her partners, and the couple became the face of the winery. They hired consultant Helen Turley and winemaker Eric Stern, and the wines improved. The Overlook Chardonnay has appeared on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list six times.

“I’m sure it will be gut-wrenching in certain ways, but very liberating in other ways,” said Mike Colhoun. “(The sale) was a good fit for us because we have two children that aren’t in the wine business. We had no exit strategy.”

“It’s bittersweet,” said Mary, noting that wine has been at the center of their life for 20 years. “This is an extraordinary opportunity for Landmark. Roll totally understands what our brand is about—quality and excellence in agriculture—because they are about the same things.”

Landmark owns an 11-acre vineyard but buys most of its grapes from several well-known vineyards, including Heintz, Kanzler, Sangiacomo and Bien Nacido. Roll plans to continue with the current contracts, and possibly expand the brand, which makes about 20,000 cases a year. “Look, we’re farmers at heart,” said Resnick. “They have good sources. We’ll go carefully, making sure we maintain their quality.” The Colhouns will no longer be involved, but winemaker Greg Stach will stay on.

Resnick said that the Fiji sales force will be able to sell the wine side of the business too. “There’s a lot of good wines around. But the problem is that people don’t know how to get them to market,” said Resnick. “We think we’re good at getting them to market.”

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