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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on July 11th, 2012, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 18 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 18

Turning oil into wine

Greka Energy's owner tries his hand at winemaking with the purchase of Addamo vineyard

By JEREMY THOMAS

There’s a new player in the Santa Barbara County winemaking game—and please, hold the jokes about spillage.

Randeep Grewal, the billionaire owner and CEO of Greka Energy, is trying his hand at a different kind of liquid gold, having bought the 104-acre Addamo Estate Vineyards in Orcutt for an undisclosed amount.


New digs:
Greka Energy owner and CEO Randeep Grewal bought the former Addamo Estate Vineyards in Orcutt earlier this year, more than two years after the Addamo family declared bankruptcy on the property.
PHOTO COURTESY OF LAURIE PIPAN/CA’ DEL GREVINO

The resulting company Ca’ del GreVino (shortened to GreVino, which is a play on “Grewal” and the Italian word for wine) officially took over the estate’s operations on June 1. According to company president Dai Vaughan, Grewal, who lives in Hong Kong, is entering uncharted territory with his latest foray.

“This is his first venture in wine as far as I know,” Vaughan said with a pronounced Welsh accent. “Of course his wife’s Italian, so we have to assume there’s wine flowing in her blood.”

Grewal’s other company Greka—now called HVI Cat Canyon—has had a rocky relationship with locals over the years. It’s still paying the county a
$2 million settlement for oil spills in 2007 and 2008, and is currently being sued by the U.S. Department of Justice and state environmental agencies for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act.

Laurie Pipan, spokeswoman for both Greka/HVI and GreVino, stressed that the two companies are entirely separate businesses, with David Addamo being retained as the estate’s general manager.

“Moving forward, we’re still going to be making really great wine,” David said. “I just want to get the word out there that the wine and the quality of wine we’ve been known to make for the last eight years … we’re going to continue with that program.”

Coming from a Sicilian family with a long history of winemaking, David and his wife Liz founded the Addamo Estate Vineyards in 2000, producing popular and critically acclaimed Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, and Grenache for more than a decade. After an unsuccessful foray into real estate, the Addamos filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on the vineyard in January 2010, listing assets of more than $12 million and liabilities of close to $18 million. A reorganization plan in 2011 included a buyout offer from Grewal, and the sale was finalized on April 3 of this year.

“It wasn’t easy to get the plan through and not easy to find somebody to come up with $12 million cash,” David said. “In this economy, it’s pretty difficult to accomplish. … We made an agreement, and [Grewal] followed through with the agreement.”

For months, GreVino managed to keep the sale low-key, with the only clue of their involvement evident with the company name listed in an e-mail address on the vineyard’s website.

According to Pipan, the sale included all of the vineyard’s crops, inventory and equipment, as well as the estate home and event center on the property. Details are still being worked out, but Pipan said Liz will continue operating the family tasting room in Old Town Orcutt.

The Addamo label is still active, though under the GreVino umbrella.

“Everything is moving forward now on the wine business end of it,” David said. “We’ll be doing multiple wines, I guess we should say. She’ll have her hands full with quite a bit of wine.”

Pipan added that GreVino also intends to build on land behind the estate home and expand the vineyard, as the Addamos had envisioned.

 “There were plans to build a winery and a restaurant there, and Randeep is planning to go forward with that,” she said.

Workers at GreVino have been hard at work remodeling and painting the facilities. A gardener was hired to perform upkeep of the grounds. Plus, they’re still making wine, with David sharing duties with winemaker Justin Mund on creating their next vintages.

“They have plans to continue to develop award-winning wines like they have in the past—Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Dolcetto, Grenache, Syrah—which are best fitted to the estate,” Pipan said. “It’s all in its birthing stage.”

According to company president Vaughan, while things are still a bit up in the air, GreVino plans on initially offering at least three different labels. The company’s reserve wine will be known as Ca’ del GreVino—meaning “House of GreVino” or “great wine” in Italian. They’ll also produce a mid-priced wine under the GreVino label, and a lower-end wine called Element. A blend is also being discussed.

Vaughan, who has no previous experience in the wine industry, is hoping to release the first of the GreVino wines by September. But first the company will have to finish work on copywriting and labeling, as well as go through several levels of government regulations to get the vineyard fully up and running again.

“We have no permits as yet, and we really can’t sell wine at this point, so it’s a matter of getting all the contracts lined up and fixing up all the things that were run down as part of the bankruptcy,” Vaughan said.

While GreVino still has legal hoops to jump through as a winemaker, the company is already holding weddings and other catered events, like an upcoming fundraiser for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), on the vineyard grounds. According to Pipan, who is also serving as GreVino’s event coordinator, the calendar is filling up quickly.

Contact Staff Writer Jeremy Thomas at jthomas@santamariasun.com.




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