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“Hot Prospect” Raeburn, Redwood Whiskey Propelling California’s Purple Brands

November 23, 2022

Amid tightening economic conditions and shifting trends in the wine and spirits market, California’s Purple Brands is seeing consumer enthusiasm for Pinot Noir and upscale American whiskey drive gains for its 600,000-case portfolio, also boosted by the revival of the on-premise. Leading the way are Impact “Hot Prospect” wine label Raeburn and American whiskey brand Redwood Empire. Purple chairman and owner Derek Benham and CEO Aaron Webb also pointed to on-premise rebounds for the Avalon and Four Vines wine brands as benefiting the company lately.

Since its launch, the Russian River-grown Raeburn has seen consistently impressive growth, rising from 31,000 cases in 2016 to 181,000 cases last year. For 2022, the company expects the brand to move around 250,000 cases. “It’s still growing 20% plus in the marketplace,” said Webb. “The brand is Chardonnay- and Pinot-focused but we’re about to launch a Cab.” Raeburn’s Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon is set to hit shelves early next year. It ages for a year in French oak (40% new) before bottling. For the 2021 vintage, the grapes were harvested from the Alexander Valley, Dry Creek, Lodi, and Monterey.

While Purple’s historic focus has been on wine, the company’s American whiskey brand, Redwood Empire, continues to make inroads with its super-premium and above portfolio. The core of Redwood’s range consists of Pipe Dream Bourbon, Redwood Empire rye, and the Lost Monarch Blend of straight whiskies—positioned at $44—alongside limited release cask strength bottlings ($70) and 5-year-old bonded whiskies Grizzly Beast Bourbon and Rocket Top rye ($90).

“We’re on our way to 20,000 barrels and we’re working on breaking ground for an expanded distillery operation in the next six months,” said Webb. The brand will sell around 80,000 6-packs this year, up from roughly 10,000 cases three years ago, according to Benham.

Meanwhile, Purple is seeing promising signs from its more on-premise-focused brands. “We’ve seen some good small pockets of success since the on-premise opened back up with Avalon and Four Vines, also,” said Benham, noting that both are consistently garnering reorders.

Though building from a small base of around 15,000 cases for 2022, Benham sees Scattered Peaks as one of Purple’s strongest upcoming wines. The Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon retails between $35 and $40, a bit above the rest of Purple’s wine portfolio, and is part of its push toward more premium offerings. “What we’ve learned over the years is we’ve got to keep it simple for our distributor partners,” said Benham. “And so what we’re focusing them on are these top three: Raeburn, Redwood Empire, and now Scattered Peaks.”

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