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INDUSTRY: Keyways winery has new owners, expansion plans

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INDUSTRY: Keyways winery has new owners, expansion plans

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Keyways Vineyard & Winery is losing its distinction as Temecula Valley’s only woman-owned winery, but its sale this month will position the business for growth over the next few years.

Silverton Partners, a South Pasadena-based investment group, has purchased the 13-acre property for an undisclosed sum with plans to increase production from its current 5,000 to 8,000 cases a year to as many as 20,000 to 30,000, and to expand the current business model, selling direct to customers through the winery or its wine club, to include wholesale distribution, and exporting, particularly to Asia.

Terri Delayer, who has owned Keyways since 2004, said she’ll hand over the keys at the end of the month but plans to stay on indefinitely as a consulting partner. “I really like their vision and their plans,” she said of the new owners.

Efforts to reach Silverton were unsuccessful.

Founded in 1989, Keyways is one of the early Temecula Valley wineries and the second built on De Portola Road, according to Delayer. The winery specializes in Mediterranean varieties and is probably best known for its Ligonier and Rosanne, as well as it is temporarily and Grenache and various blends.

Delhamer, a lawyer, accountant and commercial real estate broker, said she initially bought Keyways as an investment, but when the winemaker to whom she leased the winery left, she took over operations and started learning fast. “It was close the tasting room or learn to run a winery,” she recalled.

The Southern California native said she enjoys the wine business, and the decision to sell was strictly financial. “It’s really hard for an individual to sustain the investment and the cash-flow challenges of a winery,” she said.

Keyways did not begin feeling the effects of the recession until summer 2009, when sales slowed and Keyways’ wine club began losing members, Delhamer said. Still, one bright spot remained: weddings and other events, which have continued to grow despite the economy.

The rest of the business has since stabilized, too, Delhamer said, but at a much lower level than in 2007 or 2008. And she expects it will be another couple of years before the business sees significant increases in traffic and sales.

Most Temecula Valley wineries remain family-owned, but Delhamer said more could change hands as the economic stagnation drags on.

Delhamer had the property up for sale for a couple of years before making the deal with Silverton. Online listings show an asking price of $3.9 million to $4 million.

Delhamer has remained active in the commercial real estate industry during her tenure at the winery and said she will continue that role, too, at Grubb & Ellis’ Ontario office. She’s also on the boards of the Economic Development Corp. of Southwest California and the Temecula Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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