Summerland Wine Brands’ Buellton facility is located at 35 Industrial Way.
Summerland Wine Brands’ Buellton facility is located at 35 Industrial Way. Credit: Laurie Jervis / Noozhawk photo

Summerland Wine Brands, formerly Terravant Wine Co., laid off or furloughed all but about 40 people on May 25, and plans to liquidate its winemaking equipment and sell the Buellton facility, according to a former employee familiar with operations.

A call and message left Friday seeking comment from Summerland Wine Brand’s administrative office was not returned.

Summerland Wine Brands had employed between 51 and 200 people in recent years, according to its LinkedIn page. That same page lists Ryan Nathan as CEO, Matt Valine as senior creative director and Ben Clark as finance and operations leader.

The ex-employee, a member of a sales team let go during a previous round of layoffs in 2021, answered questions via email on the condition of anonymity.

“The production (winemaking) people were furloughed, but everyone will be gone by July 31,” except those still working in Summerland at the winery, according to the ex-employee.

In August 2018, described Terravant Wine Co., founded in 2008, as a custom crush facility for small winemakers, as “Santa Barbara County’s largest winery and most state-of-the-art winemaking and bottling facility” on the Central Coast.

In March 2019, Terravant purchased Summerland Winery, a small wine brand with a tasting room located in the beachside town of the same name.

Just a few months later, in July, Terravant was rebranded as Summerland Wine Brands and infused with $40 million in “re-capitalization funds” from Raven Capital Management, and Raven’s Clark was named finance and operations leader, according to online reports.

Along with other changes to its senior management team and the addition of a Napa office, Summerland Wine Brands focused on “crowd-pleasing” brands such as King Chancho, Insomnia, Flavor Bomb and Summerland Winery, the label purchased earlier that year.

According to its website, the Summerland Wine Brands Partnerships Program “allows celebrities, influencers and other established businesses outside the world of wine to launch high quality wine brands in partnership with the premier producer in Santa Barbara County.”

“SWB offers complete product development and go-to-market platforms to launch and grow new wine brands either through our proprietary DTC platform or via traditional distribution led by our world-class sales and marketing team,” said Mike Jackson, chief sales officer at the time of the rebranding, according to online reports.

“In addition, Summerland Wine Brands is continuing to invest in the success of sales, marketing and winemaking, to recruit the right candidates to fill key positions and to offer unforgettable experiences at our Summerland tasting room in Summerland, California.”

Asked what led to the most recent layoffs and liquidation plans, the former employee described Summerland Wine Brands as “poorly managed.”

“They changed the goal of the company several times. They laid off the entire wholesale sales team while I still worked there,” the employee said. “This caused issues with local restaurants and bars that purchased our wine from Southern Glazer” and others.

While the company was still Terravant, many small-case production winemakers rented space in the company’s expansive cellar rather than lease their own facilities.

After 2019, Raven started to eliminate those agreements, known in the alcohol business as alternating proprietorships, or a winery operating within a winery.

“We closed our warehouse in Santa Maria to save money, and we needed the (Buellton) space to put all the inventory,” the former employee said.

The person noted that Raven Capital Management was purchased earlier this year: “I’m guessing the new owners are looking to cut their losses with Summerland Wine Brands.”

They continued: “Paul Griswold was the first CEO after Raven took over. He created a pretty hostile work environment with the team he brought in — a very verbally abusive environment.” Several complaints were lodged, but nothing changed, the ex-employee said.

MetLife Inc.’s MetLife Investment Management (“MIM”) acquired Raven Capital Management in March, according to

MetLife is one of the world’s leading financial services companies, providing insurance, employee benefits, annuities and asset management services catering to individual and institutional customers.

When Summerland Wine Brands was Terravant Wine Co., it sued to stop the proposed bowling alley project on Industrial Way, near its Buellton facility.

“After 10 years of hurdles, endless red tape and thousands of dollars, the family intending to build a bowling alley in Buellton has scrapped plans and intends to sell the land,” Noozhawk North County Editor Janene Scully reported in November.