The family-owned company has been making inroads into the region ever since patriarch Marchese Piero Antinori visited Napa in 1985.
He formed a strong friendship with Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars founder Warren Winiarski, who decided to sell the estate in 2007.
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates purchased an 85% stake in Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars from Winiarski that year, and Antinori acquired the remaining 15%.
The partners have collaborated for the past 16 years, helping Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars go from strength to strength, and Antinori is now poised to take full ownership.
The transaction is scheduled to close by the end of June, and the sale price has not been disclosed.
Piero Antinori, who is now the honorary president at Marchesi Antinori, said: ‘There are few opportunities in one’s lifetime when such an important and historical winery as Stag’s Leap is available. I have to thank Ste. Michelle Wine Estates for this great occasion that has been given to us.
‘It is a source of pride for me and my family to have the possibility to confirm the promise made to my friend Warren Winiarski 16 years ago, to preserve the legacy and the values of such a prestigious estate as Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars is.’
The 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars famously beat the likes of Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château Haut-Brion in the Judgement of Paris, a blind tasting competition hosted by Steven Spurrier, in 1976.
That helped to put Napa Valley on the map in the fine wine world, and it burnished the winery’s reputation. It is sometimes dubbed one of the ‘first growths’ of Napa Valley.
Ste. Michelle has overseen a successful period in the estate’s history, but it is now retraining its focus on its Pacific Northwest heartland.
In 2021, Altria Group sold Ste. Michelle to private equity firm Sycamore Partners for $1.2 billion, prompting the shift in strategy.
Shawn Conway, Ste. Michelle CEO, said: ‘Our roots – dating back 90 years this year – are in the Pacific Northwest, and that’s where the future of our company lies, as well.
‘This move enables us to better focus our energy and resources on the part of our business with the greatest potential for growth – our Pacific Northwest portfolio.’
Antinori emerged as the natural buyer for Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, which has around 120 hectares under vine in Napa Valley.
The family-owned Tuscan producer can trace its roots back to 1385, when Giovanni di Piero Antinori joined the Vintner’s Guild in Florence. It has vineyards in Tuscany and Umbria, and it sells around one million cases per year.