Williams Selyem Winery was founded in 1979 by Burt Williams and Ed Selyem. I started buying the wines in the early to mid 90’s. These wines fueled my passion for Russian River and Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. Williams Selyem was one of the very first mailing lists I signed up for. In 1998 Burt and Ed sold the winery to John Dyson. I recall vividly the outrage of longtime fans of the winery. Many members of the mailing list simply stopped buying the wines. I decided to give the new owners a chance and twenty years later am glad I did so. The wines coming out of Williams Selyem now are as good as they have ever been. John Dyson stayed true to the vision established by Burt and Ed. Quality is high, prices are fair and customer service is still second to none. Over the years many other favorite wineries that I purchased from have been sold to new owners including Ravenswood, Betz, Araujo and Schrader.
Recent sales of some of my favorite wineries including Kosta Browne and Outpost have caused me to reflect on what consumers should do when a winery they are passionate about is sold to new owners. This is not the first rodeo for Kosta Browne as they were involved in a transaction for a third time, being acquired by Duckhorn Wine Company. In the case of Kosta Browne the orginal founders, Dan Kosta and Michael Browne, are completely removed from the day to day operations of the winery. Scott Becker is the current CEO and Nico Cueva is the current Winemaker. I’ve heard anecdotally of changes in the winemaking style which is concerning as I adore the fruit forward, plush KB of years past. I’m going be tasting at the winery in late August and will draw my own conclusions.
Outpost was sold just a few weeks ago to France’s AXA Millésimes. Frank Dotzler is still running the show at Outpost and Thomas Rivers Brown is still making the wine, so the transition here should be pretty seamless.
So what do you do as a consumer? In the case of Kosta Browne I need to assess the new wines before I make a decision. If I like what is in the bottle and pricing stays somewhat consistent, I have little doubt I will continue to buy the wines. With Outpost the decision is easy. Assuming no substantial change in pricing I will continue to buy their world class Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.
I don’t think there is an obvious answer on how to proceed when I winery you are passionate about has been sold. It depends on what changes the new owners implement. If the new owners continue to practice what attracted you to the winery in the first place then there is no reason to stop buying the wine.