A small upper Napa Valley winery estate is the latest sale of a Wine Country property to a multinational company.
Seven Stones Winery, on 45 acres on the east valley slopes above Meadowood Napa Valley resort just outside St. Helena, was sold Nov. 16 by the founding family to a San Francisco-based HSIH NHH INV LLC for $34 million, according to public records and an announcement Monday from the deal brokers.
Ronald Wornick, whose company pioneered Meals Ready to Eat, better known as MREs, for the military, and his wife, Anita, started the wine venture in 1995, releasing the first wine in 2005. The property has 3 acres of certified organic vines, 15,000-square-foot-plus winery and a 6,600-square-foot main residence with a pool guest house.
The winery, located at 860 Meadowood Lane, produces 500 cases a year.
Ronald Wornick died last year, according to the winery website and public records.
2nd North Coast wine deal from a Korean company of 2022?
The identity of the buyer wasn’t disclosed. Damian Archbold of Compass, who handled the real estate side of the transaction with Steven Mavromihalis, said only that the buyer was “a multinational corporation with a significant U.S. presence. The acquisition will form part of a newly established entity for their wine business.”
Public records suggest the buyer is linked to one of the largest South Korean conglomerates, 70-year-old Hanwha Group. One of the divisions for the Seoul-based company, which had $60 billion in 2021 revenues and $199 billion in assets, is a major player in the solar industry, and another has substantial investments in international luxury hospitality businesses.
The company diversified into the hospitality industry by acquisition in 1985 and into solar in via U.S. purchases in 2007. Hanwha is now the fifth largest photovoltaic module maker in the world, with giant plants in China and the U.S., where it’s known as Hanwha Q Cells.
If Hanwha was the winery buyer, that would make this the second significant purchase of North Coast wine property by a South Korean conglomerate so far this year. In February, retail company Shinsegae purchased 36,000-case-a-year Shafer Vineyards winery in Napa Valley for an eye-popping $250 million.
The buyer of Seven Stones was a Delaware company with a principal address in the same San Francisco office suite as Hanwha Solutions USA Holdings Corporation, according to California Secretary of State and San Francisco records.
Multiple, unrelated company registrations at the same address are not unusual, as use of corporation service companies is common.
However, HSIH NHH INV’s California registration contact is Sophia Jin. Her LinkedIn profile lists her as working for Hanwha since 2001, and early this year she was promoted to senior vice president and head of investment in San Francisco for Hanwha Solutions USA.
Jin and Hanwha didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Industry sources familiar with recent North Coast wine business investments from Asia said having a high-end yet small Napa Valley brand and asset would make a lot of sense for an international hospitality company, even if the brand itself wasn’t a significant revenue driver for the owner.
In addition to Mavromihalis and Archbold of Compass, the Wornick family’s legal representative was Raymond F. Triana, of Manatt Phelps & Phillips, and the buyer’s attorney was Michael Maher of Coblentz, Patch Duffy & Bass.
“We assembled a great team, and in a very short time provided our buyers with a comprehensive package that allowed them to move forward with confidence, providing a turn-key solution to operate a winery and luxury estate with a world class winemaker and individual management teams to run the vineyard, wine club, and property compound,” Archbold said in the announcement.
Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction and real estate. Before coming to the Business Journal in 1999, he wrote for Bay City News Service in San Francisco. Reach him at email@example.com or 707-521-4256.