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Wente Vineyards’ Entwine, A Partner Brand With Food Network, Jumps To 150,000 Cases In Half-Year

February 6, 2012

Livermore, California-based Wente Vineyards, known for its super-premium namesake brand and a colorful history more than 125 years in the making, has enjoyed a fast start with a new line of California varietals under the Entwine label, a partnership with the Food Network.

Rolled out last August, Entwine includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay offerings priced at around $13 a bottle. The brand sold 152,000 cases in just five months on the market in 2011, according to Wente Vineyards CEO Carolyn Wente. “I expect it to be above half a million cases within two years,” she says.

Entwine was developed by Wente senior vice president and winemaker Karl Wente, in collaboration with the Food Network’s culinary team. The brand has gotten a boost from exposure on Food Network programming, including as an ingredient on an episode of The Next Iron Chef.

The Food Network tie-in has made supermarket chains especially fertile ground for Entwine. “It’s doing very well in the Southeast at Publix and Kroger, and we’re also making some inroads with Safeway,” Wente says. “In the Northeast there are fewer markets that allow supermarket sales, but we’re adding accounts there as well,” she adds, noting a recent placement with nine-store tri-state-area retailer Stew Leonard’s.

While Entwine jumped out to a quick start, Wente Vineyards’ existing portfolio also had a strong 2011. Company-wide, shipments were up 57% to more than 500,000 cases. The Wente Vineyards brand—whose production numbers 325,000 cases and includes the Vineyard Selection ($14), Heritage Block ($20-$25), Small Lot ($20-$40) and The Nth Degree ($40-$60) ranges—saw sales rise by 18% last year. Known for estate-grown Chardonnay from the Livermore Valley and Arroyo Seco in Monterey, the Wente Vineyards brand has stepped up its presence in red varietals in recent years, particularly Cabernet, Merlot and Pinot Noir, with reds now accounting for half of production.

Other labels in the Wente portfolio include Tamás Estates and Murrieta’s Well. Tamás ($10-$15), whose production is 50,000 cases, specializes in Zinfandel, Pinot Grigio and a red blend called Double Decker, with all grapes sourced from the Livermore Valley, San Francisco Bay and Arroyo Seco appellations. Murrieta’s Well ($20-$25) is focused on estate blends from the Livermore Valley. It’s a smaller brand at around 10,000 cases, and sells over 80% of its volume on-premise. Another brand, Hayes Ranch ($8-$10), has production of 50,000 cases centered on Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Central Coast.

Across the entire portfolio, Wente derives around 60% of sales on-premise and 40% off-premise. “In 2008 and 2009 we saw the on-premise business drop off some,” Wente acknowledges, “but it began coming back in 2010, and in 2011 we had a great year in that area, up 16%. Talking with restaurateurs and hoteliers around the country, one thing that’s helping is the return of corporate entertaining and conventions, which has really been missing the last three years.”


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