Racke sells Donum Estate in Carneros to Danish group
Racke, the German wine and spirits group that once owned Buena Vista Vineyards, announced recently that it has sold The Donum Estate, a pinot noir producer in Sonoma Valley's Carneros appellation, to Winside, Inc., a partnership of Danish investors, for an undisclosed amount.
The deal includes a 147-acre Sonoma Carneros property with 45 acres of vineyards and several buildings, the Donum and Stemmler brands, and inventories.
The acquisition keeps in place the team that developed The Donum Estate over the past decade: Anne Moller-Racke, president and winegrower; Kenneth Juhasz, consulting winemaker; Frieda Guercio, national sales director; Lauro Servin, vineyard foreman, and other staff.
The sale marks the end of 30 years of Racke involvement in Carneros and Sonoma Valley. Anne Moller-Racke arrived in 1981 to help run the German firm’s new acquisition of Buena Vista. She was actively involved in forming what is now the Carneros Wine Alliance and establishing Carneros as an American Viticultural Appellation.
In the cover story of the October 15, 2011 issue of Wine Spectator magazine, Donum placed three of the six top-ranked pinot noirs (all scoring 96 points), and ranked among the 15 best vineyards and 20 favorite producers in Sonoma, which was proclaimed “California’s Burgundy.”
“We are delighted to secure both the land and the expertise behind the brands, including the person who planted these vineyards and has nurtured them for over 20 years,” said Trond Fredheim, a Winside partner. “Anne and her crew know how to coax every special nuance from these vines.”
As vice president of vineyard operations at Buena Vista Winery, Moller-Racke planted what was then Tule Vista Ranch in 1989-90. When Racke sold Buena Vista to Allied Domecq in 2001, it retained Tule Vista, renaming it The Donum Estate and putting Anne in charge of a project with a single goal – to make the “ultimate pinot noir.”
“Happily, we have always been totally quality-driven. Even with the recession, we’ve never jeopardized our ultimate goal,” said Moller-Racke. “Our new owners thoroughly appreciate and support this approach; it’s what interested them. As Europeans who are huge Burgundy lovers and collectors, they see the value of a brand connected to the land and devoted to quality.”
The five Danes who formed Winside have a variety of business interests ranging from clothing to airlines, and all are friends. Trond Fredheim and Daniel Aaxman met Anne after purchasing Donum’s lot at a Hospice of Sonoma auction four years ago, then brought other partners to visit.
Donum will continue to make estate grown pinot noir from the 11-acre Nugent Vineyard in the Russian River Valley, which it has farmed continuously since planting it to Dijon clones in 1997.