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Constellation Brands buys Santa Barbara producer Sea Smoke

Drinks giant Constellation Brands has tied up a deal to purchase Santa Barbara County winery Sea Smoke for an undisclosed sum.

The deal includes 445ha of land in Sta Rita Hills, of which 104ha are currently under vine, plus a winery, inventory and the Sea Smoke brand. Constellation, whose brands include Robert Mondavi and Kim Crawford, has been ramping up its focus on high-end wines in recent years.

The New York-based company has bolstered its premium portfolio by snapping up Booker Vineyard, Domaine Curry, Lingua Franca and Schrader Cellars.

This strategy reflects changing consumer trends. Americans are not drinking as much wine as they used to, creating an oversupply crisis in California, but demand remains high for expensive wines.

Sam Glaetzer, president of wine and spirits at Constellation, told Wine Spectator: ‘As we continue to pursue growth aligned with consumer-led premiumisation trends through our higher-end brands of the wine and spirits business, we are excited to add Sea Smoke to our fine wine portfolio.

‘Not only does Sea Smoke offer a uniquely acclaimed estate vineyard in the Sta Rita Hills AVA, but its highly acclaimed wines also align with our target consumer preferences as they continue to shift to the higher end.

‘We look forward to working with the Sea Smoke team to grow this exceptional winery while upholding its impeccable tradition of quality and customer experience.’

Video gaming entrepreneur Bob Davids established Sea Smoke in Santa Barbara County back in 1998.

The wines quickly started racking up strong reviews from esteemed critics, and Sea Smoke gained a reputation as one of the region’s leading producers of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

The estate expanded in 2016, with the purchase of the neighbouring Rita’s Crown Vineyard, and it is now farmed biodynamically.

Anna Lee Ijima described the wines as ‘unapologetically yummy’ in her recent review.

General manager Victor Gallegos, winemaker Don Schroeder and vineyard manager Julian Malone will retain their current roles.

Gallegos said: ‘We are extremely excited to collaborate with Constellation Brands as we begin writing a new chapter in the Sea Smoke story. They have the right team with the right resources and the expertise to help us grow and thrive in a highly competitive market.’

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