Gallo buying Courtside Cellars

One of the largest exporters of California wine is continuing to plant its roots in San Luis Obispo County with the purchase of a custom-crush facility in San Miguel for an undisclosed sum.

E. & J. Gallo Winery, a family-owned Modesto-based firm that holds 60 brands of beverages, is in the process of buying the 300,000-square-foot Courtside Cellars with the intent to produce up to 2 million cases a year of its own wine there, the company announced Friday.

Courtside has about 50 employees and as many as 100 during harvest.

Gallo plans on continuing with the operation’s longtime customers and working to retain its employees. It may hire up to 15 additional regular employees and up to 50 more during the harvest.

It’s unclear whether Gallo is considering any additional local purchases.

E. & J. Gallo imports wines from around the world and owns eight wineries and more than 16,000 acres of vineyards in California. It has built or acquired wineries in Napa, Sonoma and Santa Barbara counties and offers brands for table, sparkling and dessert wines, beverage products, and distilled spirits.

The San Miguel purchase, expected to close next week, comes about a year after Gallo bought Edna Valley Vineyard, a winery south of San Luis Obispo.

That purchase included the winery, the brand and 62 acres. Since 1996, the firm has also owned roughly 500 acres of vineyards for several varietals at Sunnybrook Ranch off Highway 46 East near Paso Robles.

E. & J. Gallo has been producing wine as a Courtside Cellars customer for several years before expressing interest to buy it several months ago, said Roger Nabedian, senior vice president and general manager of Gallo’s premium wine division.

The deal includes 34 acres and a winery capable of crushing 60,000 tons of grapes, he added.

Courtside Cellars has two wineries in the county — one established in 1998 in San Luis Obispo’s Edna Valley and the other established in 2001 in San Miguel.

Courtside Cellars officials declined to comment Friday, but Courtside partner Bob Schiebelhut said in a statement that the firm is keeping its San Luis Obispo crush facility to build its Tolosa Winery brand and to continue offering custom services to winemakers.