This is a story that has more moving parts than I have wrinkles. And I have a lot of wrinkles.
Let’s begin with Oregon vintner Howard Rossbach who created the Firesteed brand of Pinot Noirs about 25 years ago in the Willamette Valley. He told Wine Enthusiast’s Paul Gregutt that the sale of the 50,000 case a year of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris brands to Vintage Wine Estate (VWE) was “like pushing a wonderful reset button … It allows me to refocus my life personally and professionally.”
He sold the brand and the inventory to Vintage Wine Estate, while selling the winery to Mariani family-owned Pacific Rim, which might be better known for its Banfi wines. Rossbach then convinced the Flynn family, which owned the 30 acres surrounding the winery to sell that vineyard to Pacific Rim as well. Terms were not disclosed.
Pat Roney, president and founding partner of Santa Rosa-based VWE, told the North Bay Business Journal that he noticed a growing interest in the Pacific Northwest in recent years. Other North Coast producers such as Jackson Family Wines have been buying vineyards, wineries and brands in Oregon as the thirst for higher-priced wine has swelled.
Strategy behind the slew of acquisitions
VWE has been on a two-year buying spree acquiring Napa Valley’s Delectus Winery, Splinter Group Spirits and Cameron Hughes Wine. Roney said the company’s growth strategy is creating brands, picking up “respected, established wines” and expanding existing brands such as B.R. Cohn Winery, Clos Pegase, Swanson, Windsor Vineyards and Middle Sister Wines. Each was an acquisition.
Pacific Rim, which is known for its Washington State Riesling, bought the winery so that its Rainstorm brand, whose Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris grapes are grown in the Willamette Valley, would have its own winery. Previously, the grapes were trucked to Pacific Rim’s winery in Washington.
“Bringing the winemaking to Willamette focuses our vision for Rainstorm as the definitive Oregon Pinot brand and cements our commitment to the region,” General Manager and Head Winemaker Nicolas Quillé said. Rainstorm has grown to 20,000 cases annually over the past five years.
Rossbach, meanwhile, is not abandoning winemaking. Instead, he is going to retain the Citation Brand and the 202-acre Erratic Oaks Vineyard in Dallas, Oregon.
Exvere Inc. served as financial adviser to Firesteed Cellars and to Flynn Vineyard.