Bruce Cohn sells Trestle Glen Vineyard
Last summer, Brian Wheeler and his family wanted to get away from their home and âlittle, little backyardâ in San Francisco to immerse themselves in the breathtaking view of the Mayacamas Mountains from Trestle Glen Vineyard, close Sonoma Valley Regional Park.
A year and a half later, the Wheelers own this vineyard and associated wine label, which they purchased from Bruce Cohn, a longtime resident of Glen Ellen, founder of BR Cohn Winery. Cohn retained Trestle Glen after selling his namesake vineyard to Vintage Wine Estates in 2015.
âI didn’t know he was for sale,â Wheeler said, âBut I approached him and said,â Hey, Bruce. Listen, if you don’t use AirBnB and you don’t live here, what would you think of 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 had bought himself some time with a long-term lease, so he could muster the money to bid on the property for years to come.
âIt was the original plan,â Wheeler said. âI started seeing people (potential buyers) coming back a second and third time while we were there. And we’re like, ‘Shit, we’re not going to understand.’ “
Cohn was making his own plans for the future.
âWhen I started there were 35 wineries in Napa and Sonoma, and now there are thousands. And over the years, it has become more and more difficult to get your wines distributed nationally, âCohn said. âIf you’re lucky enough to be able to sell all of your wine, the margins aren’t that big. “
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 companies, large wine groups have taken over private wineries with many retailers, Cohn said. The family vineyards were bought out by company bottles. It was getting harder and harder every year to get the attention of distributors for âyour little cellar,â Cohn said.
âThese are big conglomerates taking over because family-run wineries are tough,â Cohn said. âThey are 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 dad, Mike, also stayed at Trestle Glen for the first six weeks of vacation. Both father and son recognized the rare opportunity before them.
âMy dad said, ‘We can’t let somebody else get it,’â Wheeler said. âIt’s so awesome, we have to do it. “
They decided to split the $ 5 million prize and grabbed their offer. Cohn chose their offer, formalizing the vineyard deal 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 with 3 en-suite bedrooms and a multi-car garage.
“Rental income for 2018 was around $ 120,000 without incorporating the apartment or additional outbuildings,” the indicated marketing material. “The vineyard generates approximately $ 100,000 in gross income per year from the sale of fruit to BR Cohn Winery alone.”
But the Wheelers are not winemakers or winemakers. They plan to allow Cohn to continue running his wine business.
âWe would just lease the land and he would continue to operate it, and then we would eventually take over the wine business from him,â Wheeler said. “But then he just decided he was ready to retireâ¦ I guess we’re doing it a little faster than we expected.”
Trestle Glen Vineyard is known for its Cabernet, Merlot and Zinfandel varietals, fueled by its microclimate and a hot spring located below the ground. The first vintage Cohn produced at the Glen Ellen vineyard scored 96 and 97 points, he said.
âI 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, âCohn said. “It’s too much work for a guy who turns 75 in one 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 is not just the label that remains with this vineyard. A family too, even if it has a different name, which is becoming increasingly rare in the Sonoma Valley.
âI really enjoyed hosting winegrower dinners and events at the winery. My four kids all worked there, and it was a real family winery, âCohn said. âIt was a good way of life. It wasn’t economically the best thing, but we spent 45 years there.