1. E&J Gallo
Susan Parsons Hensley, Director of Communications
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 66 million (WBM Estimate)
Annual Global Sales Case Volume: 76 Million cases
E&J Gallo Winery is a privately owned wine company with a variety of wine programs and a global brand portfolio and annual revenues of $1.7 billion. The company is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2008 and continues to focus on popular and premium domestic wines as well as on expanding a growing portfolio of imports.
Winemaker Ernest Gallo, who with his brother, Julio, built the company into one of the largest wine empires in the world, passed away unexpectedly last year at the age of 97. Until 2003, when Constellation Brands expanded through a merger, Gallo had been the largest wine producer in the world.
Gallo employs approximately 5,000 people and sells wine in more than 90 countries. Second- and third-generation family members are active throughout the privately held business, and Gallo continues to partner with family-owned wineries from around the world to import wine. The company is led today by president and CEO Joseph Gallo, the son of Ernest, and second- and third-generation family members are involved throughout the company.
In 2007, Gallo purchased the William Hill Estate winery from Beam Wine Estates (which was later sold to Constellation) as well as the Canyon Road brand. Those purchases followed the company's acquisitions of three vineyards, totaling 182 acres in Chiles Valley, from the California Wine Company. In 2002, Gallo purchased Louis M. Martini Winery in St. Helena, which included the 150-acre Ghost Pines vineyard in Chiles Valley.
Among other new initiatives, Gallo introduced a limited release of Sonoma County-based wines under the Martha Stewart Vintage label last year.
Company spokeswoman Susan Parsons Hensley said Gallo continues to focus on "what the wine consumer is interested in and on the types of wines they may be interested in enjoying as part of their daily lives." Regarding the 75th anniversary, she said, "Whenever you come up on a major milestone, you pause and reflect back and look forward to what the future looks like. You think of some of the core values of listening to the consumer, of innovation and the drive for continuous improvement. We see those values as being critical going forward."
One of the Gallo brands that experienced dramatic growth in 2007 was Barefoot Cellars, which the company purchased in 2005. The company announced that Barefoot Cellars sales surpassed three million cases last year.
Gallo imports Ecco Domani into the U.S. as well as Bella Sera. Relatively new is a supply contract with a South African wine producer and the introduction of a German Riesling called "Polka Dot." E&J Gallo's most recent import introductions include Don Miguel Gascon from Argentina, Sebeca from South Africa and Martin Codax from Spain.
Four years ago, Gallo introduced Red Bicyclette wines from France and DaVinci from Italy. The company also distributes Black Swan wines from Australia in the U.S. in partnership with Brian McGuigan Wines of Australia.
Other brands include: Redwood Creek, Frei Brothers, Gallo of Sonoma, Napa Valley Vineyards, Marcelina, Anapamu, Indigo Hills, André, Ballatore, Boone's Farm, Turning Leaf, Peter Vella, Carlo Rossi and E&J Twin Valley.
Jose Fernandez, President and CEO, Constellation Wines U.S.
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 59 Million (WBM?Estimate)
Annual Global Sales Case Volume: 112 Million (WBM?Estimate)
A few years ago, Constellation Brands was a relatively small winery in Canandaigua, New York but today Constellation could be called "Consolidation." It was another year of changes and big growth for Constellation.
In late 2007, the company announced the purchase of Beam Wine Estates for $885 million. Beam Wine Estates had been created just two years earlier when Fortune Brands--owner of Jim Beam Whiskey as well as Peak Wine Estates (Geyser Peak, Canyon Road and Wild Horse Winery)--purchased the U.S. wine brands that had been owned by Allied Domecq. The brands Constellation acquired from Beam are Clos du Bois in Sonoma County's Alexander Valley; Gary Farrell from the Russian River Valley; Buena Vista Carneros; Atlas Peak and William Hill Estate in Napa as well as Haywood and Jakes Fault Shiraz.
In 2006, Constellation purchased the global wine company Vincor for 1.3 billion and in 2005 it purchased Robert Mondavi Corporation.
Constellation continues to grow organically and through new product development.
