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Thursday, Jan. 06, 2011

Banfi buys Pacific Rim Winemakers

Pacific Rim Winemakers, one of the largest Riesling producers in the United States, is under new ownership.

The winery, started by winemaker Randall Grahm of Santa Cruz, Calif., in the early 1990s and relocated to Washington in 2006, now is owned by the Mariani family of New York, which owns Banfi Vintners.

Banfi is a major wine importer that began operation in 1919 and now is run by the third generation of Marianis. The family also owns the famed Castello Banfi vineyard and winery in Montalcino, Italy.

Cristina Mariani-May, co-CEO of Banfi, told WineBusiness.com on Wednesday that she intends to keep Pacific Rim's team in place.

"Pacific Rim has already created its own proud legacy and following," she told WineBusiness.com. "Just as Randall Grahm kept it independent of his Bonny Doon Vineyard, we plan to separately manage this winery and to build on the excellent resources in place."

No sale price was stated.

Pacific Rim is behind Red Mountain, where Keene Road and Van Giesen Street intersect.

The winery went up in 2006 after the Den Hoed family leased land from the Port of Kennewick and built the building.

The Den Hoeds, major wine grape growers in the Yakima Valley and Horse Heaven Hills, still own the building and lease it to Pacific Rim. The Den Hoeds also provide a large percentage of the grapes for Pacific Rim, including biodynamically farmed riesling at The Benches Vineyard overlooking the Columbia River south of the Wallula Gap, and Selenium Vineyard in the Yakima Valley.

Brothers Bill and Andy Den Hoed also have launched their own small winery, called Den Hoed Wine Estates, with a focus on reds. They also built a winemaking and barrel-storage facility at the Pacific Rim location and leased to Ascentia Wine Estates of California, which owns Covey Run and Columbia wineries in Washington and Ste. Chapelle in Idaho.

Pacific Rim is best known for its Riesling, which makes up the vast majority of its 160,000 cases of annual production. At this time, Pacific Rim makes 10 different bottlings of Riesling, using grapes from Washington. Through 2007, the company brought in some Riesling from Germany and a bit from Oregon.

It is Washington's third-largest Riesling producer, behind Chateau Ste. Michelle and Hogue Cellars.

Pacific Rim began in 1992 as a dry Riesling by Bonny Doon Vineyards. When Grahm sold his popular Cardinal Zin and Big House brands in 2006, he also decided to relocate Pacific Rim to Washington, where most of the Riesling is grown.

The winery also makes a small amount of Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, a raspberry dessert wine and two blends.

French-born and -trained Nicolas Quille is Pacific Rim's general manager and head winemaker. He moved to the United States in 1997 and worked at Hogue Cellars before joining Bonny Doon.