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Exclusive: Kenwood Launching New, Appellation-Driven Wines At $20-$30 Tier

January 25, 2016

Nearly two years after acquiring Sonoma County’s Kenwood Vineyards from F. Korbel & Bros., new owner Pernod Ricard is refreshing the brand with new packaging, while also launching an upscale range called Six Ridges, retailing in the $20-$30 price point and intended to showcase key Sonoma appellations.

Six Ridges, which rolls out next month, includes an Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($25), Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($25) and Chardonnay ($22) and Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel and Merlot (both $25). A Sonoma Coast Sauvignon Blanc will follow in May.

The new Six Ridges collection is in line with Pernod’s vision of keeping Kenwood closely linked with its Sonoma heritage. The company is making investments in upgrading and modernizing Kenwood’s Sonoma winery, with an eye toward enhancing the winery’s small-lot capabilities.

Following the acquisition by Pernod, Kenwood underwent a major shift in distribution, with 80% of its wholesaler footprint seeing changes (Southern Wine & Spirits, Pernod’s largest distributor, has been a strong backer of its move into California wine). “Sales dipped during the transition, but bounced back much more quickly than we expected,” says Kenwood chief winemaker Pat Henderson, noting that production is now around a half-million cases. “I’m not sure how much bigger we’ll get in terms of volume. The focus is on premiumization,” he adds.

Kenwood currently owns about 260 acres of vineyards, which provide for roughly a quarter of its grape needs. It also contracts a significant amount of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley—leveraging its long-term relationships with area growers—and retains exclusive rights to winegrapes from the Jack London Ranch in Glen Ellen, from which it produces a series of single-vineyard varietals.

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