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Napa Merlot pioneer bought by Vintage Wine Estates

California’s Vintage Wine Estates has bought Napa Merlot pioneer Swanson Vineyards – the company’s second acquisition in the state this summer.

The purchase for an undisclosed sum includes the Swanson winery in Rutherford, its Manley Lane tasting room and wine stocks of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay. Swanson’s sweet wines include a Rosato and fortified wine Angelica.

Swanson was established in 1985 on a 100-acre plot on Oakville Cross Road by W Clarke Swanson Jr, whose family amassed its fortune making frozen TV dinners.

Swanson enlisted Andre Tchelistcheff, a winemaking legend in California, as consultant and took the bold step at the time of planting Merlot in a Cabernet Sauvignon heartland, establishing a reputation for making a Merlot ‘for Cab lovers’.

The deal to buy Swanson follows Vintage’s acquisition of B R Cohn Winery in Sonoma in July.

‘Our interest is in preserving the legacy of these wineries, while providing investment, resources and a plan for the future,’ said Vintage president Pat Roney.

Vintage said W Clarke Swanson had retained vineyards planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other varietals on his Oakville estate.

The company will source grapes from these vineyards for wines produced under the Swanson label, while W Clarke Swanson will serve as a consultant to Vintage Wine Estates ‘for the foreseeable future’.

The winemaking team at Swanson Vineyards, including winemaker emeritus Chris Phelps and winemaker Robin Akhurst, will be retained.

As well as B R Cohn, VWE acquired Canopy Management (a branded wine business including Middle Sister, Purple Cowboy and others) in 2014, and Clos Pegase Winery in Calistoga and Viansa Sonoma a year earlier.

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