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Want to Buy a Winery? Zaca Mesa For Sale for $32 Million

Longtime owners list iconic 750-acre operation that was first to plant syrah grapes in Santa Ynez Valley

The 750-acre Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyards is located at 6905 Foxen Canyon Road in the Santa Ynez Valley. The vineyards include syrah, grenache, roussanne, mourvedre and viognier varietals. Click to view larger
The 750-acre Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyards is located at 6905 Foxen Canyon Road in the Santa Ynez Valley. The vineyards include syrah, grenache, roussanne, mourvedre and viognier varietals. (Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyards photo)

The brothers who have owned Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyards for three decades are putting the 750-acre Santa Ynez Valley property on the market for $32 million.

Zaca Mesa, at 6905 Foxen Canyon Road, holds one of the oldest winery permits in Santa Barbara County, and was the first Santa Ynez Valley vineyard to plant syrah, according to a news release from Toby Baird of San Franciso-based Fineman PR, which is handling the news of the sale.

Paul Pease, Zaca Mesa’s general manager, was quick to emphasize Sunday afternoon that majority owner John Cushman is seeking a buyer who “wants to build the brand, not bury it.”

“This is not a fire sale,” he told Noozhawk.

Zaca Mesa has 17 full-time employees, Pease said, adding that he and Cushman are proud of the staff.

He said Cushman visits the facility as often as possible, “as he loves the land, and wants any buyer to respect it as much as he does.”

Cushman “has been very transparent” with his employees, notifying them first as soon as he made the decision to sell, Pease said.

“Our staff will be able to check out any prospective buyer” as much as that person or person “checks out us,” he said.

Among the staff members are longtime vineyard manager Ruben Camacho, who started in 1977; Eric Mosheni, winemaker since 2008 and a member of the winemaking team since 2001; and assistant winemaker Kristin Bryden.

“I love these people; they are awesome,” Pease said. “There’s so much value in our talent, and it’s (John) Cushman’s goal to protect the employees.”

In the yearly 1990s, Zaca Mesa’s vineyard team determined that Rhône varietals were best suited to the property. In addition to syrah, other estate varietals planted on the ranch include grenache, roussanne, mourvedre and viognier. The property’s flagship vineyard block, Black Bear Syrah, sells out every year and retails for more than $65 per bottle, Baird wrote.

Cushman and a group of friends bought the ranch in 1972, but he and his twin brother, Lou, have been the sole owners of the property for 25 years, Baird noted.

The first vineyards were planted in 1973, and the pioneering winery was built in 1978. That same year, the first syrah planted in Santa Barbara County was planted at Zaca Mesa by its initial winemaker, Ken Brown.

Over the years, many of the region’s pioneering winemakers got their feet wet at “Zaca U.,” as it’s fondly known. Among them are Brown, Clay Brock​, Chuck CarlsonJim ClendenenDaniel GehrsBob Lindquist, Benjamin Silver and Adam Tolmach.

The ranch includes a nearly 24,000-square-foot barn-style winery production facility and tasting room, and approximately 150 acres of estate vineyards.

While Zaca Mesa’s current annual case production is 40,000, Katie Somple of WineryX, the listing broker, noted that both the winery and vineyards are scalable for larger production.

“The winery’s permit allows for up to 100,000 cases to be produced,” Somple said, “and the vineyard is expandable by more than 100 acres, with ample water on the property to support additional vines.”

Pease told Noozhawk that the property has four wells — two agricultural and two domestic — as well as two reservoirs.

Cushman, who resides in Idaho, recently divested his remaining interest in Cushman & Wakefield, the commercial real estate firm founded by his grandfather and where he had previously served as chairman. The company merged with DTZ in September.

Cushman is chairing the company’s 100th-year commemoration, and is an active board member of Callaway Golf, Boy Scouts of America, National Park Foundation, Urban Land Institute, Colgate University and Claremont Graduate University.

Lou Cushman is vice chairman of Cushman & Wakefield, and lives in Houston.

John Cushman owns 80 percent of Zaca Mesa and his brother owns the remaining 20 percent, Pease said.

Noozhawk contributing writer Laurie Jervis blogs about wine at www.centralcoastwinepress.com, tweets at @lauriejervis and can be reached via [email protected].

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