Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, the parent company of Chateau Ste. Michelle as well as a number of other wineries and brands in the Pacific Northwest and California, has acquired 298-acres of land in Oregon’s Eola-Amity Hills. The land, which includes the 119-acre Willakia Vineyard, will be used to supply fruit for Erath Winery, which St. Michelle purchased in 2006.
“Our acquisition of the Willakia Vineyard demonstrates our commitment to upholding Erath’s legacy as the leading Pinot Noir producer in Oregon,” said Ste. Michelle President and CEO Ted Baseler. Baseler noted that the property also has the potential for a future winery.
Willakia Vineyard was first planted in 2000 and now includes 98-acres of Pinot Noir and 21-acres of Chardonnay as well as 30 additional acres of arable land. The vineyard gets its name from the two predominant soils types on the property, Willakenzie and Nekia. The land was previously an investment by the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS). Zepponi & Company, a global wine industry mergers and acquisitions advisory firm, negotiated the sale.
“Willakia Vineyard is a dream vineyard for a winemaker,” said Erath winemaker Gary Horner. “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.”
The last twelve months have seen an unprecedented series of investments in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. These include the purchase of 1,300 acres of land by the California-based wine giant Jackson Family Wines; 374 acres by Seattle-based Precept Wines; 279 acres by the Drouhin Family, owners of Joseph Drouhin in Burgundy and Domaine Drouhin Oregon; and 32 acres by France’s Louis Jadot. Rumors swirl that other investments are imminent.
With Pinot Noir continuing to show strong growth in the marketplace and Oregon Pinot Noir commanding a considerably higher price point than its California peers, don’t expect what some are calling the “Great Oregon Land Grab” to end any time soon.