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Jackson Family’s Oregon Deal Aimed At Boosting La Crema, Wine Spectator Reports

March 14, 2013

A move by Jackson Family Wines to purchase three vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley is aimed at expanding its Pinot Noir range under the La Crema label, according to a report by Wine Spectator.

The acquisition appears to be part of a strategy to diversify La Crema’s popular lineup of California Pinot Noirs, ranging in price from $23 to $90. Willamette Valley winemaker Joe Dobbes confirmed that he had been contracted to produce Oregon Pinot Noir from the 2012 vintage for La Crema, but declined to provide details.

According to a source close to the negotiations, two of the properties in the deal are Zena Middle and Zena East, which together constitute 164-acre parcels of Zena Crown vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills. Zena Crown supplies fruit to wineries such as Penner-Ash Wine Cellars and is considered a highly promising site for Pinot Noir. In April 2008, the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) sold the parcels to Connecticut-based institutional investment firm Commonfund for $8.75 million.

The third property, according to this source, is Maple Grove Vineyard, a 655-acre former Christmas-tree farm southwest of Monmouth, Oregon, also acquired by Commonfund from CalPERS in April 2008, for a price of $4.6 million. Sources say that 50 acres of the property have been trellised but not planted with vines, with an additional 300 acres suitable for planting.

As Wine Spectator reported last fall, Jackson Family Wines reports annual revenues of $500 million. La Crema is the company’s second highest-grossing business, producing nearly 900,000 cases annually—that’s more wine than Oregon’s top six producers combined.

Some industry-watchers are wondering whether Jackson Family Wines will buy up the remaining CalPERS Oregon properties, which include more than 460 acres of producing vineyards and substantial additional acreage of undeveloped land. “It would be a big validation for Oregon Pinot Noir,” said Charles Humble, director of communications for the Oregon Wine Board.

 

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