Tuesday, October 25, 2005

G V Cellars to debut in Green Valley

Merlot grapes wait in bins to be processed at GV Cellars, the former home of Volkhardt Estate Winery in Green Valley. (Photo by Judith Sagami)

Article Last Updated: Saturday, Oct 22, 2005 - 10:19:13 pm PDT
G V Cellars to debut in Green Valley

By Christine Cubé

GREEN VALLEY - Solano County is about to get a new winery.

Sort of.

Volkhardt Estate Winery, which has been in operation since 1982, officially changed hands last spring. The facility is located at 1635 Mason Road in Green Valley.

A new group of investors named Green Valley Vintners LLC bought the winery and its 40 acres of grapes from former owners Ben and Phyllis Volkhardt in May.

Neither party released financial specifics on the deal. Officials called the purchase and future expansion of the site a multimillion venture.

Within a couple weeks, Green Valley Vintners is expected to receive the green light to proceed with the winery's new name - GV Cellars. The name designation currently resides in the hands of the U.S. Department of Treasury's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

Lark Welton, one of five investors in GV Cellars, said the group is excited about the future. In the interim, the group is actively crushing grapes from this year's harvest and fine tuning the details of the new business.

“We're not open for tasting yet,” Welton said. “But we're very busy. We're setting up everything, working on our first label. We're also developing contracts for custom crush clients and getting all the administrative stuff in order.”

Sky's the limit

When the harvest and crushing concludes by around Nov. 1, the group has big plans, Welton said.

“We'd like to maximize the facility,” she said. “It's a beautiful winery - we can fit more tanks in and more barrels in. It's kind of like sky's the limit but we're just starting out right now and getting through the first crush.”

For the Volkhardts, the reason they sold the winery was it was time to retire.

Phyllis Volkhardt said the couple had been operating the winery on and off since 1982. It was sold a couple of times, and every time the winery became available again, the Volkhardts bought it back.

This time, the sale was for good.

“It's a lot of work,” Ben Volkhardt said. “They're going to take it to a different level. They'll be producing more than I was producing and do custom crush for other wineries.”

As Volkhardt Estate Winery, the facility was producing about 5,000 to 6,000 cases of wine, mostly Syrah and Cabernet.

The winery's products were distributed with the help of a broker in Los Angeles and distributors in New York and Chicago.

GV Cellars officials expect official notification for the name change in a couple of weeks. Welton said the entire bond process usually takes about four weeks to six weeks.

Coming soon

Napa resident Bob Hager, managing owner of GV Cellars, is credited with pulling together the diverse group of investors that form Green Valley Vintners LLC.

In fact, he almost bought his first vineyard in 1990, when he first moved to Napa.

A wine connoisseur, Hager admits when he first knew about the deal to acquire Volkhardt Estate Winery, it was the land and the estate that drew him in.

“I loved the site,” he said. “The wine was kind of intriguing . . . I've been living around it for several years and I wondered how you make it. You always hear about how it's done and you really don't know.”

He's fast learning the process.

By next spring, Hager and the rest of the group expect to fully open to the public, embracing special events and offering wine and wine tasting. In addition to Syrah and Cabernet, Hager expects to add more wine including a Merlot Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Dolcetto and a variety white wines.

“The point is to have a local winery for both residents and tourists,” Hager said.

Suisun Valley winery Ledgewood Creek Winery & Vineyards manager Rick Wehman said there's no such thing as competition when it comes to the wine business.

More facilities in Suisun Valley would transform the region into a more serious wine destination for travelers. Besides, everyone makes different wines and everyone has different tastes, he said.

“The more the better,” Wehman said. “If we had our way, there would be another four or five wineries in the valley. (With more) wineries, people could come out and spend an entire day or an entire weekend.”

Reach Christine Cubé at 427-6934 or ccube@dailyrepublic.net.

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