OK, that’s a made-up word in the headline, but it aptly conveys the news of the day: The Seghesio family has sold its winery to a conglomerate.

Now there are good conglomerates in the wine world. When the recently deceased Jess Jackson would purchase a stellar winery such as Hartford, he would basically take a laissez-faire approach: Keep on making tasty juice the way you have been, boys and girls.

The folks who bought Ridge back in the 1980s also appear to have left well enough alone, as the winery continues to put out delicious zins and other bottlings. But the more typical result after takeovers of medium-sized wineries is a serious diminution/dilution of the product.

That’s certainly been true in the zin world, with Ravenswood and Rosenblum being turned largely into manufacturers of bland juice rather than crafters of fine wine. My friend Jason predicts that we will soon see a $10 version of the ballyhooed Seghesio Sonoma County Zin, with the quality going out and the name staying on. I ain’t betting against him.

There is some hope here: The Crimson Wine Group, which bought Seghesio, also owns Chamisal, Pine Ridge and Archery Summit, which still make some really nice wines.

Still, I can’t imagine what would possess a family that had operated a winery since the freakin’ 19th century to sell out. A big part of me doesn’t want to know the story behind this story. But I consider it a potentially serious setback for zinfandel lovers.

Especially with no one picking up the baton. On a whirlwind winery tour last year, my friend Joe and I visited several promising newbies in Sonoma; none of them were making zin. And when is the last time any of us read a report of an up-and-coming zin producer?

Thankfully, producers such as Turley, Carlisle, Carol Shelton, Outpost, Brown and A. Rafanelli continue to make fabulous zins. But very little of that is available outside of mailing lists and California venues.

I guess it’s a good thing that I don’t drink zinfandel as often as I used to.

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