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Rising Precept Wine Nears Million-Case Mark, Sees Idaho As The Next Washington

June 15, 2012

Seattle-based Precept Wine recently made headlines with its acquisition of Idaho’s largest winery, Ste. Chapelle, from now-defunct Ascentia Wine Estates. The Ste. Chapelle deal has added 150,000 nine-liter cases to the Precept portfolio, which should surpass 900,000 cases by year-end, according to company founder and CEO Andrew Browne.

Precept was already present in Idaho with its Sawtooth brand ($10-$15), but the company has made a bigger bet on the state’s wine potential with Ste. Chapelle. “After spending time on Sawtooth, we became very enthusiastic about Ste. Chapelle’s potential,” says Browne. “We’ve found that Idaho is great for both red and white wines. Our experience there hearkens back to what we saw in Washington. The evolution of winemaking we’ve seen in Washington state is now happening in Idaho.”

Under the Precept umbrella, Browne predicts that Precept can double Ste. Chapelle’s volume to around 300,000 cases, though he didn’t provide a time frame. Ste. Chapelle is best known for its Riesling, Soft Red, Soft White and Huckleberry wines, all priced at around $10 a 750-ml.

Precept’s core business remains Washington wine, alongside a handful of offerings from Idaho, Oregon, Germany and Australia. Founded in 2003, the company last year made the transition from being a marketing- and sales-focused firm to a fully integrated wine producer. Washington’s House Wine is the largest of Precept’s 27 brands, followed closely by Ste. Chapelle and then Washington Hills. Precept distributes some brands regionally in the Northwest and others nationally, focusing primarily on the $20-and-under price range, although its $20-and-above wines are currently the fastest-growing part of its portfolio, says Browne.

Chocolate Shop—a red wine-based product infused with chocolate and priced at $12-$15 a bottle—is among the brands propelling Precept’s growth. Launched in February 2011, Chocolate Shop features Chocolate Red Wine, Crème de Cocoa and Chocolate Strawberry expressions. The brand sold 75,000 cases in its first year on the market and is expected to double to 150,000 cases in 2012.

“We initially thought that the consumers attracted to Chocolate Shop would be people who are new to wine or who don’t typically like wine, but even in fine wine shops, it’s the first of our brands to sell out,” says Browne, adding that a majority of the brand’s fans are female. “It’s a retail-driven brand, so our focus right now is on making retailers aware of it and generating enthusiasm about putting it out there.”


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