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Napa Valley’s Shafer Vineyards sold to Korean group Shinsegae

Historic Napa winery Shafer Vineyards has been acquired by a division of Shinsegae Group.

Shafer Vineyards has been sold to Shinsegae Property, a division of the wider Shinsegae Group, with interests in several business sectors, from retail to real estate.

‘After long and careful consideration, our family has sold Shafer Vineyards to its new stewards, the wonderful team at Shinsegae Property,’ said Doug Shafer, the winery’s president, in an email to customers.

The deal marks the latest of several high-profile winery sales in Napa Valley in recent years.

Shinsegae Property has acquired the trailblazing Napa winery for 299.6bn South Korean won ($250m), according to the Korea Herald newspaper.

Further details about the deal were not disclosed, but the newspaper quoted a company official as saying the deal would benefit Shinsegae L&B, a wine and alcoholic drinks wholesale and importing business.

Doug Shafer said, ‘I am happy to say that I remain at Shafer, getting the chance to focus more on strategies, future projects, and the things that made me fall in love with the wine business in the first place.

‘In addition, Elias Fernandez, Shafer winemaker, remains in place, along with our winemaking and vineyard teams.’

Shafer Vineyards is one of the pioneers of the modern Napa Valley wine scene. John and Bett Shafer acquired an 85ha (209 acres) property in the early 1970s, which included land planted to vines since the 1880s.

John Shafer set about planting Cabernet Sauvignon on hillside sites and a first Shafer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon wine was produced in 1978, released in 1981. It would prove a forerunner to the winery’s prestigious Hillside Select label.

Doug Shafer, John’s son, became winemaker at the estate in 1983, and subsequently took on the role of president in 1994.

John Shafer died in 2019. Speaking to Decanter in 2004 about his decision to exchange a publishing career in Chicago for California wine country, he said: ‘My motivation was to be in business for myself, and to be in on the ground floor of what I perceived would be a growing phenomenon. Plus I wanted to work outdoors.’

Doug Shafer said this week that the long-term focus of Shafer and its new owners was ‘all about quality’.

He said, ‘Shafer remains in good hands and if my parents could be here for this moment, I know without question that they would agree.’

Other major Napa winery deals in recent years have included the sale of Diamond Creek to Louis Roederer, and the acquisition of Heitz Cellar in 2018 by Gaylon Lawrence Jr and family. In January 2021, Lawrence Jr and Heitz CEO, Carlton McCoy Jr MS, announced the purchase of Stony Hill winery.

A recent report by California-based Silicon Valley Bank noted strong mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity in the US wine sector in general.

Updated on 17 February 2022 with comments from Doug Shafer.

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