FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
night_harvest_10_5_12

Workers harvest chardonnay grapes during the early, pre-dawn hours at a Ledgewood Creek vineyard in 2012. The Modesto wine giant E. & J. Gallo has purchased the Suisun Valley winery. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic file)

Solano County

Gallo buys Ledgewood Creek Winery

By From page A1 | April 26, 2014

SUISUN VALLEY — Wine giant E&J Gallo has purchased Ledgewood Creek Winery in Suisun Valley.

Gallo bills itself as the largest family owned winery in the world. It has its headquarters in Modesto.

Ledgewood Creek Winery General Manager Rick Wehman confirmed the sale by the Frisbie family on Friday. He said the tasting room is closed, at least for now.

Wehman couldn’t say if the Ledgewood Creek name will remain or if the tasting room will reopen.

“It’s up to Gallo to decide,” Wehman said.

E&J Gallo representatives couldn’t be reached Friday for comment.

Roger King of the Suisun Valley Vintners & Growers Association said the Gallo deal is a vineyard deal. He doesn’t expect Gallo to operate a winery on the property, adding that would go against its usual practice.

“They’re buying vineyard land with guaranteed water,” King said. “The reality is Solano County is on a closed-loop system with (Lake) Berryessa.”

Lake Berryessa reservoir in Napa County has proven to be a reliable water source, even amid droughts such as the current three-year drought in California.

This is another step in the county’s wine economy being built up, King said. By “wine economy,” he refers not only to wineries, but vineyards, cork distributors, glass distributors and various wine-related companies.

“The negative is you lose a local brand people had become loyal to and had an affinity to,” King said. “I’m sure there will be a lot of people who say, ‘That’s my favorite winery, I’m devastated I can’t go there anymore.’ ”

Dean and Florence “Bunny” Frisbie founded Ledgewood Creek Winery at 4589 Abernathy Road in the heart of the valley. They bought a pear orchard in 1985, planted grapes on the 400 acres, released the first Ledgewood Creek wine in 2001 and opened a tasting room in 2003.

Florence Frisbie died March 27.

Suisun Valley over the past three decades or so has built its reputation as a wine region. It’s scattering of wineries until recently had all been family owned and on the smaller side.

Last year, the Wagner Family of Wine announced it would build Suisun Valley’s largest winery on Cordelia Road. The Wagner family owns Caymus Vineyards in Napa County.

Now comes the Gallo purchase. Both Wagner and Gallo are family owned operations on a larger scale than Suisun Valley had previously seen.

King called this attention a maturing for Suisun Valley. The Suisun Valley Vintners & Growers Association has elevated the Suisun Valley brand over the past decade within the industry, he said.

Gallo has bought Suisun Valley grapes for 20 or 30 years, King said.

“They’re no stranger to this valley as a grape buyer,” King said. “Now they’re going to be a grape grower.”

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.
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Discussion | 5 comments

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  • V. SmithApril 26, 2014 - 9:01 am

    What a shame on two counts - the loss of a family-owned business in the beautiful Suisun Valley AND the replacement of it by a maker of notoriously poor-quality wine. Very disheartening to hear this news.

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  • Mr. PracticalApril 26, 2014 - 10:28 am

    Actually, Gallo does have a few premium wine brands. I think it's a bit bittersweet. While we do lose a one of our local wine brands, we gain credibility as a region. There will be benefits to having Gallo and Caymus represented in Suisun Valley.

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  • Rick WoodApril 26, 2014 - 3:55 pm

    I agree it's probably a net plus, though not all positive. Ledgewood Creek has a well designed visitor area and tasting room, and I'll miss its Suisun Valley-labeled wines and the ambience of the place. But let's see what happens. Maybe Gallo will want a Suisun Valley presence like Wagner.

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  • SarahApril 28, 2014 - 9:03 am

    It's sad to see a locally owned family business go away. It was a great place and great people. What happens about wine club memberships? Nobody has notified us that this is happening.

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  • MarilynJune 30, 2014 - 12:26 pm

    I had reservations for one of their dinners and my husband ended up in the hospital. I called and was told I could come out and use what I spent on the dinners to purchase wine. They sold the winery before I got there and am wondering if Gallo will honor that offer but can't get anyone to answer the phones. Does anyone know how to get in touch with them?

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