North Bay Business Journal

Pioneering Sonoma County unoaked chardonnay brand Toad Hollow sold to Central Coast portfolio

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WarRoom Cellars President Andrew Nelson, left, and Toad Hollow Vineyards proprietor Francine “Frankie” Williams pose in front of the brand’s vineyard at 4024 Westside Road in Russian River Valley in this undated photo. (Courtesy: WarRoom Cellars)

Toad Hollow Vineyards’ unoaked chardonnay is the Sonoma County brand’s best-known wine. (Courtesy: Toad Hollow Vineyards / Facebook)

Sonoma County’s Toad Hollow Vineyards, a 29-year-old brand that pioneered chardonnay wine made without aging in oak barrels, is now in the hands of a growing Central Coast wine portfolio.

Francine “Frankie” Williams sold the brand to WarRoom Cellars for an undisclosed sum, the Santa Marguerita-based company announced Thursday. The purchase price for the deal, closed Monday, wasn’t disclosed.

“WarRoom has a strong track record of success and I’m confident they will provide renewed energy for the future and a contagious passion for Toad Hollow,” Williams said in the news release. “Toad Hollow will thrive in the years to come. I look forward to it!”

Williams has been operating Toad Hollow since her husband, Todd, died in 2007. The brand has been produced from its inception in 1994 by what’s now called Rodney Strong Wine Estates. WarRoom said it plans to continue that relationship, as well as existing grape purchase contracts, which are anchored in Mendocino County vineyards.

WarRoom President Andrew Nelson told the Business Journal it intends to ramp production back to 100,000 cases annually, where it was before 2007, from the 45,000 cases a year produced now.

“We’re looking to restore it to its glory,” Nelson said.

Todd Williams teamed up with the late Rodney Strong after the 1989 sale of his namesake winery to the Klein family to start Toad Hollow. It is named after the nickname — “Toad” — Williams’ younger comedian brother, Robin, gave him.

Self-described “masters of guerilla winefare,” WarRoom aims to acquire legacy — or “heritage — wine brands then take them to a new level. Its first acquisition was in 2018 of Lapis Luna, which makes a North Coast pinot noir, chardonnay and zinfandel wines largely from Mendocino County. That was followed by Central Coast-focused Bonny Doon in 2019.

Today, WarRoom’s portfolio totals about 200,000 cases annually. That includes its brands — Bonny Doon, Lapis Luna and Toad Hollow — and brands it helps produce in partnership with Total Beverage Solution. The latter are Big Red Monster from Paso Robles, Skyfall from Washington state and imports Eppa Sangria from Spain and Ruta 22 from Argentina.

Total Beverage Solution will be the sales agent for Toad Hollow.

Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction and real estate. Reach him at or 707-521-4256.