Gallo lays off most of the workers in the Clos du Bois estate
The Clos du Bois cellar laid off most of its workers and closed the wine-making operations at the Geyserville plant.
Those responsible for the operation, which was acquired by E. & J. Gallo along with about 30 other Constellation wine and spirits brands for $ 1.7 billion in January, held a meeting at 10 a.m. on Thursday and told the employees that they were immediately terminated.
“They told us at the meeting that sales have gone from $ 4.5 million to $ 1.8 million,” said Kevin McDonald, senior laboratory technician at Clos du Bois until Thursday. “And that’s because, from my perspective, Constellation stopped investing in the vineyards they were selling.”
The winery employed around 37 workers, McDonald said, and all but five lost their jobs. All the winemakers were made redundant, he said. Others who have lost their jobs include lab staff, the legal compliance team, the barrel team and almost all of the cellar workers, he said.
“I know a foreman, a manager, and a couple of other people who are going to stay in the facility, as babysitters, basically,” said McDonald, who lives in Santa Rosa.
Lon Gallagher, director of commerce, media and community relations for E. & J. Gallo Winery, noted “the evolution of market dynamics over the past two years” in a statement sent Friday.
“We transfer most of our production from the Clos du Bois winery to our other Sonoma County wineries,” Gallagher wrote. “We will maintain some operations at Clos du Bois in the future, but the current workforce is not necessary for future production.
The winery is located in the county’s Alexander Valley appellation. It was co-founded in 1974 by Frank Woods and former Air Force Secretary Tom Reed in 1974, his first commercial wines being a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
The name of the winery, French for an enclosed vineyard in the woods, was a play on Woods’ name.
The couple quickly made Clos du Bois a high-end label before selling it in the late 1980s.
According to the winery’s website, Woods was “a true pioneer in the California wine industry. He worked hard to bring Sonoma County wine to the world stage, while specifically researching Chardonnay varietal wines.
With wines often valued at between $ 8 and $ 15, the winery changed hands several times as the industry consolidated and changed its assets. Constellation bought the brand in 2007 in an $ 887 million transaction that included several more.
Back when Constellation Brands was selling a number of its cellars, the future of the Clos du Bois label was bleaker than others, analysts said. Its heritage as Sonoma County’s first Bordeaux-style red blend and as an upscale local brand during the 1980s has faded over the years and the price of wine was as low as $ 7 a bottle. when Gallo bought it.
On Saturday afternoon the cellar door was closed and the place looked deserted. An employee at the cellar tasting room across the street, Trentadue, said the Clos du Bois tasting room has been closed since the start of the pandemic.
Perhaps due to the smell of smoke caused by the recent forest fires that affected the county vineyards with which the winery contracted, no grapes had been delivered to the Clos du Bois facility since. awhile, McDonald said.
“We didn’t have wine in the cellar because they didn’t give us grapes,” he said.
Until Thursday, he said employees were cross-trained at other sites and other wines were brought in for staff to blend, bottle and label. McDonald said he felt good that during the pandemic he was working in agriculture, which was seen as a vital industry.
The company can use the Clos du Bois facility for storage, he said.
Gallagher of Gallo said in the email that the company is helping laid-off employees find other jobs “both within Gallo and externally.” To assist these employees, we will provide one-on-one support as well as a number of employment services. “
Gallagher did not respond to follow-up questions via email and voicemail on Friday night or Saturday.
Gallo offered employees severance pay, giving them credit for time worked while employed by Constellation, McDonald said.
“It was nice of them,” he says. “They allow us to apply for certain internal positions.”
McDonald said he received 16 weeks of severance pay. He had been employed at Clos du Bois for eight to nine years.
He has already revised his CV and is looking for positions on winejobs.com.
“It gives a bit of fear,” McDonald said. “Now is not the perfect time not to have a job.”
Wine editor Peg Melnik and photographer Kent Porter contributed to this report. You can contact Kathleen Coates, Editor-in-Chief, at [email protected]