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V2 Wine Group Hits 300,000 Cases In Less Than Two Years

March 29, 2012

Selling premium wine in a challenging economic environment may be an uphill climb, but California newcomer V2 Wine Group is growing fast. Founded in April 2010 by industry veterans Dan and Katy Leese and entrepreneur Pete Kight, V2 Wine Group has amassed a portfolio of nine wine brands, all in the $12-and-above price range. With that premium focus, the Sonoma, California-based wine production, sales and marketing company has grown from just a few thousand cases to 300,000 cases in less than two years. This year, V2 president Dan Leese predicts that V2 will see volume growth of around 20% to roughly 360,000 cases.

“We saw the opportunity to create a premium-focused wine company, and our goal is to build a strategic portfolio with little overlap regarding varietals and price points,” says Dan Leese, who previously was president of Beringer Blass Wine Estates and managing director of Brown-Forman’s U.S. wine business. (The Leeses also founded 585 Wine Partners, which markets Red Truck and is now owned by Bronco Wine Company.) “Consumers are buying higher-end wines, but people want exceptional value. We need to make sure we deliver on that.”

V2 launched its portfolio with the 2010 acquisition of Steelhead Wines, located in Dry Creek Valley. Featuring a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and red blend all priced at around $15, Steelhead is joined by another V2-owned brand, Lucinda & Millie ($12). A smaller-scale range, Lucinda & Millie is produced with organic grapes from Mendocino County.

The company also has sales and marketing partnerships with several family-owned wineries, including Healdsburg’s Toad Hollow ($12-$25) and Dry Creek Vineyard ($12-$50), Central Coast-based Qupé ($20-$50) and Napa Valley’s Vindicated Wines ($20). Toad Hollow is V2’s largest brand at 105,000 cases, the majority of which comes from its Francine’s Selection Unoaked Chardonnay. Lastly, V2 also handles sales and marketing for three brands—Quivira, La Follette and Torbreck—all owned by V2 partner Kight.

Due to its premium portfolio, V2 has a relatively high on-premise sales percentage (35%) with a few individual brands doing as much as 50% of their sales on-premise. “We’re fortunate that our portfolio skews toward the on-premise, though we certainly have the opportunity to do more retail,” says Dan Leese. Although there are no immediate plans to add to the V2 lineup, the Leeses are interested in exploring opportunities in Washington or Oregon, as well as California’s Russian River Valley region. The company is also hoping to add a Napa Cabernet and some lower-alcohol wine offerings, most likely under one of their company-owned rather than agency brands.

“We feel like we’re at a point where we’ve finished the start-up work of building the company,” says Katy Leese, V2’s general manager. “Now we can really develop these brands and continue to grow.”

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