Wente To Hit 700,000 Cases This Year, Eyes Million-Case MilestoneDecember 5, 2013
Celebrating its 130th anniversary this year as a family-owned winery, Wente Vineyards reports sales volume running 17% ahead of 2012. The Livermore, California-based winemaker expects shipments to reach 700,000 cases overall this year, up from about 600,000 cases in 2012 and 500,000 cases in 2011.
Eric Wente, the company’s 62-year-old chairman, told SND that at the current rate of new vineyard plantings, the company should reach the 1-million-case threshold within five years. Wente owns some 2,800 acres spread between Livermore and holdings in Monterey County’s Arroyo Seco district. In the past three years Eric’s son, Karl, the fifth generation of the family in the business as a winemaker, has added 160 acres of new plantings.
All of Wente’s labels are produced from estate fruit except for some wine made under the Entwine brand, introduced two years ago in a partnership with the Food Network. Entwine’s volume—including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay all retailing at about $13—is currently at just under 200,000 cases annually.
The company’s budget line, Hayes Ranch ($8-$10), has actually seen its sales dialed back this year from a previous annual output of 50,000 cases to a projected 36,000 cases, Wente said. Meanwhile, growth is occurring in the Morning Fog Chardonnay ($12) and the Riva Ranch Chardonnay ($16) labels, both of which are now at more than 50,000 cases annually.
The company has no plans to expand its artisanal brand range, offered under the Small Lot ($20-$40) and Nth Degree ($40-$60) labels. The Nth Degree, in particular, is highly allocated and reserved mostly for wine club members and a proscribed group of on- and off-premise accounts in key markets. Production for each of the cuvées ranges between 300-500 cases a year, depending on the harvest.
Sales have been rising for two blends under the Murrieta’s Well banner—white wine The Whip ($22) and red wine The Spur ($30). Each were labeled Meritage wines until two years ago. The Whip is a blend of seven white grapes, led by Chardonnay, while The Spur is composed of five red grapes, led by Petite Sirah.
“We have no plans for new brands at this point—we’ve tweaked some packaging and made some incremental changes here and there,” Wente said, noting that the winery and its adjacent golf course hosted 300,000 visitors last year.
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