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Oregon Wines, Part 2: Strong Growth Lures New Investment From U.S. And Global Players

February 3, 2015

Oregon wine’s premium positioning and strong growth of recent years has made it an attractive investment area for U.S. and international wine players. The number of wineries in the state has roughly doubled over the past decade to more than 600, according to the Oregon Wine Board.

One of the earliest believers in the category was an outsider, Burgundy’s Domaine Drouhin, which made its initial foray into Oregon in 1987. Now established as one of the state’s top producers, Drouhin continues to evolve. Just over a year ago it acquired the 279-acre Roserock Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills area of the Willamette Valley, more than doubling its Oregon holdings to over 500 acres. Washington’s Ste. Michelle Wine Estates also made a play in Eola-Amity Hills over the past year, purchasing the 119-acre Willakia Vineyard last March to buttress its Erath brand.

Another venerable Burgundy negoçiant, Louis Jadot, controlled by Kobrand owner the Kopf family, entered Oregon with its 2013 deal to acquire 32-acre Resonance Vineyard (planted with 19 acres of Pinot Noir and 1.5 acres of Gewürztraminer) in the Yamhill-Carlton district to the north of Eola-Amity Hills. Jadot recently told Wine Spectator it would slowly move to increase its vineyard holdings and production in Oregon in the years ahead. Yamhill-Carlton also saw the entry of Washington-based Precept Wines in 2013, which acquired 374-acre Yamhela Vineyard that year, with plans to raise its planted acreage from 30 acres to 120 acres over five years to support a new super-premium brand.

Jadot’s Yamhill-Carlton property sits adjacent to Jackson Family Wines’ new Gran Moraine winery, which is located on a 220-acre vineyard. Jackson Family has been among the most aggressive investors in Oregon lately. In addition to Gran Moraine, whose namesake Pinot Noir retails at $45 a bottle, the company’s recent acquisitions in the state have included the 250-acre Zena Crown vineyard in Eola-Amity Hills. “Oregon has become synonymous with high-quality wines,” says Jackson Family CMO Caroline Shaw. “We expect interest in the Willamette Valley to continue to grow.”

Fellow California wine player Wagner Family of Wines has also now made landfall in Oregon. Joseph Wagner’s Copper Cane Wines & Provisions debuted its Oregon-sourced Elouan brand last fall, retailing around $25 a bottle. Copper Cane is producing around 25,000-30,000 cases of Elouan annually, focusing on the on-premise. Meanwhile, prominent wine investor Charles Banks made a move in Oregon last year as well, partnering with sommelier Rajat Parr and winemaker Sashi Moorman to take a minority stake in highly rated Evening Land Vineyards.

For its part, after entering Oregon with its acquisition of The Four Graces last April, Foley Family Wines says it isn’t done investing in the category. “We’re currently looking at developing a production facility that will have capacity of up to 35,000 cases on our Dundee Hills site and also are in active negotiation on another production facility and vineyards in Dundee,” chairman Bill Foley tells SND.

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