GESD leads $234m winery acquisition

Ascentia Wine Estates, in which GESD Capital Partners in a principal investor, has acquired eight vineyards alongside wine importer WJ Deutch & Sons and CalPERS-backed Golden State Investment Fund.

Middle-market private equity investor GESD Capital Partners has become a principal investor in newly formed Ascentia Wine Estates, which has acquired $234 million (€151.6 million) of wineries.

Ascencia has acquired a portfolio of eight wineries in California and the Pacific Northwest from publicly-listed alcohol producer and marketer Constellation Brands. The vineyards represent an annual production capacity of more than one million cases. Ascencia, headed by former chief operating officer of Allied Domecq Wines Jim DeBonis, also acquired 646 acres of vineyard land in the transaction.

The wineries included in the portfolio are: Geyser Peak Winery, Atlas Peak, Buena Vista Carneros, Gary Farrell Winery, XYZin, Columbia Winery, Covey Run and Ste. Chapelle.

GESD's co-investors include wine importer WJ Deutch & Sons and the Golden State Investment Fund. The Golden State Investment Fund, managed by private equity asset management firm Hamilton Lane, manages $500 million earmarked for California-focussed investments. As part of the California Public Employees Retirement System's California Initiative, the fund aims to produce superior returns while also generating benefits for the state of California.

San Francisco-based GESD primarily invests in the consumer, restaurant, business services and entertainment industries. The firm has more than $250 million in capital under management and is currently investing its second institutional fund.

The firm's current portfolio includes food products companies Milton's Fine Foods and Innobake Brands, restaurant chain parent company Forklift Brands and amusement park Austin's Entertainment.

Law firm Morrison & Foerster's wine practice represented GESD in the transaction.