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Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Acquires Acclaimed Vineyard in Oregon’s Eola-Amity Hills for Erath Winery

Mar. 12 2014

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, the third largest premium wine company in the U.S., with a global ‘string of pearls’ collection of wine estates, has acquired Willakia Vineyard in Oregon’s Eola-Amity Hills for its Erath Winery.

The 298-acre parcel features the picturesque Willakia Vineyard, which currently comprises 119 acres, with 98 acres planted to Pinot Noir and 21 acres planted to Chardonnay. There is the potential to plant an additional 30 vineyard acres, and the balance eventually could accommodate a winery. Willakia Vineyard is also LIVE and Salmon Safe certified.

Ste. Michelle President and CEO Ted Baseler said that the acquisition was part of the company’s well-established commitment to produce terroir-based wines from the world’s great growing regions.

“Erath is one of the founding wineries of the Oregon wine industry. Our acquisition of the Willakia Vineyard demonstrates our commitment to upholding Erath’s legacy as the leading Pinot Noir producer in Oregon,” Baseler said.

"We are very excited to expand Ste. Michelle’s vineyard holdings with a site that was planted to produce iconic wines and that also has the potential for a future winery,” Baseler said.

Ste. Michelle owns more than 3,800 vineyard acres in Washington and California and holds long term contracts for substantially more acreage in these states and Oregon.

Winemaker Gary Horner currently produces numerous single vineyard bottlings for Erath. He has been interested particularly in pursuing clonal diversity to achieve unique interpretations of Oregon Pinot Noir.

“Willakia Vineyard is a dream vineyard for a winemaker,” Horner said. “It offers this great combination of small blocks planted with diverse clones and rootstocks at different aspects, slopes and orientations. It will give me a broad array of fruit styles to craft beautiful estate wines.

“This vineyard was planted with the intention of producing fruit for high tier winemaking, and I am excited to build its reputation in future single vineyard bottlings for Erath,” Horner said.

The Eola-Amity Hills appellation is one of the most renowned growing regions of the greater Willamette Valley. The well-drained Willakenzie and Nekia soils, from which the name Willakia is derived, dominate the area surrounding the vineyard. During the growing season, the region benefits from the temperature-moderating effect of the prevailing ocean breezes that flow through Van Duzer Corridor. When combined with the viticultural and winemaking expertise of Horner and Ste. Michelle, this site has all the elements necessary to produce balanced, complex and expressive Pinot Noir.

In its 80-year history developing the Northwest wine industry – the companies that ultimately founded Ste. Michelle joined forces in 1934 – Ste. Michelle Wine Estates has remained focused on its foremost mission to introduce consumers worldwide to prestige wines from Washington and Oregon.

Baseler is widely acknowledged by the U.S. wine industry as the leading champion for research, education and investments throughout the Northwest that benefit the wine industries-at-large.

“It is critical, of course, that we grow our own business by constantly improving on everything that we do,” Baseler said. “Those improvements always lead back to wine quality and our ultimate purpose of creating wines with soul, character and a sense of place.

“Willakia Vineyard is our newest opportunity to affirm our purpose in a meaningful way in Oregon,” said Baseler.

Zepponi & Company, the global wine industry mergers and acquisitions advisory firm, served as the exclusive financial advisor to the seller and negotiated the sale.

About Erath:

Erath, the original winery of the Dundee Hills in Oregon, has played a major role in creating Oregon’s wine industry and solidifying its reputation as a world class wine region. Now in its fourth decade of winemaking, Erath perseveres to craft exceptional wines that reflect the rich history of the brand and the prestige of the region. The winery produces premium selections from the Pinot family – Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, and is ranked one of the region’s premier wine producers.

About Ste. Michelle Wine Estates:

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is the third largest premium wine company in the U.S. The company, located outside of Seattle, Washington, has a distinguished history that dates back 80 years to 1934. Wines under the Ste. Michelle label were first introduced in 1967, and since that time the company has expanded its vineyard holdings to more than 3,800 acres in Washington and California. Today its ‘String of Pearls’ wine portfolio represents owned or imported brands that demonstrate the producers’ unwavering commitment to creating distinctive, high quality wines from authentic estate vineyards.

Ste. Michelle’s Washington portfolio includes Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest, 14 Hands, Northstar, Spring Valley Vineyard, Col Solare, Michelle sparkling wines, Red Diamond, and Snoqualmie. The company also owns Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars (with Italy’s Antinori family), Conn Creek and Villa Mt. Eden in the Napa Valley of California, and Erath, in Dundee, Oregon. In 2006, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates became the exclusive U.S. importer for the acclaimed Marchesi Antinori wine portfolio of Italy and Chile’s Haras wines, for Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte of France in 2009, and for New Zealand’s Villa Maria Estate in 2010.

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For further information:
Ryan Pennington
(425) 415-3359
ryan.pennington@smwe.com