Bruce Cohn sells Trestle Glen Vineyard
Last summer, Brian Wheeler and his family wanted to get away from their home and “little, little yard” in San Francisco to soak up the stunning views of the Mayacamas Mountains from Trestle Glen Vineyard near the park. Sonoma Valley Regional.
A year and a half later, the Wheelers own this vineyard and its associated wine label, which they purchased from longtime Glen Ellen resident Bruce Cohn, founder of BR Cohn Winery. Cohn kept Trestle Glen after selling his namesake winery to Vintage Wine Estates in 2015.
“I didn’t know it was for sale,” Wheeler said, “but I approached him and said, ‘Hey, Bruce. Listen, if you don’t use AirBnB and you don’t live here, how about doing a long-term lease? »
Cohn, the longtime manager of 1970s rock band the Doobie Brothers, agreed to the deal. But he warned Wheeler that the house was on the market. And if he found a buyer, Wheeler and his family would have to leave.
Wheeler wasn’t worried at first, he said. He figured he bought himself time with a long-term lease, so he could scrape together the money to bid on the property in the years to come.
“That was the original plan,” Wheeler said. “I started seeing people (potential buyers) coming back a second and third time during our stay. And we go, ‘Damn, we’re not going to get it.’
Cohn was making his own plans for the future.
“When I started, there were 35 wineries in Napa and Sonoma, and now there are thousands. And over the years, it’s gotten harder and harder to get your wines distributed in nationwide,” Cohn said. “If you’re lucky enough to be able to sell all your wine, the margins aren’t that great.”
Its history in the Sonoma Valley begins in 1974 with the founding of Volatile Vineyards. A decade later, he founded BR Cohn Winery, which has grown into a national wine brand, selling 85,000 cases a year in 46 states, Cohn said.
But as wineries have been taken over by corporations, large wine groups have taken over private wineries with many retailers, Cohn said. The family vineyards were bought out by corporate bottles. It’s gotten harder every year to get distributors’ attention for “your little cellar,” Cohn said.
“It’s big conglomerates taking over because family wineries are tough,” Cohn said. “They’re all owned by corporations now.”
As Cohn sought to sell his beloved vineyard to a private owner or family, Wheeler arranged with his father to purchase the property. Wheeler’s father, Mike, also stayed at Trestle Glen for the first six-week vacation. Both father and son recognized the rare opportunity before them.
“My dad said, ‘We can’t let somebody else get it,'” Wheeler said. “It’s just too awesome, we have to do it.”
They decided to split the $5 million prize and submitted their offer. Cohn took their offer, making the vineyard deal official on October 15, 2020. The property includes a 3,175 square foot primary residence with 4 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms, as well as a converted 3,400 square foot dairy barn. square feet with 3 bedroom bathrooms and a multi-car garage.
“Rental income for 2018 totaled approximately $120,000 without incorporating the apartment or additional outbuildings,” the marketing materials read. “The vineyard generates approximately $100,000 in gross revenue per year solely from the sale of fruit to BR Cohn Winery.”
But the Wheelers are not winegrowers or winegrowers. They plan to allow Cohn to continue running his wine business.
“We would just lease the land and he would continue to run it, and then we would eventually take over the wine business from him,” Wheeler said. “But he just decided he was ready to retire… I guess we’re doing this a little faster than expected.”
Trestle Glen Vineyard is known for its Cabernet, Merlot and Zinfandel varietals, fueled by its microclimate and an underground hot spring. The first vintage Cohn grew at the Glen Ellen vineyard scored 96 and 97 points, he said.
“I had made three vintages in ’17, ’18 and ’19. And I just decided, you know what? I don’t want to work that hard anymore,” Cohn said. “That’s too much work for a guy turning 75 in a week.”
Wheeler returned to Cohn and offered to buy the vineyard’s wine label, which Cohn agreed “because he should stay with the vineyard”. This sale was finalized this month for an undisclosed amount.
It’s not just the label that stays with this vineyard. So is a family, even if it’s a family under a different name, which is becoming increasingly rare in the Sonoma Valley.
“I really enjoyed hosting winemaker dinners and events at the winery. My four kids all worked there and it was a real family winery,” Cohn said. “It was a good way of life. It wasn’t the best thing economically, but we spent 45 years there.