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Oregon Wine On The Rise, Driven By Super-Premium End

August 28, 2017

Long overshadowed by California and Washington, the Oregon wine category is rapidly gaining prominence, with global shipments now at 3.2 million cases annually, according to the Oregon Wine Board. Oregon wine rose 17% in dollar sales in the U.S. for the year ended July 15, according to Nielsen, far outpacing the overall U.S. wine market (+2.8%). Much of the category’s recent progress has come from its super-premium tier, with Oregon wines priced at $20-$25 a bottle rising 60.3% in IRI channels for the year-to-date ended July 16.

One of the state’s fastest-growing brands is A to Z, produced by Newberg, Oregon-based A to Z Wineworks. The brand, whose lineup comprises Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, Rosé and a sparkling wine ($15-$20 a 750-ml.), earned Impact “Hot Brand” honors this year after rising 15% to more than 250,000 cases in the U.S. in 2016.

Also making gains are Ste. Michelle Wine Estates’ Erath ($14-$95), up 15% last year to nearly 230,000 cases, and Willamette Valley Vineyards’ eponymous brand ($14-$65), which grew 17% to 141,000 cases. Likewise, Copper Cane Wines & Provisions’ Elouan ($20-$45)—offering a Pinot Noir, Rogue Valley Reserve Pinot Noir and Rosé—surged to 50,000 cases in 2016 from 10,000 cases a year earlier.

“Pinot Noir is just getting to the point where Cab was in the ’80s,” says Copper Cane owner Joe Wagner. “Oregon Pinot Noir is a traditional style, and the American palate is starting to understand acidity and balance. There’s a big customer base out there that’s excited about the Old World crashing into the New World.” Pinot Noir accounts for roughly 67% of total vineyard production in Oregon, according to the Oregon Wine Board.

Investment in the state has been heating up. Last year, Jackson Family Wines acquired Penner-Ash Wine Cellars and WillaKenzie Estate, adding to an existing Oregon stable that features Zena Crown Vineyard, Gran Moraine and several Willamette Valley labels from its California-based La Crema and Siduri wineries.

Also ramping up its Oregon presence is Kobrand Wine & Spirits, which began rolling out the first offerings from its Résonance Vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton district early last year. The Résonance lineup ($45-$65) currently includes a Résonance Vineyard Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, Découverte Vineyard Pinot Noir and Hyland Vineyard Chardonnay.

Meanwhile, earlier this summer, Banfi Vintners proprietors the Mariani family purchased Willamette Valley-based Firesteed Winery, as well as 30 acres of surrounding vineyards, for an undisclosed sum. The Marianis will make the site the new home of their Rainstorm brand ($14-$17), which was up 25% to 20,000 cases last year. —Christina Jelski

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