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O’Neill Vintners & Distillers Eyes Further Gains For Growing Branded Portfolio

October 14, 2022

Founded in 2004 by industry veteran and entrepreneur Jeff O’Neill, California’s O’Neill Vintners & Distillers is known for a robust contract business, but its branded portfolio is now above 1.5 million cases and rising at double-digits.In recent years O’Neill has bolstered its branded range through acquisitions like 2021’s Rabble Wines, as well as strong existing labels like Line 39 and Harken, while also devoting focus to higher-end offerings. The company, a certified B Corp, also continues to produce 5 million proof gallons of spirits and brandy annually for its exclusive partners. Chief marketing officer Christine Moll says O’Neill is poised for more growth looking ahead.

SND: What are some of the best performing brands in the portfolio?

Moll: Our entire portfolio continues to outperform the industry and respective categories as we grow market share. Harken Chardonnay ($15 a 750-ml. bottle) is on track to surpass 110,000 9-liter cases on double-digit growth as consumers discover and adopt the brand. Our winemaker, Adam Popp, is committed to delivering exceptional quality and a bold, oaky, buttery taste profile consumers love. Charles Woodson’s Intercept is a partnership with Pro Football Hall of Famer Charles Woodson, who is actively involved in promoting the brand. It’s focused on wines from the Paso Robles and Monterey AVAs. And Line 39 ($11) is our leader with California AVA wines.

SND: Which other brands have strong potential for the future?

Moll: We’re seeing rapid growth north of $10 a bottle. Outside of Harken and Intercept, Robert Hall Winery has proven to be a standout on-premise, where the price-to-value ratio for great Paso Robles wines has been well received by the trade. Robert Hall highlights the best of the 11 Paso Robles sub-AVAs, a California region with so much growth potential. Within Robert Hall, we produce national wines for $18 to $20, on-premise only wines, and DTC wines. The on-premise recovery for our national brand portfolio has been very promising.

SND: What’s the latest on new products?

Moll: Last year we launched in the better-for-you category with varietal wine Line 39 Spritzers, 100 calorie, single-serves in 250-ml. resealable aluminum bottles ($13 a four-pack). It offers consumers the same Line 39 wines as a lower-alcohol spritzer with no added sugar. We also launched Game Box wines as a premium California-appellated, vintage-dated line of varietal-specific wines in sustainable packaging.

SND: How has Rabble Wines been performing since it joined the portfolio?

Moll: Rabble has been an excellent fit. Not only is Paso Robles a dynamic region we deeply believe in, but Rabble also has a clear purpose that aligns perfectly with our sustainability mission. Over the past 12 months, we’ve opened new channels of business and seen accelerated growth of around 20% to 30% across new points of distribution. Rabble is also partnering with One Tree Planted. For every bottle purchased during Earth month in April, one tree is planted, up to 30,000 trees.

That ties in with our overall focus on sustainability. We recycle our water through the largest wastewater worm bed system in the U.S. Additionally, the O’Neill Sustainable Grower Certification program assists more than 200 California contract growers to become California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) certified. And O’Neill and Woodson Family Scholarships provide two 100% funded, four-year scholarships to advance BIPOC representation.

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