Quinton Jay, recently named managing director at Sam Bronfman's oenologically focused mezzanine and private equity firm, Bacchus Capital Management LLC, has already taken the wine country tour.
Jay, 40, was general manager for two wineries, Napa's Artesa Vineyards & Winery and Bonny Doon Vineyard of Santa Cruz. He has also consulted boutiques such as Etude Wines and larger outfits including Foster's Group Ltd.'s Beringer Blass Wine Estates Ltd.
"He's run two wineries, so he's seen all of the issues on the production side, the marketing side, the administrative side," says Bronfman. "Consulting both large and small wineries gives him perspective that, with his enormous energy, will be a huge asset to us."
Bronfman is part of the family that controlled the former Seagram Co. Ltd., and the older brother of music mogul Edgar Bronfman Jr. He joined with Peter Kaufman and Henry Owsley of the restructuring firm Gordian Group LLC to form Bacchus Capital in late 2007.
Bacchus announced its first deal in October 2008, providing $3 million in mezzanine capital to Cameron Hughes Wine of San Francisco. Bacchus aims to make eight to 10 mezzanine debt or controlling equity investments, ranging from $3 million to $15 million. Jay will help scout opportunities and advise portfolio companies.
Jay, a graduate of Northwestern University's Kellogg Graduate School of Management and California State University, Long Beach, worked in corporate finance at Bank of America Corp. before joining Coca-Cola Co.'s brand management and strategic planning effort. In 1999, when, Jay says, "everyone was going into dot-coms," he entered the wine business, joining Randall Grahm's Bonny Doon Vineyard -- a switch that seemed somewhat improbable. Grahm is an irreverent winemaker and marketer who has adorned labels with work by gonzo illustrator Ralph Steadman and lampooned industry titan Jess Jackson in his newsletter, while Coke is, well, Coke. But both companies share an appreciation of marketing and branding. "Randall was looking for a general manager," Jay says. "He liked the brand-management background,"
In 2001, Jay founded Bacchus Consulting Group (not to be confused with Bronfman's Bacchus Capital), advising clients including Etude, Beringer Blass, Quintessa Estate and Geyser Peak Winery LLC. In 2005, he became general manager of Artesa, which Spain's Grupo Codorníu owns. He also makes Cabernet Sauvignon for himself and restores vintage cars.
While the recession has hit winemaking, Bronfman says the days of "the higher the price, the faster the growth" will eventually return. Meanwhile, he believes Bacchus can offer more to higher-end producers with attractive brands than to discounters.
"It doesn't take a lot of skill to say, 'Have you thought about lowering your price?' " Bronfman says.