The Vincor acquisition made Constellation the largest seller of wine in Canada and added growth brands such as Kim Crawford, Hogue Cellars and Toasted Head to the portfolio. Constellation Wines U.S. now has roughly 3,200 employees, including more than 500 former Beam Wine Estates employees.
Constellation leverages scale in grape sourcing production and inventory management while it has a huge portfolio of wineries and brands that are all kept largely independent. Whether big or small, though, they tap into some of the advantages of being part of the world's largest wine company.
Constellation also has a huge business in Europe and is by far the largest supplier of wine to the U.K. market. Whether it is Woodbridge or a smaller property, the ability to tap into a worldwide distribution system is a big advantage.
Size and diversity also give the company shelter from the ups and downs of grape supply and exchange rates. Being diversified is seen as insulating the company from market changes. Constellation doesn't have to convince the world to drink any particular wine: If Australia is taking market share, they are there; if California wines are strong, they are there. Strong brands on- and off-premise help shield the company from economic ups and downs.
Constellation Brands has separated into several divisions, with wine-focused divisions being Constellation Wines U.S., Vincor Canada, Hardy Wine Company, Constellation Europe and Nobilo Wine Company. There are several other divisions focused on spirits and other offerings.
Effective March 1, 2008, Constellation Wines U.S. has reorganized from four divisions into three quasi-separate entities. The newest division, Vintas, was created in the wake of the Beam Wine Estates acquisition, while Centerra Wine Company and Icon Estates (previously known as Franciscan Wine Estates) remain. Two divisions, North Lake Wines and Pacific Wine Partners, have been eliminated, with their brands redistributed into the active divisions.
The largest wine body within Constellation Wines U.S. is Vintas, which includes a wide array of premium and super premium wines. Many of the company's largest brands are included in this division, including Clos du Bois, Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi, Robert Mondavi Private Selection, Blackstone and Ravenswood.
Vintas will also be home to many of the company's emerging brands through the Cellar Door division, which had previously existed within Pacific Wine Partners. Brands included in this segment include Hayman & Hill, Red Guitar, Barossa Valley Estate, Leasingham and Diseno.
Finally, Vintas will have another division, known as BWE, that includes brands such as Geyser Peak, Buena Vista and Gary Farrell from the Beam Wine Estates portfolio.
Icon Wine Estates is the most specialized division within Constellation Wines U.S., focusing on ultra-premium and luxury vineyard-driven brands, both domestic and imported. Notable brands include Estancia, Franciscan, Kim Crawford, Ruffino, Robert Mondavi Winery, Simi and Wild Horse, another brand picked up from Beam.
Centerra Wine Company is now focused on specialty, fighting varietal and value brands, both imported and domestic. Brands in this division include Arbor Mist, Cook's, Paul Masson Grande Amber Brandy, Richard's Wild Irish Rose, Vendange, Banrock Station and Inglenook.
In Washington State, the company makes Covey Run, and operates Columbia Winery, though the company will give up the property when the lease expires in April. Constellation operates other wineries in California, such as Dunnewood in Ukiah, and has other winemaking facilities in Idaho and New York, where the Canandaigua Winery facility makes 10 million cases annually.
Other notable new brands launched by Constellation Wines U.S. include Paso Creek, Sonoma Reserve, Solaire by Robert Mondavi and Barossa Valley Estates E Minor.
"This last year has been another year of solid progress for us, both in terms of growth and in the premiumization of our business," Constellation Wines U.S. chief executive Jose Fernandez told Wine Business Monthly. "If you look at Constellation's development over the last few years, there's been an incredible transformation from the strong position we had in the value segment of the market to today, where we are the leading producer of premium wines in the United States. The major transactions of the last three years, Robert Mondavi being the most transforming event for us--and of the last year and a half, where we acquired Vincor, and what that's done with brands like Toasted Head, Hogue, and Kim Crawford--those were big steps again in our vision of becoming a sizable player in the premium wine business in the United States."
