French company Pernod Ricard and its American branch Pernod Ricard USA announced the purchase of Sonoma County-based Kenwood Wines today, a sign of its growing interest in the U.S. market for premium wines.
“Consumer trends favoring premium California wines—combined with our powerful route to consumers and our overall commitment to the wine and champagne business—position us well for strong, sustainable performance with Kenwood and the rest of our premium portfolio,” said Pernod Ricard USA president and CEO Bryan Fry.
Kenwood was sold by Gary B. Heck, the president and owner of Russian River Valley-based F. Korbel and Bros., who said the sale would allow him to focus more specifically on his own California sparkling wine and brandy business.
Originally founded pre-Prohibition by the Pagani family, John Pagani sold what would become Kenwood Winery in 1970 to a group of friends and family including a pair of brothers—Mike and Marty Lee—he had known from his time as a professor at Santa Clara University.
The new Kenwood soon became known for its top-notch wines, producing 100,000 cases a year by the mid-1980s, most notably Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. It also became known for Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, helping to evolve Sonoma County from a region turning out jug wine to one capable of producing internationally renowned boutique wines.
Korbel acquired the Kenwood brand, winery and estate vineyards in 1999 at a production level of 300,000 cases a year and grew it to its present amount of 500,000 cases a year.
Under Pernod Ricard USA, Kenwood will join a portfolio that includes Perrier-Jouët and G.H. Mumm Champagnes, Mumm Napa Sparkling, Brancott Estate, Graffigna, Campo Viejo and Jacob’s Creek. Pernod is also building interest in Deadbolt, a California still wine it introduced in 2012.
“We see continued growth in the wine and Champagne category in the USA, and we are focused on seizing opportunities to help us grow our share ahead of competition,” Fry said. “Consumption is growing, driven by Millennials; consumption of premium wines is growing; and consumers are more receptive to innovations. We’re committed to building brands of desire that meet these trends.”
The sale is expected to close on or before June 30, 2014.