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Exclusive: Hess Family Expands In Napa Valley With Iron Corral Acquisition

May 2, 2019

In a move intended to bolster its supply of luxury fruit in the Napa Valley, Hess Family Wine Estates has agreed to acquire the Iron Corral Vineyard for an undisclosed sum, SND has learned. Originally developed by Mildara Blass, Iron Corral was most recently owned by the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System.

Hess plans to use fruit from the 420-acre property—of which 186 acres are planted, predominantly to Cabernet Sauvignon—for expansion of its luxury portfolio. Situated about two miles from Hess’s Allomi Vineyard in Pope Valley, Iron Corral is expected to form the backbone of the company’s Lions Head Collection, and specifically the Lion Tamer brand, according to Hess Family chairman Timothy Persson, as well as future luxury product introductions that Hess is planning. Hess originally launched the Lion Tamer ($45) with a red blend and has since added a Cabernet Sauvignon and white blend to the range.

“Beginning with the 2019 vintage, we expect to take in 200 tons—approximately 11,000 9-liter cases—of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, and Petit Verdot (from the vineyard),” Persson says. In addition to supplying its own luxury brands, Hess will continue to sell Iron Corral fruit to other producers for the foreseeable future.

In total, Hess now has 827 farmed acres across the Napa Valley, placing it among the leading vineyard owners in the region.

The Iron Corral acquisition marks another initiative geared toward expanding Hess Family’s presence at the higher end. Overall, Hess’s volume grew 3% to 673,000 cases last year, according to Impact Databank, with its higher-priced Hess Collection wines like the Lion Tamer combining for 17% growth to 122,000 cases. Shirtail, an on-premise-focused lineup that sells at around $15 a glass, is also making gains, with volume up 27% to 84,000 cases last year.—Daniel Marsteller

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