On the import side, Constellation continues its joint venture with Ruffino and just introduced Il Ducale from Italy, a Chianti Classico. Last year, as part of its relationship with Château Mouton Rothschild, the company started importing some of their wines, Mouton Cadet.
Fernandez stressed, though, that Constellation does not need to keep acquiring to grow. "Really the most valuable part of our growth has been the growth we are able to generate from brands after we've acquired them--Blackstone and Ravenswood are three to four times the size they were when we acquired them. We have a very strong organic growth profile, but consolidation in the wine business is not finished. It's still a very fragmented business by most measures compared to most industries."
David Kent, Chief Executive
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 44 million cases
The Wine Group is a large San Francisco-based wine company that owns 11 wineries and nine major brands.
The Franzia brand, which comes in a box, is the leading U.S. boxed wine. The Wine Group also offers bargain wines, such as Corbett Canyon, Glen Ellen, Foxhorn, Mogen David Kosher, Lejon (bargain domestic vermouth) and Tribuno. One of the newest additions to the portfolio is Fish Eye, launched nationally in 2005.
Once part of The Coca-Cola Company, The Wine Group grew from a partnership put together in 1981 to buy Franzia Bros., Mogen David and Tribuno. The group bought the Concannon Vineyard and the Glen Ellen, Italian Casarsa, MG Vallejo and Morassutti brands in 2002. Production facilities are in Ripon, Sanger, Tulare, Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo, California, and in Westfield, New York (Mogen David).
In 2004, The Wine Group purchased Golden State Vintners, bolstering processing capacity. In 2006, the company purchased the Big House and Cardinal Zin brands from Bonny Doon Vineyard. Those brands fall under the stewardship of The Wine Group's Underdog Wine Merchants division. Other relatively new brands handled by the Underdog division include Pinot Evil, Tempra Tantrum, Killer Juice and Herding Cats. Pinot Evil, which sold more than 120,000 cases last year, is among the largest selling imported Pinot Noirs and comes from Corsica.
The Wine Group is a leader in the bag-in-the-box category and in the premium wine cask category with Corbett Canyon and a new offering under the Fish Eye label.
Another line extension involves Big House. True to its Mediterranean roots, the brand will include varietals such as Grenache, Tempranillo and Fiano. Individual varietal wines under Big House include Slammer Syrah and Prodigal Sun Petit Sirah.
The Wine Group acquired the historic Concannon winery located in California's Livermore Valley in 2002. It started construction on a brand new state-of-the-art winery in Livermore this year, a $30 million investment that will handle storage and bottling requirements. The winery was built in 1883 so was in need of updated facilities.
In 2006, The Wine Group also announced a marketing joint venture with GCF groupe (considered the leading exporter of wine in France) with The Wine Group representing GCF's French portfolio in the U.S. and GCF selling The Wine Group's California portfolio into Europe.
Fred Franzia, Chief Executive
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 20 Million (WBM Estimate)
Bronco Wine Company makes wines under the Forestville, Estrella, Charles Shaw, Montpellier, Grand Cru, Silver Ridge, Rutherford Vintners, Hacienda, Fox Hollow and Napa Ridge brands, among many others. With thousands of acres of vineyard holdings, this is a bulk wine producer with more than 100 million gallons of capacity. Bronco makes wine in Ceres and Napa, California, under contract to Barrel Ten Quarter, which it owns. In 2003, Bronco purchased a production facility in Escalon, California from Constellation Brands.
Bronco is best known as the company behind Charles Shaw, nicknamed "Two-Buck Chuck." Bronco created a stir in the wine industry in early 2003 by selling its Charles Shaw brand for $1.99 in Trader Joe's locations. Trader Joe's has sold more than 300 million bottles of Charles Shaw.
Two-Buck Chuck shocked the wine world when it was first introduced and was the talk of the industry at a time many vintners were under pressure because of vast stockpiles of wine. Last year, Two Buck Chuck shocked the wine world again, beating rivals in taste by winning bragging rights to best California Chardonnay at the California State Fair's commercial wine competition.
