A homecoming for Constellation?

Julie Sherwood and Jessica Pierce

Constellation Brands Inc., the biggest winemaker in the world, is considering moving its headquarters a few miles down Route 96, from the Woodcliff Office Park to the High Point development under construction across from Eastview Mall.

Constellation executives approached the Ontario County Industrial Development Agency last month with their plans, Chris Iversen, chairman of the county IDA, said Monday. Iversen said he expects Constellation to submit a formal application soon, which could include asking for benefits such as sales or mortgage tax abatements.

“We think it’s a real coup to have this international company come here,” Iversen said. “They could go anywhere.”

“We are very pleased,” he added. “It’s a great statement to keep them in the area.”

Constellation was founded by the late Marvin Sands, a Canandaigua resident who started the company as Canandaigua Industries in 1945.

Meanwhile, Constellation executives on Monday were mum on the possible move. Mike Martin, vice president of corporate communications, said “it would be premature” to talk about it.

Likewise, High Point developer Fred Rainaldi Sr. declined to comment Monday. He told the Victor Town Board at a recent meeting that he hoped to include a wine center in one of three buildings he’s proposing as part of an extension to High Point surrounding the Valentown historic district. The center would be a good complement, he told the board, to something planned for the office space in High Point.

High Point includes the new Olive Garden restaurant and the Starbucks Coffee cafe in the Bonesteel cobblestone. When it’s complete, it will also be home to office space as well as 72 townhomes and various retailers.

Perinton Town Supervisor James Smith said Constellation officials have not notified the town they might be leaving, but he had heard rumors a couple of months ago that they had been approached by a developer.

“We hate to say they’re not headquartered in Perinton, but they’re not leaving the state,” he said. “They’re still in the region so the jobs aren’t lost. That’s still important.”

Smith said it’s kind of a natural evolution, with companies renting buildings they outgrow and moving to larger facilities.

He doesn’t anticipate it will impact the town much because Constellation doesn’t own the space it would be vacating in Woodcliff, which is owned by HRPT Properties of Newton, Mass. HRPT would still be responsible for paying property taxes.

Constellation currently has more than 200 beverage alcohol brands through its operating divisions and produced about 110 million cases of wine last year. Its 300-plus brands run from jug wines to coveted California reds such as Ravenswood and Estancia, beer imports such as Corona and St. Pauli Girl, and liquors such as Fleischmann’s vodka, Skol gin and Black Velvet Canadian whiskey.

Last week, Constellation announced a deal to add Clos du Bois to its collection of $8 to $11 wines led by Robert Mondavi Private Selection. Company executives said they are paying $885 million for the U.S. wine business of Fortune Brands Inc.

In addition to top-seller Clos du Bois, the buyout would give Constellation the Wild Horse and Geyser Peak brands, five California wineries and more than 1,500 acres of vineyards in the Napa, Sonoma and Los Carneros grape-growing regions of California.

Even with its latest acquisition, Constellation will control less than 5 percent of the highly fragmented global wine market. But its share of the American market will expand 1 percent to around 20 percent.

The beer, wine and spirits producer has been snapping up alcoholic-beverage businesses since the 1980s.

In 2003, it acquired Australian vintner BRL Hardy Ltd. for $1.1 billion in cash and stock in a deal that made it the world’s largest wine business. It jumped further ahead of longtime wine leader E.& J. Gallo Winery of Modesto, Calif., when it bought Robert Mondavi Corp. for $1.3 billion. Last year, it bought Canada’s Vincor International Inc. for nearly $1.1 billion.

This report includes reporting by the Associated Press and Messenger Post reporter Denise Champange.

Julie Sherwood and Jessica Pierce can be reached at (585) 394-0770, or at jsherwood@mpnewspapers.com or jpierce@mpnewspapers.com.