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May 19, 2009
R.H. Phillips Winery to close

One of the Sacramento area's largest winemaking operations will soon cease production. R.H. Phillips Winery, the Esparto-based facility responsible for producing Toasted Head wines, will close Sept. 1.

But its wines aren't entirely going away. Production of Toasted Head and R.H. Phillips wines will continue at Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi, located near Lodi.

R.H. Phillips Winery is being shut down by its parent company, Constellation Brands, Inc.. The Victor, N.Y.-based company, which also owns the Robert Mondavi Corporation, is the world's largest wine company with annual sales of 95 million cases of wine.

R.H. Phillips Winery's 1,700 acres of vineyards, located in the Dunnigan Hills area of Yolo County, will remain under the ownership of Constellation Brands.

"(The closure) is part of an ongoing strategic initiative for efficiency," said Nora Feeley, a Constellation spokeswoman Nora Feeley. "We could produce the wines and keep the grapes, but produce them with no damage (to quality) to the wine at Woodbridge."

R.H. Phillips Winery was founded in 1983 by the husband-wife team of John and Lane Giguiere, along with John's brother Karl Giguiere. R.H. Phillips Winery went public in 1995 and the company was sold in 2000 to Vincor International Inc., Canada's largest wine company. Constellation Brands acquired Vincor in 2006.

R.H. Phillips is best known for its line of Toasted Head chardonnay, which is priced in the $10 range and sells more than half a million cases annually. R.H. Phillips' other wine brands, including Night Harvest, sell some 250,000 cases each year.

R.H. Phillips Winery currently employs 53 workers. It's not known if any employees will transfer to the winemaking operations at Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi.

Meanwhile, Barry Bergman, head winemaker and general manager for Toasted Head, has meanwhile accepted a position with Domaine Chandon in Napa Valley.

Harvest operations at R.H. Phillips Winery are suspended as the transition to closure takes place.

"It's incredibly sad, not only for the employees but the local community," said Lane Giguiere. "It was nice having the largest wine company in the world here. It was a crown in our cap for Yolo County."

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