Bronco controls more than 30,000 acres of California vineyards. It produces around 20 million cases of wine, though much of it is sold in bulk to other wine companies. More than half of the wine Bronco sells is sourced with grapes it controls.
Bronco is led by Fred Franzia, a nephew of Ernest Gallo. The Franzia family (which has no relationship to Franzia brand boxed wine) has made wine in California for over 100 years.
Bronco is continually planting vineyards and adding tanks. Not surprisingly, the company continues to plant Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Colombard and Shiraz.
"The market is going to need a lot of wine," Fred Franzia said.
Virtually every article written about Bronco has the obligatory paragraph about its long-running legal issue involving the use of the name "Napa" on wine labels. That ended in 2006 when the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a court ruling that upheld a California law requiring any wine with the word "Napa" on the label to be made from at least 75 percent Napa County grapes. The law had been enacted in 2000 but hadn't been enforced because of Bronco's challenge. Bronco owns three brands--Napa Creek, Napa Ridge and Rutherford Vintners--that had been used for wines not made from Napa County grapes.
After the high court declined to consider the case, Bronco released three vintage-dated wines with Napa grapes for a new Napa River brand, making them available through Trader Joe's retail stores at $4.99 per bottle. Bronco also introduced Harlow Ridge, a value-priced ($8.99 to $9.99) Napa wine, replacing Napa Ridge. (Bronco's Napa winery is located in a business park with a street address on Harlow Court.) In 2006, the company also added Santa Barbara Landing, from the Santa Barbara County appellation, priced at $4.99 at Trader Joe's.
Fred Franzia continues to advocate lower wine pricing in restaurants.
Franzia sold roughly 500,000 cases of Napa appellation wines in 2006, making it the second largest seller of Napa Valley Wines by volume.
"We're doing the best we can to make good wines and are pleased the California State Fair picked our Charles Shaw with a double gold," Franzia said.
Scott Wiess, managing director of foster's americas
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 20 Million
Annual Global Sales Case Volume: 40 Million
Foster's continues to digest the 2005 purchase of Southcorp, the acquisition of which formed Australia's largest wine company. The U.S. division of Foster's Group is Foster's Americas; the wine division is Foster's Wine Estates. Foster's Wine Estates has been integrating Lindemans, Rosemount, Penfolds, the Little Penguin and others into their portfolio. The company's U.S. wineries are: Beringer, Etude, Stags' Leap, St. Clement, Chateau St. Jean, Chateau Souverain, Asti and Meridian.
There were numerous media reports in 2006 citing speculation that the brewer and winemaker could be a takeover target, but those seem to have tapered off these days as the company continues with an integration.
Last year, Foster's sold Windsor Vineyards of Sonoma County to an investment group associated with Girard winery, an ultra-premium property based in Napa Valley owned by Pat Roney. Windsor Vineyards was founded in 1959 by Rodney Strong and was the nation's first mail order winery, a pioneer of direct-to-consumer winery sales. Foster's also put Texas-based International Wine Accessories up for sale last year, and in Australia, Foster's put various non-strategic assets up for sale.
Scott Wiess joined Southcorp Americas in 2004 with experience overseas at Procter and Gamble and Clorox. He became managing director of Foster's Americas in July 2005. He declined to be interviewed for this story.
Recent initiatives have included the U.S. introduction of "Pink" and "Yellow" by Yellowglen, a sparkling wine brand with striking packaging that has enjoyed tremendous success in Australia. Another U.S. brand launch is Bohemian Highway, a "youthful, energetic lifestyle brand," and yet another is called Fortitude by Etude. Foster's recently introduced Beringer Third Century, commemorating the third century in which Beringer has operated. The company also re-launched and redesigned Rosemount this year.
In Canada, Foster's is selling Wolf Blass in 750 ml PET bottles, yet another innovation, as it is the first PET used for a full size wine bottle.
Another recent change concerns Lindemans. The company introduced Lindemans Country of Origin, sourced from grapes grown either in Chile or South Africa, in addition to Australia. Lindemans had previously been sourced exclusively with Australian grapes.
