|Pictured (l-r): Steve Cousins, Sam Bronfman and Ed Sbragia|
“He’s a leader. He’s a mensch. He’s a perfect hire,” said Sam Bronfman II, a co-founder and managing partner of Bacchus Capital Management, a private equity investment firm focused on wineries and wine-related businesses.
Cousins will take over the day-to-day business operations of Sbragia Family Vineyards, including the development and implementation of the winery’s sales, marketing and strategic plans. He has 30 years of wine industry experience with expertise in general management, branding, marketing and sales and a successful track record of accelerating growth at family owned and operated wine companies. Cousins will work closely with the winery's founder, president and winemaster, Ed Sbragia, as well as Sbragia’s son and daughter-in-law: Adam, a winemaker, and Kathy, director of hospitality and administration.
Most recently, Cousins owned and operated Cousins Consulting, which provided strategic and business planning for several California wineries. Previously, he was COO of Freemark Abbey, CEO of WineQuest (Delicato’s brand company—Delicato, Monterra), CEO and president of of RACKE USA (Buena Vista, Robert Stemmerl, Haywood) and VP operations of KIMCO Restaurant Group.
Cousins began his career at Somerset Wine Company. Since 1994, he and his brother, Bruce, have owned and operated the Armida Winery in Healdsburg, California
“When you combine the experience, talent and flair Steve has for working with, supporting and managing growing family wineries, he is the perfect fit," Bronfman said. "He’s experienced. He has worked with family wineries and been successful, and he has experience in the wholesale and direct-to-consumer side of the business."
“What’s most exciting are the opportunities that are here,” Cousins said. “Ed makes gorgeous wines, and I have been a huge fan of them for a long time. It’s all about the wine and the grapes, and I look forward to continuing to develop the brand going forward.”
Cousins said he has started meeting with top level sales and marketing executives for the company’s distribution partner, Treasury Wine Estates, to continue to develop the brand. Plans are to grow the winery’s sales from its current 12,000 cases to 20,000 cases.
"I look forward to working with Steve as I continue to make great wine," said Ed Sbragia, also known for his position as winemaster at Beringer Vineyards in Napa, where he worked for 32 years. "Steve has the right mix of skills and abilities and the deep California wine industry experience to help Sbragia continue its momentum and grow our business to its next level."
He added that bringing on a GM was a goal he has had for some time. “I started this brand when I was working at Beringer. It was a great place, and they were very gracious; and it allowed me to start something of my own. Starting a winery was fulfilling a promise and a dream, since my grandpa came to the Dry Creek Valley in 1904. Having someone to partner with was in the back of my mind, and it allows me to grow into this facility. Steve is a great guy, and I have known him for a long time. Having him come to work with me is perfect," Sbragia said.
"The two most important things are brands and people," Bronfman concluded. "And with the Sbragio Family Vineyards, we have a great brand. And with the Sbragio family and Steve Cousins, we have great people. We have the best of both worlds."
From Bacchus Capital Management:
About Sbragia Family Vineyards
Sbragia Family Vineyards is located in the beautiful Dry Creek Valley. The label was born in 2001, when Ed Sbragia decided to focus on making limited, individual lots of wine from grapes grown in select blocks of his favorite vineyards. Sbragia Family wines are all single-vineyard and are made from Dry Creek, Napa and Sonoma County fruit. Five of the wines, including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot and two Zinfandels, are sourced from estate vineyards that range in size from five to 13 acres and are owned by the Sbragia Family.
The Sbragia family history runs deep in the Dry Creek Valley. Ed’s grandfather came to the Valley from Tuscany in 1904, where he worked in wineries. Ed’s father, Gino, acquired his own vineyards near Healdsburg, growing zinfandel grapes for sale and home winemaking. The Sbragia family purchased the old Lake Sonoma Winery facility at the end of Dry Creek Valley in 2006, and it is where Sbragia Family Vineyards has made a home for their wines. Today, Ed is joined by his son, Adam Sbragia, as winemaker. Additionally, Adam’s wife Kathy handles hospitality; Kevin, Ed’s youngest son, works in the cellar during harvest, and Ed’s wife, Jane, and daughter, Gina, can often be found in the tasting room.
For more information, visit www.sbragia.com.
About Bacchus Capital Management
Bacchus Capital Management is an investment firm co-founded in 2007 by Sam Bronfman II, Peter S. Kaufman and Henry F. Owsley providing strategic capital and making equity investments in United States wineries and wine businesses. Quinton Jay and Rob Rupe are the Managing Directors.
Bronfman and Jay bring extensive wine industry experience through leadership positions at Seagram Chateau and Estate Wines, Diageo Global Wines, Artesa Vineyards and Winery, Etude, Quintessa and Bonny Doon Vineyard. Kaufman and Owsley are leading investment bankers specializing in credit analysis, valuation and restructuring.
Bacchus portfolio companies include: Qupé, a leading Central Coast winery; Pietra Santa, also of the Central Coast; Andretti Winery, a well-known Napa winery founded by Mario Andretti; and Wine by Joe, the 2nd largest wine producer in Oregon. The Company previously had a successful financing with Cameron Hughes Wine, one of America’s fastest growing wine businesses.