U.S., Japanese Interests Acquire Winery in State

Times Wine Writer

Two Los Angeles residents and a Japanese investor have acquired HMR Ltd., a San Luis Obispo county winery founded in 1972, in a deal valued at about $2.5 million.

Chris Johnson, general manager and wine maker at the property, said the buyers are Take Numano, principal in American Pacific Rim Inc., which bottles sake under the name California Ki-Ippon & Taiho in East Los Angeles; Marcus Mukai of Los Angeles, who Johnson said was a third-generation Japanese-American, and Tadahiko Hozumi of Japan.

Johnson said the buyers will market California wines in Japan and will resurrect the HMR wine brand with a line of traditional varietal wines produced at the winery.


7th Sale to Japanese in 5 Years

The sale includes 65 acres of vines on 1,002 total acres, a winery, several residences, two warehouses and various smaller buildings.

It is the seventh California winery to be acquired by Japanese interests in the past five years. The first was the 1984 deal in which Suntory bought Chateau St. Jean in a deal valued at about $40 million.

Since then, Raymond in the Napa Valley has been bought by Kirin; Markham in the Napa Valley has been acquired by Sanraku; St. Clement in the Napa Valley has been bought by Sapporo; Whitehall Lane in the Napa Valley has been bought by a private investor, Hideaki Ando, and Ridge Vineyards in Cupertino has been bought by Otsuka Pharmaceutical.

HMR was founded by Stanley Hoffman and by 1977 began releasing award-winning wines, notably Pinot Noir. In 1982, Hoffman sold the property to a limited partnership headed by general partner Les Guthrie of Redondo Beach.

In 1985, the partnership filed for protection of the bankruptcy court, and on April 1, 1986, Crocker Bank brought the property out of bankruptcy. Wells Fargo Bank (which had acquired Crocker) continued to operate the ranch for nearly three years, although no wine was made there in 1986, 1987 or 1988.

Meanwhile, all wine inventory was sold.