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Wine Spectator: Silicon Valley Investment Firm Buys Majority Stake In Napa’s Far Niente Wine Estates

May 17, 2016

Private equity firm GI Partners has bought a majority stake in Napa’s Far Niente Wine Estates, which includes the Far Niente winery, as well as sister brands Dolce, Nickel & Nickel, EnRoute and Bella Union, Wine Spectator has learned. Beth Nickel and Erik Nickel, members of the company’s founding family, as well as the company’s senior leaders, Dirk Hampson and Larry Maguire, will remain shareholders and active in day-to-day management of the wineries. Neither side would disclose the size or price of GI Partners’ stake in the company, but it is a majority of shares.

Gil and Beth Nickel purchased Far Niente in 1979, reviving it 60 years after Prohibition shuttered it. Since then, the Nickel Family has built a strong foothold in Napa Valley. They launched Dolce, a brand devoted to late-harvest wines, in 1989; and Nickel & Nickel, focused on single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, in 1997. Expansion continued after Gil’s death in 2003. Most recently, the family established Bella Union in 2012, producing Cabernet from the Bella Oaks Lane property in Rutherford. They have also stretched into Sonoma County, with the 2007 launch of EnRoute, a Russian River Valley–based Pinot Noir and Chardonnay label.

Hampson said that GI Partners’ investment provides the resources for them to plan for the wineries’ future. Based in Silicon Valley’s Menlo Park, GI Partners manages over $12 billion in capital for institutional investors. While the firm specializes in technology companies and real estate, this is not its first wine venture. In 2008, it took a controlling interest in Napa’s Duckhorn Wine Company.

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