Recent line extensions include Riesling under Little Penguin, Wolf Blass and Beringer Founders Estates. Tunnel of Elms is a new on-premise brand. White Lie, the 2005 brand launch aimed at women, has been discontinued.
Foster's recently opened Cellar 360, a flagship store and wine education center in San Francisco's Ghirardelli Square featuring a broad spectrum of wines from across the globe. The store includes a 40-seat education center.
Bob Torkelson, President and COO
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 11 Million cases
Trinchero Family Estates is among the largest remaining family-owned wineries and is the largest based in Napa Valley. Brands include Sutter Home, alcohol-free Fre, Trinchero, Montevina, Trinity Oaks and Trinchero. Sutter Home wines account for much of the volume, and, though it is a mature brand, volumes increased last year.
Recently, Trinchero Family Estates expanded its fine-wine profile with the purchase of Folie à Deux Winery of St. Helena, California. Montevina is focused on Zinfandel, and Trinchero Family Estates is finding success with some Amador County vineyard designates.
The Folie à Deux purchase included the rapidly growing Ménage a Trois brand. The Folie à Deux site is being converted to the Trinchero Winery. Trinchero also owns the Reynolds and Little Boomey brands, and produces them as part of a supply arrangement with Angoves Winery.
Trinchero Family Estates owns 7,000 acres of vineyards in California, about 250 in Napa, along with one large Napa Valley production facility. Bob Torkelson has served as president and COO since May 2004.
One of the company's newest and most exciting initiatives is a marketing and distribution arrangement for the Three Thieves brand. Another relatively new brand, Wild Bunch, targets a younger demographic and is sealed with screw caps. The company also recently launched Sutter Home and Trinity Oaks in PET 187 ml bottles.
In 2006, the company acquired Napa Cellars in the Napa Valley, which will become the Folie à Deux and Napa Cellars tasting room. Construction of the Trinchero Winery started last year, a $20 million project that will house the Trinchero brand in St. Helena at the former Folie à Deux winery.
In 2006, the company also got into the organic wine business with a brand called True Earth through the partnership with Three Thieves. Yet another new brand is The Show. The company also released a new line of wines with its Australian partners and yet another new brand, Red Belly Black, from Angos.
At a time that some wine companies are shedding assets, Trinchero has been increasing its percentage of company-owned vineyards. In 2007, the company purchased three vineyards in Napa's Atlas Peak area and on Mt. Veeder, as well as a 1,000 acre ranch in Lodi adjacent to its existing Circle K Ranch, where approximately 400 acres of vines will be planted this year.
Last year, Trinchero sold a major production facility on Zinfandel Lane in Napa to a new venture that will be using it for custom crush services. Trinchero is renting back the facility while it completes a construction project at its Westside facility in Lodi where it is adding crush and fermentation capacity.
"We had a very good year and are cautiously optimistic about the future," Torkelson said.
Andrew Varga, Senior Vice President and Managing Director,
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 5.5 Million
Annual Global Sales Case Volume: 7 Million
Based in Louisville, Kentucky, Brown-Forman Wines is part of Brown-Forman Corporation, which markets Jack Daniels, Southern Comfort, Finlandia Vodka, Canadian Mist, Fetzer and Bolla Wines, Korbel Sparkling Wines, Sonoma-Cutrer and Bonterra. The flagship brand is Fetzer Vineyards.
In May 2006, Brown-Forman took its separate wines and spirits sales and marketing organizations and combined them at the wholesale and key accounts level. Additionally, the wine and spirits production operations now report to a head of global production, and corporate staff was realigned to support the new integrated beverage organization. The realignment reduced the number of salespeople calling on wholesale and retail accounts, but increased the number of "brand ambassadors" participating in promotional events.
New brand introductions have included: Virgin Vines, whose label communicates that wine doesn't have to be snobby; Gala Rouge, with a vintage poster label, with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from France, and a suggested price of $9.99; and Little Black Dress, California wines intended to appeal to women. Other new initiatives are a German Riesling and French Pinot Noir sold under the Fetzer label.
