California’s Wente Diversifies With Innovations, ImportsJanuary 20, 2023
Founded in 1883, Livermore, California-based Wente Family Estates is said to be the oldest continuously operated, family-owned winery in the country. The Wente Vineyards brand, known especially for Chardonnay, crossed the 400,000-case mark last year. But it’s not the only arrow in the Wente family’s quiver these days, as the company continues to branch out into higher-priced domestic offerings and imports. SND executive editor Daniel Marsteller recently caught up with CEO Tyson Overton and fifth-generation winegrower and vice president of marketing Aly Wente for an update.
SND: How have you been refining your portfolio and marketing to bring new drinkers into the Wente fold?
Wente: Consumers want to purchase brands that are an extension of their personal brand, and they also pay attention to the company they’re purchasing from, not just the brand and packaging. We have 3,000 acres of estate vineyards across the Central Coast, and we’ve been farming them for 140 years. It’s about continuing to let consumers know that we’re overseeing every touchpoint of the winemaking process. We just updated our packaging to put it front and center that we’re a certified sustainable vineyard and winery. And we’ve been innovating and creating new labels to ultimately move with the industry into that more premium category.
SND: What are some of those newer entries?
Overton: Angels Ink is one of those brands. The Central Coast Pinot Noir ($25) is doing tremendous. It’s got really significant distribution off-premise with some big players like Kroger and Publix, and also by-the-glass on-premise. Another one is Ravel & Stitch Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon, right around the $20 range. It’s affordable luxury, has eye-catching packaging, and the wine style is generous but not over the top.
Wente: With Angels Ink and Ravel & Stitch, they’re very different looking packaging compared to Wente Vineyards, and that’s the strategy. Wente is this traditional brand, from which you expect consistent quality, and then these innovations are attracting a new consumer to the portfolio.
SND: What about on the import side?
Overton: We like to find like-minded family-owned wineries. We partnered with Cuarto Dominio, a fourth-generation family winery from Argentina. The proprietors are Andres Blanchard and Javier Catena. They have about 80 acres in the Uco Valley and make amazing Malbecs that we’ve had a lot of success with. Andres also partnered with François Lurton on Blanchard & Lurton Les Fous Sauvignon Blanc. Another one is Blanchard Perez, an organic Cava. It’s right in the $15-$20 segment and we see a lot of potential there. Of course, our core Wente wines continue to drive it all. The Wente Vineyards estate tier was growing at a fast pace going into the pandemic, and as people looked for trusted brands with a great quality to price ratio that only accelerated our trends.
SND: How do you see the year ahead unfolding for the company?
Wente: It’s our 140th anniversary, and we’ve never skipped a vintage. Even during Prohibition, we were making wine for the church, so we were ready to go afterwards. The anniversary is a way to continue to tell our story and share the authenticity behind our brands with consumers, and that’s what we plan to do.
|Wente Family Estates – Leading Brands in the U.S.
(thousands of 9-liter case depletions)
|Ravel & Stitch||California||7||10||42.9%|
|Bodega Cuarto Dominio||Argentina||8||9||13.8%|
|Total Wente Family Estates||554||582||5.0%|
|Source: IMPACT DATABANK © 2023|