The Lawrence Family and Heitz Cellar CEO Carlton McCoy, Jr. have acquired Napa Valley's Burgess Cellars, according to a press release from the company.
Lawrence Family head Gaylon Lawrence, Jr. was as of a few years ago a name unknown by Napa Valley’s wine industry. That’s changed as over the last few years Lawrence has purchased a number of luxury Napa properties, including the storied Heitz Cellar in April of 2018 and the historic Haynes Vineyard in Coombsville in October of 2019. Burgess Cellars is now the latest addition to the billionaire’s Napa Valley portfolio.
The property – today a 27-acre vineyard and a winery – was purchased in 1943 by a San Francisco sales executive, who began work there under the name Chateau Souverain. It was there that legendary winemaker Mike Grgich had his first job in Napa Valley. Grgich’s Chardonnay would go on to win first prize at the 1976 Judgment of Paris, a moment considered by some to have introduced California wine to the world. Souverain began planting Cabernet Sauvignon vines – the ones Napa Valley would eventually be known for – in the early 1970s.
Shortly afterward, the property was purchased by Tom Burgess, who founded his eponymous winery as one of the earliest in the modern iteration of Napa Valley in 1972. The winery has been continually owned and operated by the Burgess Family since that time, according to the press release, and remains known for its Cabernet Sauvignon. Burgess Cellars also produces Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Chardonnay, the release states.
“As members of a pioneering Napa Valley family, my brother Jim and I are pleased to now pass on this extraordinary estate that our parents developed to the Lawrence Family and Carlton McCoy, Jr. We look forward to the continued success of Burgess Cellars,” Steven Burgess, son of Tom Burgess, said in the press release.
None of the winery’s existing staff were retained in the sale, including winemaker Kelly Woods, who had been at the winery for the last seven years. The existing workforce at Burgess would hopefully be moving around to different positions in Napa’s wine industry, owner Steven Burgess said in an interview.
Burgess, who will be moving into a career in winery consulting, said he and his brother were “very proud as Burgesses” to have contributed to the luxury reputation of the Napa Valley name. His father was the first person to sell Napa Valley wine to restaurants, retailers and even some distributors, he said.
Newly appointed winemaker Meghan Zobeck, who has previously worked in the vineyards and cellar of Screaming Eagle and as a partner with Inconnu, will replace outgoing Burgess Cellars winemaker Kelly Woods.
“I hope to honor this place and its history through the lens of my different experiences as we work to create something new,” Zobeck said in the release.
Price of sale for the property was not disclosed.
The brothers bought the winery share by share from their father until he passed away in 2017, Burgess said. (“My father — the business version of him — did not give anything away,” he said with a laugh.)
He and his brother have felt fortunate through the process of sale.
“Luck is a combination of preparation and opportunity,” Burgess said. “And I am the luckiest vintner in Napa Valley.”