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After A Rare Down Year, Wente Vineyards Returns To Strong Growth In 2015

January 8, 2016

Following years of rapid progress, Wente Vineyards’ namesake brand posted a volume decline in 2014, falling 4.3% to 330,000 cases, according to Impact Databank. But 2015 saw a return to growth, as the Livermore, California-based winemaker posted sharp gains in volume and value. In Nielsen-tracked channels, the flagship Wente brand increased 15.5% to 162,000 cases in the 52-week period through November 7. The total portfolio returned to double-digit growth by the end of 2015, and the company sees further expansion ahead.

This year, Wente will sharpen the focus on Murrieta’s Well, a label that includes luxury red and white blends The Whip and The Spur, as well as a small-lot series. “As red and white blends have grown in popularity and significance in the marketplace, so has awareness around the estate-grown wines of Murrieta’s Well,” said Wente Vineyards CEO and fourth-generation winegrower Carolyn Wente.

The flagship Wente Single Vineyard and Estate Grown designations will also continue to be priorities for the company. Last year saw the launch of a new Riva Ranch Pinot Noir ($30), which joined Riva Ranch Chardonnay ($22) in the winery’s single-vineyard series. Wente’s Estate Grown tier currently includes Morning Fog Chardonnay ($15), Southern Hills Cabernet Sauvignon ($18), Sandstone Merlot ($18), Louis Mel Sauvignon Blanc ($15), Riverbank Riesling ($15) and Charles Wetmore Cabernet Sauvignon ($30). In addition to its flagship wines, Wente produces limited-production upscale label The Nth Degree ($60-$100), which is highly allocated.

“Chardonnay is our best-selling varietal, with multiple styles in the portfolio, but we’re also seeing great success with Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc,” Wente said. As the company strives to showcase its wines with food pairings, the on-premise channel is an important factor and now comprises 30% of the business, she adds.

One area facing challenges lately is Entwine, a brand produced in partnership with the Food Network and heavily weighted to the retail side, with 90% of sales occurring in that channel. Entwine declined 12.5% to 59,000 cases in Nielsen data in the year through November 7.

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