Beringer Winemaster To Buy Lake Sonoma Property
Veteran Beringer Vineyards winemaker Ed Sbragia has signed a deal to buy the Lake Sonoma Winery property in Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley from F. Korbel & Bros. Sbragia, who was born in Dry Creek Valley and still makes his home there, said he was elated to find what he views as an excellent location to base the winery business that he and his son Adam began a few years ago.
Sbragia Family Vineyards has already leased the 20-acre site (including 7 acres of vines) at the northwest end of the valley and plans to make some of the 2006 Sbragia wines there while waiting for final permits to be obtained and for the escrow to close. Ed Sbragia will stay on as winemaster at Beringer in St. Helena, Napa Valley, where he has worked since 1976. Beringer will handle the sales and distribution of Sbragia Family wines as well as continuing to provide other help. No sales price for the Lake Sonoma property was disclosed. Sbragia said his family will be the sole owner.
Lake Sonoma Winery recently opened a tasting room in nearby Healdsburg, and will continue as a Sonoma County-based wine business, making Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. The Korbel organization, headed by Gary Heck, put it up for sale recently, citing a volume of visitor traffic too low in this remote end of the valley to properly support its business.
Korbel spokesperson Margie Healy said, "With three other wineries, with warehouses all over the county, for the time being we can do what we need to do for Lake Sonoma at the other wineries until Gary Heck decides he needs a new home for the Lake Sonoma wines."
Sbragia grew up in southern Dry Creek Valley, where his father and grandfather had grown grapes, prunes and other crops, and until recently he and his wife and children lived at what they call the Home Ranch, which includes 21 acres of vineyard. The first Sbragia Family wines were released in 2004, and last year the winery sold 4,400 cases. The lineup includes two Napa Valley wines: a Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and Gamble Ranch Chardonnay; four Dry Creek appellation wines: Home Ranch Chardonnay, Home Ranch Merlot, Gino's Vineyard Zinfandel and Andolsen Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon; and a Monte Rosso vineyard Cabernet from the Gallo-owned property in Sonoma Valley.
The Lake Sonoma site includes 11,000 square feet of buildings, including 4,000 square feet in the tasting room and administrative offices, plus a 7,000-square-foot deck with expansive views over Dry Creek Valley. Sbragia said he wants to cap the family winery's production at 10,000 cases per year, but that a 20,000-case permit is being secured.
"I'm kind of scared to death but at the same time I am invigorated," said Sbragia, who is probably best known as the master blender of Beringer's celebrated Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and Private Reserve Chardonnay. "Working with my family fulfills a bunch of feelings and promises and desires that I've had inside of me. At the same time it's a nice relationship with Beringer, a very friendly relationship, and I don't plan on leaving."