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Interview, Part 2: Hess Family’s John Grant & Nicole Carter

March 25, 2016

In the second part of our interview with Hess Family Wine Estates, the company’s chief operating officer John Grant and chief marketing officer Nicole Carter discuss new developments on the Colomé and Artezin brands, as well as the vision for the future of Hess.

SND: In addition to the Hess brand, you’re also active in Argentina, through Bodega Colomé. What’s new on that front?

Grant: The Argentina category is doing extremely well at the $15-plus segment, and that’s where we’re focusing. Colomé is about to enjoy a rejuvenation with the launch of Altura Maxima Malbec, which has been 12 years in the making. Altura Maxima is one of our four estate vineyards in Salta. At over 10,000 feet, it’s the highest vineyard in the world. This first release is only about 165 cases, and it will remain small—probably a 500-case wine going forward.

Carter: We’re also launching a second wine with Altura Maxima called Autentico, a Malbec from the Colomé estate vineyard’s oldest plantings, including some vines that are 90 to 150 years old. From those we’ve created an unoaked Malbec like those of yesteryear. We’re launching it on-premise only, where it’s designed to be $14 by the glass. So like Hess, we’re taking Colomé upstream. Argentina is a big bet for us.

SND: What are your plans in the Zinfandel category with Artezin?

Grant: We’re repositioning Artezin as an old vine, sustainably-grown, multigenerationally-farmed Zinfandel. It will be repackaged with an apothecary-style label, releasing in September, and we’ll look to tie it in with the farm-to-table movement. We’re targeting the so-called “fresh format” that started with Whole Foods and keeps expanding. There’s very good Zinfandel growth in the $15 and above category.

SND: Would you consider expanding the Hess portfolio through acquisition if the right opportunity presents?

Grant: When I came onboard, (president and CEO) Tim Persson’s mission for me was to make what we have stronger. We’re about midway through that process. 18 months in, we’ve made good progress. However, Tim is a mergers and acquisitions lawyer. He is seriously beginning to consider what the future shape of the business will look like. But the family wants the current portfolio to be strong before we augment it. What’s exciting about Hess is we’re a medium-sized organization that was absent family leadership for about 15 years. Honestly, we went into caretaker mode. We now have a young, smart, fifth-generation family member at the helm, and he has long-term intentions of being in the wine business. That bodes well for the future of Hess.

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