Cultivating a Partnership in Wine Country

Chappellet

On the steep slopes of Napa Valley’s renowned Pritchard Hill, the Chappellet family has been producing world-class wines from the fruit they have cultivated here for more than 50 years. Founded by Donn and Molly Chappellet in 1967, the esteemed winery helped establish Pritchard Hill as one of California’s most revered winegrowing sites.

Chappellet Vineyards

The second and third generation of the Chappellet family are continuing to build on its successes. But Cyril Chappellet, the eldest child of Donn and Molly, said he didn’t always know he would stay on board. He left for a career in corporate planning and acquisition after college to hone his business skills, and it wasn’t until after coming back to help his father with some marketing and sales that he realized there was nothing else he’d rather do than run the family business. Now the CEO, Cyril says a big part of what he does with his family and staff is drive Chappellet to the next level to make it available to future generations.

“Everything you see around you here, all of our vineyards, the winery — it’s all part of what we were raised for on a daily basis.”

Cyril believes good relationships with bankers is critical in the wine business due to the fact it is very capital intensive. Of American AgCredit he says, “I found that they really understood the challenges of being a farming operation. And it wasn’t just about loaning money, it was about finding out how to be most successful. You really feel like it is a partnership and that is unique.”

BJ Bertacco, vice president of lending, has had the pleasure of working with Cyril and his family since 2015. “They just love what they do each and every day and that carries through in every aspect of their business,” he says.

Benefits of Leasing

Finding unique financing options has been important. Chappellet takes advantage of American AgCredit’s leasing program to help improve efficiency, increase cash flow and lower tax liabilities. As Cyril says, “Leasing doesn’t make it cheaper but it does stretch it out over a much longer period of time, and it can be remarkably beneficial.” The winery leases barrels and solar panels. Leasing wine barrels, which are leased for three to four years, makes it possible to pay for the barrels while using them. Chappellet has also expanded their existing solar structure by adding more solar panels.

“We are able to stretch it out over a much longer period of time, and it’s a way of being able to not tie up all of our cash up front.” Cyril likes to say putting in solar is the right thing to do, but he adds that the real reason is that economically, it just works.

“If you build a solar program and panels to the level where you have enough that you can cover 100 percent of your energy cost, there will be a period of time that you will literally be getting free energy,” he says. And that, he adds, is pretty spectacular as the price of energy has continued to rise.

A LIFE IN AGRICULTURE — CHAPPELLET

“My daily quest for Chappellet is that our products are so loved and endeared by the people who drink our wines that regardless of the ups and downs in the economy, regardless of the challenges that happen for people, that they’re still drinking our wines and really loving them,” he says. “That will help the next generation to have a better business and that is what is important to me long term.” There is nothing easy about this task, he says. Though he makes it his mission every day.

Chappellet Winery, Napa, California

Chappellet Winery, Napa, California

Chappellet Winery, Napa, California

Chappellet Winery, Napa, California

Chappellet Winery, Napa, California

Cyril Chappellet and BJ Bertacco

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