Havens winery being liquidated

Firm that bought respected winery in '06 goes belly up
2009-09-25T00:00:00Z Havens winery being liquidatedBy MIKE TRELEVEN
Register Staff Writer
Napa Valley Register
September 25, 2009 12:00 am  • 

Havens Wine Cellars, a small winery well-known in Napa Valley for its merlot, cabernet franc and syrah, is being liquidated, its assets sold off to the highest bidder.

Havens owner Billington Imports Inc. is no longer in business. PNC Bank of Philadelphia has placed a lien on the assets of the importer and has exercised its right for Los Angeles-based auction specialists Great American Group to liquidate one of the former firm’s most valuable assets, Havens Wine Cellars.

Michael Havens, who with his wife, Kathryn, founded Havens Wine Cellars in 1984, said there is “disappointment” in watching the brand evaporate.

A phone call to Billington Wines for comment was not returned.

In 2006, Havens sold his winery and inventory to the Springfield, Va., importer for an undisclosed sum. The seven acres of vineyards south of Yountville were leased back to Billington through a REIT, or real estate investment trust. The winery and parking area takes up another three acres.

Joseph Rivkin, of Great American Group, said, “Absolutely all the winery’s inventory must be sold.” The winery’s inventory is valued at $7 million. On the sale block will be the winery’s cases, bulk and barrels of wine, along with its intellectual property ranging from trademarks and permits to contracts and licenses.

Great American Group has liquidated some marquee national retailers recently, including Mervyns, Circuit City, Linens and Things and Tower Records.

Rivkin estimated it will take 60 days to liquidate everything. Allen Balik, senior vice president of the Wine Advisory Group, a division of the liquidator, is assisting with the day-to-day disposition.

Havens said he is helping to find buyers for the winegrapes and is making some of those grapes into wine when no buyer could be found.

Havens said he stayed on with the winery for one and one-half years after the sale, but then opted to leave.

What upsets the former winery owner most is the way he said Billington treated the team of employees Havens had put together. This year, he said,  “They were told crush was going ahead … and growers were hung out to dry on Sept. 3, in this an already difficult year. And the employees are out of a job at the worst possible moment.”

Since selling his winery, Havens has remained active in the Napa Valley wine industry. “I am doing some consulting for a couple of start-ups and one large corporate group.”

Havens and friend Morgan Twain-Peterson have teamed up and started the wine brand Abrente, according to Havens. “We are fermenting Galician whites as we speak.”

Havens said he has no plans to take over the winery. “But I have been contacted by several people about a possible partnership … there are discussions going.”

Havens prefers to look back at the better part of the winery’s legacy. “The brand has had a good life,” he said. “We had a good run at it. There were some good times. Now there are opportunities for other things.”

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