First Growth Brands Inc.
Last year, longtime entrepreneur Edward Holl brought the international headquarters of First Growth Brands (FGB), a private holding company, a privately held producer of premium European wines to Tiburon. FGB is a brand builder, European wine producer and importer and is majority owned by Holl & Company of Tiburon, California.
FGB’s lead brand Faire la Fête is one of the fastest growing French sparkling wines in the U.S. market. Faire la Fête is the “original champagne,” from the Limoux region in France that invented sparkling wine 100 years before it was made in Champagne, France.
Faire la Fête is produced in partnership with eighth generation family farmers in Limoux. The winery is certified by Vignerons en Dévelopment Durable, the only wine-industry based sustainability certification in the world.
FGB’s Liesl Pinot Noir of Pfalz, Germany is also growing at triple digits and is made by Alex Cose, a Sonoma County resident and the world-famous former winemaker of Mark West Pinot Noir.
Edward is Chairman and CEO of FGB, with its office in the upstairs of the Boardwalk Shopping Center. With over 30 years of executive experience in corporate finance, private equity, investment banking and venture capital, he oversees the company’s operations and strategies.
A native of Bavaria, Edward came to the U.S. in 1978 with a scholarship to Occidental College – he was there at the same time as Barack Obama. Fluent in German, French and English, he has a B.A. degree from Occidental, a C.E.P. from the Institute D’Etudes Politiques de Paris in France and an MBA from the Anderson Graduate School of Management at U.C.L.A.
In 1982, he met his future wife who is from Lorraine, France, when both worked at Air New Zealand. Ten years later, he moved to Marin. He and Hélène married in 1989 and now have four grown children. Taking a cue from Warren Buffett, he still drives his first car, a ’71 VW Beetle.
Edward says his firm’s strategy rests on four simple pillars:
• Quality. That means putting $30-$40 quality in $15-$20 bottles – the price segment attracting the largest number of premium wine consumers.
• Price. Faire La Fete is often ranked higher by Master Sommeliers that Moet or Veuve Cliquot but sells for under $20/bottle versus $50 dollars at retail.
• Authenticity. Hand harvested and made by FGB’s winemaker. Both Faire La Fete champagne and Liesl Pinot Noir come from their original vineyards that are over 500 years old.
• Inclusivity. FGB’ wines are for everyone and can be consumed any day. Great champagne and Pinot Noir does not have to be at elite prices.
“The U.S. wine market is the global leader in annual volume and sales,” he says. “Consumer demand has grown for 23 consecutive years, and it has doubled in the last 20 years. To meet this demand, suppliers have turned to imported wine because domestic production can’t keep up.” Experts at U.C. Davis are predicting that by 2030, imported wines will be 50% of the US Market.
Another big selling point for FGB’s Faire La Fête champagne is the low sugar content. At six grams per liter, Faire la Fête has 30-59% less sugar then the competition.
“We held a store tasting at Whole Foods in La Jolla recently where we promoted the low sugar level along with our quality,” he says. “After listening and tasting, one lady returned her Moet to the shelf and walked out with four bottles of Faire La Fête – and we sold out the store in under 2 hours! There is nothing like selling a product people love.”
FGB’s Liesl Pinot Noir can be found at Nugget in Tiburon and Faire La Fête will likely be in the same store before the year ends. But it’s already in many restaurants in San Francisco, including the Grand Hyatt, the Virgin Hotel, the Parc 55 and in all Raley’s stores. Safeway will likely come online in early 2020. In Southern California, both Faire La Fête and Liesl wines are found at Vons, Albertson’s and Vons Pavilions in most major locations.