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Flora Springs Winery sold to prominent couple within French wine, hospitality industries

Flora Springs Winery sold to prominent couple within French wine, hospitality industries

From the Napa Valley Wine Insider Digest: Jan. 24, 2020 series
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Flora Springs, a fixture of the Napa Valley winery scene, has been sold to Chateau Smith-Haute-Lafitte owners Daniel and Florence Cathiard for an undisclosed amount, a spokesperson for Flora Springs confirmed.

The winery itself dates to the pre-Prohibition era; the property was first established as a winery in 1885, when James and William Rennie, immigrants from Scotland, planted 60 acres of grapevines and built a stone cellar on the St. Helena property. Flora Springs as it exists today was founded in 1978 by John and Carrie Komes and Pat and Julie Komes Garvey.

John and Julie, the children of Jerry and Flora Komes, helped put the winery on the map, naming it for their mother, Flora, who bought the property with their father Jerry in 1977. The Komes and Garvey families worked to release the winery’s first vintage in 1978, which resulted in 200 cases of wine made with home winemaking equipment, according to the winery’s website. In 1980, the 1979 Flora Springs Chardonnay won gold at the Los Angeles County Fair, the winery’s website says.

Flora Springs celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2017.

The sale is part of the Komes and Garvey families’ estate planning efforts, John Komes told Wine Spectator.

“My sister Julie and I grew Flora Springs from the ground up, but the wine business has changed since we began,” John Komes told Wine Spectator. He said sales like Flora Springs’s were “an inevitable” part of life, citing the large extended Komes-Garvey family.

The sale included the Komes ranch, 58 acres of vines, the winery and office buildings, tasting room and a home on the property, according to Mora Cronin, spokesperson for Flora Springs. The family will retain the Flora Springs brand and continue to make the winery’s flagship labels, Trilogy and Soliloquy.

The family will maintain their ownership of various vineyard properties dotted through the Napa Valley in appellations that include Oakville, Rutherford and Carneros.

“Almost all of their vineyard sourcing remains in place for those two wines, which is really important to (the Komes and Garvey families),” Cronin said. She added that Sean Garvey, son of Julie Komes Garvey and Pat Garvey, as well as Nat Komes, son of John and Carrie Komes, will continue their work at the winery even as it’s passed into the hands of the Cathiards.

“The family has had several offers over the years, and it was really important to them that they pass it into another family-owned entity rather than a corporation,” Cronin said, of the choice to sell to the couple. “They wanted to know that the property would be in good hands. The families are hoping (the new owners) will take care of the property the way that they did.”

The Cathiards weren’t always in the business of wine; before purchasing the Bordeaux-based Chateau Smith-Haute-Lafitte in 1990, each were members of the French Olympic ski team. As it stands today, the two own four other Bordeaux wineries and have made significant forays into the hospitality industry in the form of luxury hotels, spas and ski resorts.

The Flora Springs property is their first purchase made outside of France, though Florence Cathiard said in a 2015 interview with Meiningers Wine Business International that the couple had been “blown away” by retail in the United States.

“In fact,” she told the publication in the interview, “we almost bought a wine estate in Napa. It would have been quite different, but we would have adapted to it. And we certainly admired the estates we saw there.”

Now that sentiment is a reality. The couple’s goal is to begin releasing wines within the next few years, Wine Spectator reported, noting that Ben Morken, an American-born enologist who trained with Smith-Haut-Lafitte in Bordeaux, will be the winemaker.

The Komes and Garvey families will retain 200 acres of vineyards, including those used to make Flora Springs’ most popular wines, Trilogy and Soliloquy, according to Wine Spectator. John Komes told the publication he would continue to work with his son, Nat, on their label John Nathaniel Wines.

Cronin said that John Komes had recently finished work on the winery being used to produce the label, which sits “right behind his house”. Komes, she said, was excited to be able to focus on the label, which he created with his son, Nat.

“This is a way for the second generation (of the Komes Garvey families) to pass the winery and the brand onto the third generation,” Cronin added.

You can reach Sarah Klearman at (707) 256-2213 or sklearman@napanews.com.

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Wine Industry Reporter

Wine industry reporter at the Napa Valley Register.

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