“Our property was unique, and we are pleased with the way the entire team at Metis handled representing us. There were many moving pieces in a complex closing and the team at Metis worked hard to pull it all together. Each step of the way they were communicative with us and the buyer, always keeping us informed and staying on top of each detail in a timely manner. We appreciated Metis’ deep knowledge of the niche wine and hospitality industry, as well as the integrity they showed working with us.”
-Steve and Jo Marie Hansen of Basel Cellars Estate
Owners Steve and Jo Marie Hansen have been partners in Basel Cellars and Resort since 2004 and sole owners since 2011. They helped transform a luxurious private residence into one of the most iconic winery resorts in eastern Washington. The resort is perched atop a prominent hill in Walla Walla’s “Southside” winery district and features over 14,000 sf of unique hospitality accommodations that hosts thousands of guests annually as the ideal wine country hospitality venue to many weddings, corporate retreats, and groups visiting Washington wine country looking for luxurious accommodations and experiences. The 83 Acre Estate is bordered on the north by the Walla Walla River and the south by Yellowhawk Creek and has sweeping views of the Blue Mountains. Beyond the resort’s hospitality accommodations, the estate also includes a 27 acre vineyard, a full scale winery capable of 20k case annual production, verdant pasture, and extensive guest room expansion opportunities.
After 17 years of developing and caring for one of Walla Walla’s most iconic destinations, the Hansens were ready to retire and turn over the reigns to a new owner.
The sheer scale of the property and the substantial investment in the built environment required a buyer who not only appreciated the quality, but also possessed the skill necessary to execute a broader vision for the property that would make full use of the grandeur of the Estate. The unique combination of a substantial hospitality operation that includes a vineyard and winery made the property a complex operational challenge for a future owner. While there are individual robust markets for resort operations, wineries, and vineyards, there are far fewer investors interested in and capable of managing all three.
Adding additional complexity was the client’s need for absolute confidentiality during the entirety of the sale process to ensure continuity to the ongoing event and hospitality pipeline, staff stability, and to preserve the strength of the overall Basel Cellars Estate brand.
Leveraging METIS’ industry connections and deep understanding of the hospitality industry, and a specific knowledge of those who also understand winery operations, a diverse list of prospective buyers was assembled including hospitality operators, financial institutions, real estate investors, wine industry strategics, and high-net-worth individuals. Prospective buyers were approached and vetted discretely, with interest coming from a wide variety of buyer types.
Simultaneous to the marketing process, METIS advised the client through an entitlement process which would significantly enhance the economic and development potential of the property allowing for a substantial expansion of the guest room count on the property, an important consideration for hospitality investors looking to unlock the potential of the 83-acre Estate.
METIS worked with each of the interested parties to help them evaluate this investment opportunity. This involved a thorough analysis of Basel’s financial performance and future revenue opportunities. METIS also brought its extensive hospitality and wine operational experience to the process, helping prospective buyers understand the potential operational efficiencies and the additional business and development potential of the property.
One of these parties METIS discretely approached was the management and ownership group affiliated with Fire & Vine Hospitality (El Gaucho Hospitality, Walla Walla Steak Company, Crossbuck Brewing, Aqua, Aerlume). METIS initially proposed this group as the operating partner, alongside a separate financial investor that METIS would bring to the table. However, this management group was so impressed with resorts potential, they committed to directly acquiring the brand, property, and assets.
Basel Cellars Estate was sold in its entirety to this new investor group led by business owners Dan Thiessen, Paul MacKay, and Philip Christofides. They rebranded the property to YellowHawk Resort and Sparkling Winery and the resort is now included in the growing portfolio of Revelers Club, a collection of restaurants and resorts that includes El Gaucho, Aqua, and Walla Walla Steak Company with locations in Walla Walla and Woodinville, WA. Their exceptional collective background in hospitality and food and beverage development will make them excellent stewards of the resort and the legacy of Steve and Jo Marie.
Employees of Basel Cellars have all been maintained and operations continue uninterrupted while the team finalizes plans for further development and expansion.