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J. Lohr Reaches 1.5 Million Cases And Keeps Climbing

December 11, 2017

J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines continues to carve out steady growth in the premium California wine segment, bolstered by an array of offerings from Paso Robles, Monterey and Napa Valley. With volume now at around 1.53 million cases—up about 3% this year—the company is looking to increase its on-premise profile and premiumize by growing its higher-priced Vineyard Series of wines.

J. Lohr’s Vineyard Series of reserve-level offerings retails at $22 to $60 a 750-ml. As with the core Estates tier, two varietals—Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay—dominate, although Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and a Late Harvest Riesling are also included. At nearly 33,000 cases, the Vineyard Series range has established a solid niche, but the Lohrs have bigger things in mind. “The Vineyard Series is the representation of our small lots and our best parcels,” says J. Lohr brand ambassador Cynthia Lohr. “These days, we’re putting a lot more emphasis on the Vineyard Series tier, alongside the Estates range, which has done consistently well.”

Earlier this year, the company extended further at the high end with J. Lohr Signature Cabernet, an on-premise exclusive priced at $100 a bottle and intended to celebrate the legacy of founder Jerry Lohr. Current CEO Steve Lohr, Jerry’s son, says the new upscale addition is a blend of the company’s best grapes from Paso Robles. While the wine is in short supply, it could provide a halo effect as J. Lohr looks to ramp up its on-premise presence. “Right now we’re about 60%-70% off-premise overall,” says Cynthia. “We’d like to kick that on-premise representation higher moving forward.”

The J. Lohr Estates tier ($14-$17) remains the backbone of the portfolio. Leading the range is the Seven Oaks Cabernet ($17), which is up about 6% this year to 900,000 cases. The wine is currently the number-one selling AVA-labeled Cabernet in the country priced at over $14 a bottle, Lohr notes. At almost 400,000 cases, Riverstone Chardonnay ($14)—among the top Chardonnays in the U.S. over $10 a bottle—is also a major contributor. While red varietals dominate the portfolio, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and other white wines are increasing in importance. In 2015, the company opened a new 100,000-square foot winery in Monterey dedicated to white winemaking with a capacity of 39,000 barrels.

As growth continues, the company plans to stick to its roots. “We want our expansion to come not through acquiring other brands or buying fruit from other estates, but from focusing on building our four existing appellations and being leaders in those areas,” says Steve.—Julia Higgins

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