News from Williams Selyem

I hope this letter finds you well and healthy. We wish you all our best for a Happy New Year!

After 23 years running Williams Selyem, Kathe and I have decided to look for the perfect steward to eventually succeed us. For all those past years we have cherished and refined the winemaking legacy of Burt Williams and Ed Selyem. What an incredible journey it has been! We are looking ahead to more!

I am pleased to announce to our list members that the Faiveley family, one of the great producers of stellar Burgundies, has purchased an important minority holding in Williams Selyem Winery from the Dyson family. Kathe and I are very pleased with this development and want to share the details with you.

The Faiveley family is in the seventh generation of prominence in Burgundy. Williams Selyem is in its 40th year of prominence in the Russian River in Sonoma County, California. Both of us are recognized as being at the pinnacle of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay producers in the world.

Erwan Faiveley commented: “for over a decade, my family had been looking for a winery in the United States. We have a long friendship history with America, a passion for its wines and people. As Burgundians, we were looking to grow the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the United States. Sonoma County and especially Russian River was obvious for us, and Williams Selyem has always been one of our favorite wineries. We are delighted and proud that John and Kathe gave us their trust.”

For all of us, it is important to emphasize that there is no day-to-day change in winery operations for now or in the immediate future. Kathe and I plan to stay in control of the winery for a minimum of 3 years and will run it in the same style, faithful to the pioneering winemaking of Burt Williams, now in the able hands of Jeff Mangahas. We will continue to produce “the best wine from the best grapes from the best growers.” We will continue to grow our own grapes on our four excellent vineyards in the Russian River Valley.

We will move with care and diligence as over time we look to transfer this essential dedication to exacting standards in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to a highly regarded wine family that will continue with the same long-term vision of making the stellar wines of Williams Selyem. They of course have 200 years of experience in doing that in Burgundy and we look forward to our collaboration in grape growing and wine making in the years to come.

Director of Winemaking Jeff Mangahas and our other essential team members will also be staying on for many years to come assuring, along with me, the continued dedication to the very best quality wines. We will continue our spirit of exacting standards and fanatical attention to detail. The Faiveley’s share our standards and will help improve them.

For years, we have turned aside many offers from various entities that did not share our long-term vision. With the Faiveley family, in particular Erwan Faiveley, the current family head of the Domaine, we believe we have found the right partner with a long-term commitment to the wine business, who shares our vision of making the absolutely best quality wines and knows how to do it. We could not be more pleased with the possibilities of sharing the expertise of Williams Selyem with him and his expertise in Burgundy wines with us, with the eventual possibility of having a smooth ownership transfer to Domaine Faiveley in the future. Erwan Faiveley, who will now sit on the Advisory Board of Williams Selyem, holds a master’s degree in business from Columbia University in addition to his expertise in making some of the finest wines in the world.

Domaine Faiveley has been in the forefront of Burgundy producers since its founding in 1825 by Pierre Faiveley. In the years since, the family has steadily increased their holding in the prime vineyards of the Cote de Nuits, the Cote de Beaune, and the Cote Chalonnaise with a total of 331 acres under their control. These include 30 acres of rare and legendary Grand Crus and 67 acres of Premier Cru vineyards. They are one of the largest holders of prime Burgundy vineyards and one of the few that remain family owned and operated. They will bring the same long-term dedication to Williams Selyem!

Since Kathe and I purchased Williams Selyem in 1998, Williams Selyem has acquired 135 acres of prime vineyards in the Russian River Valley. We spent five years designing and building a marque set of buildings for the future of the winery on Westside Road in Healdsburg. Many list members have had an occasion to visit what we call the “Temple of Pinot” and enjoyed its beauty amongst our vineyards and the hospitality the winery provides. Lastly, our Vista Verde project – our own nursery of top quality and healthy plants based in San Benito – will add another advantage to Williams Selyem’s ability to craft the best Pinots and Chardonnays.

With the Faiveley’s, our two families share many of the same values including an insistence on top quality, a long-term view of vineyards and winemaking, growing grapes in their own vineyards to exacting standards, buying only from the top growers, and maintaining a family atmosphere in their winery. Kathe and I hope you share our excitement with this important development for the future of Williams Selyem. We look forward to seeing you at the winery for years to come!

Faiveley will certainly respect the terroir and be a great partner.

Is this saying or suggesting that the Faiveleys may eventually have a majority or complete ownership of WS although they currently only have a minority share?

This should be a good thing. It reads as though several folks had inquired but the Faiveleys fit the stewardship they were looking for. As for the long term, I would think they would get first rights to add ownership.

, with the eventual possibility of having a smooth ownership transfer to Domaine Faiveley in the future.

Sounds as though its possible based on this sentence above.

I am with you!

Kind of exciting!

A perfect marriage.

From what I gleaned, Dyson purchased WS out of respect and a desire to keep it what it was (or represented) without making a quick buck, and I’m glad to see this continuing. If you had told me WS was purchased by Duckhorn, Gallo, Constellation Brands, etc. and be caught up in some larger conglomerate I’d likely stop buying WS. Maybe this is how some felt when Burt stopped making the wine, but that’s how I would feel about it now.


I agree. In the day and age of selling to large multi-brand global conglomerates, this is a refreshing move.

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Very interesting news. WS is a great property, quintessentially Californian and this marriage with the French could make it even better.

Let’s get to the important stuff–do they still own Millbrook Winery in the Hudson Valley?

From Esther Mobley on SF Chronicle:
“The Dysons own two other wineries — Millbrook in New York’s Hudson Valley and Villa Pillo in Italy’s Tuscany — and there are currently no ownership changes to either of those at the time.”

Why is this important?

lol. Thanks Richard!

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Phew I was worried there for a minute

An update from Esther. Probably behind paywall.

LOL. I remember back in the day having my W-S wines shipped there. I figured it was a win-win; I could get my wine shipped for free and do some tasting while picking it up!

After the first trip, I went with UPS from then on.

Ah… Pick-up weekend! Of course that’s important!

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The phrase “minority stake” doesn’t do justice to the significance of the deal, however. Williams Selyem’s current owner, John Dyson, explained to me on the phone yesterday that this is really the first step in a succession plan. He and his wife Kathe will continue to run the winery for at least three more years, but the idea is to gradually cede control to the Faiveleys, whose seventh-generation family business is now led by Erwan Faiveley.

this is a great succession plan for WS. excited to see where this takes it!

I’ve never been a list member so I like the fact that you can go there and pick up some W-S wines a la carte. I visited more often when I lived in Brewster.