During the last couple of years, Brown-Forman has been shedding non-strategic assets. The former Fetzer Vineyards Valley Oaks hospitality center and organic garden in the southern Mendocino County town of Hopland was put up for sale last year. The company eliminated some positions at California wineries during that time, and last year announced its intent to sell its Paso Robles, California winery facilities and vineyards. In a similar move, Brown-Forman sold its Bolla wine production facility in Pedemonte, Italy to Gruppo Italiano Vini in 2006 while retaining ownership of the Bolla brand trademark.
Though the Paso Robles winery and related vineyards are sold, Brown-Forman will continue to own the Five Rivers brand trademark and produce and market the wines. Sourcing for Five Rivers will continue to focus on grapes from the Central Coast, with final vinification and bottling in Hopland.
"We're making steady and very meaningful progress on our wine business by focusing on well differentiated and relevant brands for the consumer," Varga said. 8. Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines
Ray Chadwick, President
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 5.5 million cases (WBM estimate)
Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines produces and markets Beaulieu Vineyard, Sterling Vineyards, Sterling Vintner's Collection, Solaris, Century Cellars, Moon Mountain Vineyard and F.E. Trimbach. In the U.S., the company is the largest importer of fine classified Bordeaux, and is the exclusive importer of Barton & Guestier as well as other French wines. In addition to the Beaulieu and Sterling vineyards, Diageo operates winemaking facilities in Sonoma and on California's Central Coast. The company has 28 domestic and imported brands of wine.
Diageo acquired much of the old Seagram drinks business in late 2001 and consolidated distribution with one wholesaler in each state. Chosen distributors were required to create separate sales divisions dedicated exclusively to selling Diageo products.
In late 2004, Diageo purchased Chalone Wine Group, a collection of small high-end wineries, adding Chalone Vineyard, Edna Valley Vineyard, Acacia, Canoe Ridge Vineyard, Jade Mountain, Sagelands Vineyard, Echelon Vineyards, Hewitt, Orogeny, Provenance and Dynamite Vineyards to the portfolio.
The company continues to grow the Beaulieu Vineyard and Sterling brands. Adding the Chalone brands balanced out an already formidable portfolio. BV and Sterling were best known for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot while brands such as Chalone and Acacia were best known for such varietals as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. BV and Sterling were better developed off-premise, but the Chalone and Acacia brands were strong in on-premise markets.
In 2006, Diageo created a line extension with Chalone's Monterey line. The company also introduced Archetype from Australia, a Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz blend and a reserve Shiraz. "A" by Acacia is a relatively new line of California appellation Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with wines from California's Central Coast. Another new brand launch is Beauzeaux (pronounced bo-zo), a blended red with a screw cap. Diageo also introduced a new wine from B&G of France in 2006, Bistro Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet.
Other new wine introductions include the launch of New Harbor Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and Diageo's first wine from Italy, a Pinot Grigio, Stellina di Notte. Diageo is also now the exclusive importer of Almaviva, the highly regarded Chilean wine produced jointly by Baron Philippe de Rothschild SA and Viña Concha y Toro SA.
The other big news at Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines is that Beaulieu Vineyard will invest nearly $7 million to create a self-contained, state-of-the-art winemaking facility dedicated solely to the production of flagship wine, Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. The company is committed to making sure Georges de Latour, an iconic brand, stays at the top of the pyramid.
"Our strategy has been in place for a number of years," Diageo Chateau & Estates president and Ray Chadwick said. "It starts with making top quality wines, and we are very focused on the premium wine category, which we define as $10 and above at retail."
Since forming the current iteration of Diageo Chateau & Estate Wubes six years ago, the company has had the same management team in place. "The continuity of our core team is really starting to pay dividends," Chadwick said. "We have the right people so we can deliver great business results."
Ted Baseler, President and CEO
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 5.1 million (WBM Estimate)
Owned by UST, Inc., Ste. Michelle Wine Estates was established in 1986 to accommodate a growing portfolio. Its Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery is Washington's oldest. The company has expanded vineyard holdings to more than 4,600 in Washington and California. While there are over 500 wineries in Washington, Stimson Estate Cellars accounts for more than half of the state's wine production.
