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Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Portfolio Sees Its Innovation Efforts Pay Off

August 23, 2017

Washington state’s top wine player, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates has posted impressive growth over the past few years, led by its flagship Chateau Ste. Michelle franchise, which sells more than 3.4 million cases annually. The group’s top brands also include 14 Hands and Columbia Crest, with volumes of approximately 2 million cases and 1.2 million cases, respectively. But while those labels account for most of Ste. Michelle’s sales, the company has also been active on the innovation front, with several recent launches enjoying fast starts.

Introduced nationwide in April of last year, Intrinsic is an upscale Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from Washington’s Columbia Valley and notable for its extended maceration process. The single-SKU offering—whose 2014 vintage ranked 32nd among Wine Spectator’s Top 100 for 2016—has a label designed by Brooklyn artist Zimer and retails at around $22 a 750-ml. Intrinsic sold 57,000 cases in its debut year, according to Impact Databank.

Also growing is California-sourced Motto, which launched in mid-2015. Retailing at around $15, Motto has a lineup that includes its Backbone Cabernet Sauvignon, Unabashed Zinfandel and Gung Ho red blend labels. After reaching 47,000 cases in 2015, the brand was up 16% last year to 54,000 cases. Ste. Michelle’s California lineup also includes Stag’s Leap, Hawk Crest and Patz & Hall, among other estates.

Meanwhile, Ste. Michelle is moving higher up the ladder with its Tenet series, created in partnership with Rhône winemakers Michel Gassier and Philippe Cambie. Launched in 2015, the range includes a pair of offerings from Washington’s Columbia Valley—Tenet GSM (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre) and The Pundit Syrah—and an entry from the Rhône Valley’s Costières de Nîmes, Le Fervent Syrah. Le Fervent and The Pundit retail at $21.99 and $24.99, respectively, while Tenet retails at $70. The series sold more than 20,000 cases last year.

Also showing promise is Drumheller, an on-premise-only range that rolled out nationally early last year. Positioned at $8-$9 a glass, Drumheller offers a Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from Columbia Valley. The brand surpassed 30,000 cases in its first year on the market. Like Drumheller, 14 Hands also started as an on-premise exclusive, before catching fire and expanding into the retail channel.—Christina Jelski

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