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Exclusive: Trinchero Expands Into Washington Wine With Rising Charles & Charles Brand

January 9, 2013

Trinchero Family Estates is entering the Washington wine business with an agreement to handle sales, marketing and distribution for the Charles & Charles brand, a collaboration between industry veterans Charles Bieler and Charles Smith. Charles & Charles, which sells for around $12 a 750-ml., includes a Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah red blend and a rosé of Syrah. The 2011 vintage of the rosé scored 90 points and was number 42 on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2012. Bieler and Smith produced 75,000 cases of Charles & Charles for the 2012 vintage, and Trinchero says the brand is growing 25% faster than Washington table wines overall, which are currently up 5.3% in Nielsen channels.

Trinchero president and COO Bob Torkelson tells Shanken News Daily that the move to add Charles & Charles was based on his company’s existing relationship with Bieler—who, as part of the “Three Thieves,” produces Trinchero’s Bandit, The Show and Newman’s Own wine brands—and a desire to get in on the burgeoning Washington category. “Washington wines are on fire,” Torkelson says. “Sales of Washington table wines are outpacing total table wine by 53%,” according to Nielsen.

“(Charles & Charles’s) production is still relatively small,” Torkelson notes, “but when Trinchero purchased Ménage à Trois in 2004, it was selling approximately 20,000 cases a year. In 2009, it earned the Market Watch “Wine Brand of the Year” award, and now it’s over 2.5 million cases. So with a brand with the quality and reputation of Charles & Charles, I think we’re going to accomplish great things together.”

Charles & Charles co-founder Charles Smith—whose other ventures include Washington’s K Vintners and Charles Smith Wines—says Trinchero’s entry into Washington represents another key step in accelerating the category’s development on retail shelves. “For years it’s primarily been one company—Ste. Michelle—that has gotten behind the Washington category with any kind of distribution muscle,” Smith says. “Last year Gallo came in, and now Trinchero. Over the next two years you could end up with 30 Washington wines on the shelf in any given market in the country, whereas in the past it may have been only five or 10.”

Smith adds that, with the benefit of Trinchero’s distribution network, Charles & Charles is well-positioned to take advantage of the rising popularity of premium rosé wines, one of the fastest-growing segments of the wine market. “The rosé has been the anchor for Charles & Charles,” he says. “It was the reason we started the project—to make world-class rosé in Washington state.”


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