In addition to Chateau Ste. Michelle, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates includes Columbia Crest, Domaine Ste. Michelle, Snoqualmie, NorthStar, Stimson Estate Cellars and Red Diamond. The company also produces Col Solare in partnership with Tuscany's Marchesi Antinori family. It owns Conn Creek of Napa Valley, California, as well as Villa Mt. Eden. In 2006, the company purchased Erath Vineyards of Oregon. Newer brands include Red Diamond, 14 Hands wines from the Horse Heaven Hills AVA in Washington and Distant Bay wines from Monterey County, California. The company has 23 wineries, some with multiple brands.
St. Michelle Wine Estates has exclusive importing rights for Antinori wines from Italy in the U.S. market. In addition to the joint partnership with Col Solare, where a 27,000-square-foot winery opened its doors last April, the partners in 2007 purchased Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, one of the world's most highly regarded winery estates.
"Stag's Leap Wine Cellars perfectly fits our shared vision of producing wines from historic vineyard sites; and for Ste. Michelle, this is a terrific complement to our estate wineries in Washington, Oregon and California," Ted Baseler, president of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, said at the time.
Ste. Michelle bought Erath Winery in Oregon in 2006 and in the last year has been expanding vineyard sourcing and distribution. The company also continues to ride the wave of the increasing popularity of Riesling. Ste. Michelle Wine Estates anticipated that the Riesling market would be growing a few years ago, so it gave growers incentives to plant it while offering long-term contracts, staggering plantings to ramp up.
St. Michelle's volumes grew in 2007 with core brand Chateau Ste. Michelle the fastest growing of the top 25 wine brands, according to The Nielsen Company.
"Where we're going is to really focus on the ultra-premium segment and to accomplish that with a string of estate wineries, each with its own legacy and market niche," Baseler said.
Clay Gregory, President of Jackson Family Wines
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 5 Million
Jackson Family Wines is a family-owned wine company with four divisions, more than 1,200 employees globally and three dozen wine brands. The four divisions are Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates (primarily Kendall-Jackson at about 3.5 million cases), Artisan & Estates, Jackson Wine Estates International and White Rocket, serving the under $10-per bottle category and introducing young adults to wine.
Artisan & Estates includes various estate-based brands, including: Cardinale, Atalon, Lokoya, Carmel Road, Cambria, Hartford Family Wines, Matanzas Creek, La Crema, Stonestreet, Vérité and Archipel.
In late 2005, Jess Jackson announced that he was strategically repositioning his top brand, Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay, by increasing the price, reducing production and using only estate-grown fruit to improve the quality of the finished product. To further embellish and market this image, the new Vintner's Reserve label features the phrase, "Jackson Estate Grown," in reference to fruit grown on property either owned or controlled by the company. Repositioning Vintner's Reserve as an "affordable luxury brand" has been an extraordinary undertaking and one that prompted industry analyst Jon Fredrikson to name Jackson Family Wines the "Winery of the Year" during his state of the industry address at the 2007 Unified Wine & Grape Symposium.
Jackson, who owns 14,000 vineyard acres in California, expanded in 2006, paying about $100 million for Freemark Abbey winery in Napa Valley, the Arrowood Vineyards & Winery in Sonoma and the Byron Vineyard and Winery in Santa Maria. Jackson additionally purchased the Murphy-Goode Estate Winery in Geyserville, California, Robert Pecota Winery in Napa and La Jota in Napa. He also moved ahead with plans to build a small winery in Knights Valley and leased the 400-acre Huichica Hills Vineyard in the Carneros AVA from Vintage Wine Trust. Jackson Family Wines has also planted additional acreage to Pinot Noir, a category where it is a leader.
In 2007, Jess Jackson and Barbara Banke increased their holdings in Napa Valley again, with the purchase of Chateau Potelle Winery's assets on Mt. Veeder.
"We also introduced two new internally developed wines this year," said Clay Gregory, president of Jackson Family Wines. "One is called Pelton House, a Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and another Kinton, and that's a Santa Barbara County, Syrah-only winery."
