Skip to main content

Exclusive: In a Major Pinot Noir Purchase, Constellation Buys Sta. Rita Hills Icon Sea Smoke

Constellation Brands—the drinks giant whose portfolio includes Corona and Modelo beers as well as Meiomi, Kim Crawford and Robert Mondavi wineries—has signed a deal to purchase Sea Smoke, an iconic Pinot Noir and Chardonnay estate vineyard in Santa Barbara County’s Sta. Rita Hills, from founder Bob Davids. The sale includes 1,100 acres of land, 256 of them planted with vines, plus a winery in nearby Lompoc, the inventory and brand. The purchase price was not disclosed.

Despite a slowing U.S. wine market, Constellation has continued to acquire wineries as it shifts from value-priced to premium brands. The publicly owned company has purchased Schrader Cellars, Booker Vineyard, Lingua Franca and Domaine Curry in recent years and is pursuing a major renovation at Robert Mondavi Winery.

“As we continue to pursue growth aligned with consumer-led premiumization trends through our higher-end brands of the wine and spirits business, we are excited to add Sea Smoke to our fine wine portfolio,” said Sam Glaetzer, EVP and president of the Wine & Spirits division, in a statement. “Not only does Sea Smoke offer a uniquely acclaimed estate vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, but its highly acclaimed wines also align with our target consumer preferences as they continue to shift to the higher end. We look forward to working with the Sea Smoke team to grow this exceptional winery while upholding its impeccable tradition of quality and customer experience.”

[article-img-container][src=2024-05/ns_seasmoke-fog-050824_1600.jpg] [credit= (Courtesy Constellation)] [alt= A row of vines in fog at Sea Smoke in the Sta. Rita Hills of California.][end: article-img-container]

Davids was new to the wine industry when he founded Sea Smoke in 1998, having made his fortune with a handheld video game company that produced titles such as Draw Poker and Bass Fishing. He planted his first vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills on a south-facing slope that, depending on the time of day, enjoyed beautiful sunlight or Pacific winds and fog. Within a few vintages, his Pinot Noirs were earning top scores and spots in the Wine Spectator Top 100, part of a growing renaissance of Pinot Noir in Santa Barbara County.

Today, the large estate, which was expanded with the purchase of the neighboring Rita’s Crown Vineyard in 2016, is farmed biodynamically. Total annual production is 15,000 cases.

“We are extremely excited to collaborate with Constellation Brands as we begin writing a new chapter in the Sea Smoke story. They have the right team with the right resources and the expertise to help us grow and thrive in a highly competitive market,” said Victor Gallegos, vice president, general manager and director of winemaking at Sea Smoke, in a statement. “It was clear early on that both Constellation Brands and Sea Smoke share an unwavering commitment to excellence, sustainability and strategic growth.” Gallegos, longtime winemaker Don Schroeder and vineyard manager Julian Malone will remain with the company in their current roles.

Stay on top of important wine stories with Wine Spectator’s free Breaking News Alerts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.