E. & J. Gallo has purchased Denner Vineyards, Wine Spectator has learned, in a deal that includes the brand, tasting room and gravity-flow winery, plus 130 acres of vineyards in two of the most hailed subregions of Paso Robles: Willow Creek and Adelaida. The winery has been a leader in the region for its complex red Rhône- and Bordeaux-style wines. No purchase price was disclosed.
Winemaker Anthony Yount will remain on board. "We look forward to drawing inspiration from and working with [founder Ron Denner] and winemaker Anthony Yount," said Joseph C. Gallo, vice president and general manager of Gallo's Luxury Wine Group, in a statement.
Ron Denner, a former Ditch Witch construction equipment dealer, first purchased land in Paso Robles in 1997 and started planting vineyards in the Willow Creek district in 1999, eventually expanding to 130 acres of estate vineyards. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Grenache make up a majority of the acreage. Other varieties include Mourvèdre, Roussanne, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. The Dirt Worshiper bottling, a Syrah-based blend, has appeared twice in Wine Spectator's Top 100 list.
Current case production is at about 10,000 annually, but the winery, which also functions as a custom-crush facility, can produce up to 25,000 cases a year. Denner has been an important hub in the area—both as a custom-crush facility for smaller labels and as a grapegrower selling fruit to other vintners in the area, including Justin, Linne Calodo and Villa Creek. Gallo says all existing grape contracts will be honored.
For Denner, the deal with Gallo is part of the winery's evolution. "We were at the point in time that we wanted to expand and evolve our guest experiences at the estate and build our community of fans," he said. "The only question was, ‘Who would we turn to to make that happen?’ After receiving interest from several parties, the obvious choice was Gallo. They are family owned and, in my mind, the gold standard."
Consider this another strong endorsement of Paso Robles. Just last year, Constellation Brands purchased nearby Booker Vineyard. "Paso Robles has been recognized for its superior winegrowing and consumer interest for at least 10 years," said Gallo senior vice president Roger Nabedian. "The combination of outstanding Rhône-style and Bordeaux-style wines makes the region compelling and a great addition to our portfolio." He adds that they plan to work with winemaker Yount to create new wine expressions.
For Gallo, it's a sign the wine leader is still thinking creatively. Last year, Gallo closed its acquisition of more than 30 wine brands and five wineries from Constellation for a reported $810 million. Most were value-oriented wine brands such as Ravenswood, Black Box and Clos du Bois.
But one of the features of the family-owned company, founded in 1933 by brothers Ernest and Julio Gallo, is that Gallo owns a range of brands spanning a variety of styles and price points. This deal with Denner is more reminiscent of its purchase of Napa's Pahlmeyer winery in 2019 or the deal to acquire the high-end, 600-acre Stagecoach Vineyard in 2017.
Looking to the future, Denner says, "We will continue to produce world-class wines and still strive for that 100-point wine." He adds that meeting people through his wines has always been a joy of his job.
Denner adds that his advice to people interested in getting into the wine business is to follow their dream. "The young wine tasters always tell me that I am living my dream—and I am. They then tell me that this would be an end goal for them. My answer is always the same: ‘If you don't dream, you don't do.’ I followed my love for wine and have never looked back and never once had any regrets."
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