The purchase included a 200-acre property with a house and about 30 planted acres of vineyards on Mt. Veeder about 1,800 feet above the Napa Valley floor. It also includes a winery with the capacity to annually produce roughly 20,000 cases.
This year, Jackson Family Farms celebrates its 25th anniversary as a winery, and it's rather amazing what's been accomplished in that relatively short period of time.
"Our efforts are aimed at going upscale across the board, in particular with K-J," said Gregory. "We really don't care about volume growth, we care much more about profitability, and I think that's one of the real distinctive characteristics of being a family company. The other one that ties into that is we care very much about owning vineyards and being able to control our sourcing so that a higher percentage of wines under the K-J label are Jackson Estates grown, which has resonated very nicely with consumers. They understand that growing something from the very beginning and using your own grapes with your own winemakers gives you the potential to make the highest quality product."
Gary Heck, Chairman, president, Chief Executive
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 2.45 Million
F. Korbel & Bros. includes Korbel Champagne Cellars, Kenwood Vineyards, Korbel Brandy, Valley of the Moon Winery and Lake Sonoma Winery.
Korbel Champagne Cellars was established in 1882. The Heck family has owned and managed Korbel since 1954, and the brand has been marketed by Brown-Forman since 1965. Korbel also makes brandy in a separate facility. Kenwood, Valley of the Moon, and Lake Sonoma continue to grow and now account for roughly 600,000 cases.
The company is also celebrating its 125th year, which is noted throughout point of sale materials and advertising.
As the leader by volume in the domestic sparkling wine category, Korbel promotes sparkling wine with continual promotions, often involving holidays and special occasions. Korbel experienced double-digit sales growth during much of 2007, outperforming the category. Marketing efforts are continual, including test marketing to Hispanics via Univision, Telemundo and Alma Magazine. Korbel continues its partnership with NBC Sports, opening the door of network advertising and brand recognition during the prime selling season.
Sparkling wine remains a drink many consumers associate with special occasions, and Korbel's marketing reflects that. Another trend in the marketplace is sparkling wine being used in mixed drinks, which also plays into Korbel's marketing efforts involving mixability.
Chief executive and chairman Gary Heck said that the Sparkling Rose category is on fire, and one of the newest product introductions has been a Sparkling Rose in 187 ml bottles.
Chris Indelicato, President and CEO
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 2 Million
The Indelicato family has been making wine for more than 75 years and owns more than 10,000 acres of vineyards along the Central Coast and near Lodi, California. Delicato Family Vineyards also farms grapes for other wineries and has an outsourcing business where it does custom winemaking for many leading wineries in addition to its own branded case goods business.
The company's main brand is Delicato. Others include Bota Box, King Fish, Night Owl and Gnarly Head. While the winery ships nearly two million cases per year under its own brands, it has a significant bulk business, annually producing the equivalent of approximately 12 million cases of wine. The company continues to add capacity and to plant additional vineyards.
Delicato Vineyards named CFO Chris Indelicato as CEO in June 2004. Chris Indelicato is the grandson of Delicato founder Gasparé Indelicato and, prior to holding the CFO post, was national accounts manager.
Delicato has been expanding its production capabilities and enjoyed a growth year in 2007. The company continues to shift its focus toward the $10 to $15 price point throughout its business, an initiative that really began about a decade ago.
New launches include Twisted, priced at $12.99 in 1.5 liter bottles and Irony, a Napa Valley brand priced at $14. The company recently introduced 337, which stands for Clone 337. It also started importing Chateu Maris, a biodynamic wine from France. New brands in the early stages include: Joe Blow for the younger crowd and Lore Dona from Monterey.
Exports account for nearly a quarter of the company's volume.
Don Sebastiani, Sr.
Don Sebastiani, Sr., Proprietor
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 2 Million
Don Sebastiani's grandfather started what is known today as Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery. For many years, the winery made bulk wine for other wineries, and later it introduced branded wine and was the pioneer of varietal-labeled jug wines. