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O’Neill Vintners & Distillers’ Branded Business On A Rapid Rise To 1 Million Cases

October 31, 2019

O’Neill Vintners & Distillers has invested about $140 million in its Parlier, California-based winery over the past eight years, and currently produces approximately 7 million cases annually. While the company continues to be a large bulk wine producer, it has sharpened its focus on its branded portfolio in recent years. Overall, O’Neill’s brand stable is projected to near 1 million cases this year, led by Impact “Hot Brand” Line 39. “We’ve been able to grow at about 30% annually the last few years,” founder and CEO Jeff O’Neill tells SND. “We’re trying to stay laser-focused on what’s important to the consumer.”

Last year, Line 39, which includes a number of varietals retailing at around $10 a 750-ml., jumped 20% to 487,000 cases, according to Impact Databank. This year, the brand is projected to approach 600,000 cases.

Christine Moll, who joined O’Neill as vice president of marketing about a year ago after previously serving with Campari and Bacardi, says the launch of an augmented reality app has helped contribute to Line 39’s momentum. “Line 39 is inspired by the 39th parallel, so our whole platform is around exploration and travel,” Moll explains. “This year we launched an AR app that takes consumers to different destinations along that parallel. It also allows us to continue connecting with the audience over time and provide them special offers.”

Slightly higher up the price ladder, O’Neill recently partnered with former NFL star Charles Woodson on a new brand called Intercept, which is positioned at $18 and initially includes a 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, a 2017 red blend, a 2018 Chardonnay, and a 2017 Pinot Noir, all sourced from Paso Robles except for the Pinot, which is from Monterey.

Elsewhere in the portfolio, O’Neill’s Harken label, a 100% barrel fermented Chardonnay retailing at $14, is projected to hit 80,000 cases by the end of the year. Harken has been enjoying solid gains in the on-premise casual dining segment, Moll notes, where it sells at around $9-$11 by the glass. About 40% of Harken’s sales are now derived on-premise. Meanwhile, Robert Hall, a brand acquired along with a 200,000-case winery in Paso Robles in 2016, is currently at about 50,000 cases. More recent additions to the range include Day Owl Rosé ($15) and Exitus ($20), a Bourbon barrel-aged red blend.

O’Neill has been ramping up its sales team as the branded portfolio takes on more importance for the business. The company’s national salesforce now numbers about 40 people, roughly doubling in size over the past two years. O’Neill is also making strides on the sustainability front, setting a goal for its entire 160-grower network to be certified sustainable by the end of next year.—Daniel Marsteller

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