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Jackson Family Wines Eyes Luxury Pinot Noir, Extends La Crema

May 29, 2013

Jackson Family Wines saw mixed results on its key brands in 2012, according to Impact Databank, but the company tells Shanken News Daily it’s now enjoying growth across its premium and luxury stable. Jackson Family says it’s gearing up for a greater presence in luxury Pinot Noir looking ahead, with the addition of more upscale Pinot Noir labels slated for later this year. Meanwhile, the company’s La Crema brand is introducing a new Pinot Gris extension this month.

The company’s core Kendall-Jackson brand has rebounded significantly in the past few years, after surrendering nearly one-third of its volume from 2006-2009. Last year, Kendall-Jackson rose 4% to 3.1 million cases, although it remains roughly 1 million cases shy of its 2006 level. Jackson Family Wines executive vice president and CMO Caroline Shaw says the brand has enjoyed a boost—especially among younger consumers—from its lightly oaked KJ Avant Chardonnay ($15 a 750-ml.), which rolled out in 2011.

The company’s second-and third-largest brands, La Crema and Murphy-Goode respectively, each took a step back last year after periods of marked expansion. La Crema was down 2.3% to 850,000 cases in 2012, but is still up 20% since 2008, an impressive feat considering it sells mainly at the $20-and-above level. La Crema’s new Pinot Gris ($20), mentioned above, is sourced from Monterey. The brand is also expected to see its Pinot Noir lineup expanded with a 2012 vintage Oregon offering (the company declined to confirm that move, but Oregon winemaker Joe Dobbes recently told Wine Spectator he’s been contracted for its production). Jackson Family Wines has placed a sizeable bet on Oregon in recent months, with a flurry of acquisition activity in the state that saw it add the Zena Crown and Gran Moraine vineyard sites among others.

Meanwhile, former Impact “Hot Prospect” Murphy-Goode, also situated firmly in the premium-and-above tier, fell 2.2% to 224,000 cases in 2012, but remains roughly twice the size it was in 2009. Another upscale Jackson Family Wines brand, Cambria, jumped 22% to 125,000 cases last year, although it’s still off by about 40% since 2007, its high-water mark.

Shaw says premiumization remains the driving force within the company’s strategy. “The struggle is to continually engage people to leap into the next, higher price point, by educating them that spending an extra $5 a bottle can make a huge difference in quality,” she says. In the off-premise, the focus is on teaming with retailers on social and digital media initiatives to create and maintain dialogues with specific consumer groups.

In the on-premise, Shaw adds, “We’re seeing increased interest in ‘curated’ experiences—customers that want their sommelier or chef to guide them through a unique food and wine experience.” In one well-received recent example, the company curated a “Beef School” event that used pairings with various cuts of beef to help highlight the nuances among different California Cabernets.

On the other hand, Jackson Family has decided it won’t pick up on at least one current consumer trend: the mass move toward sweet wines. “As a rule we’re not in the sweeter whites or sweeter reds category. Those are growing in popularity with consumers, but it’s not something we’re interested in,” Shaw says.

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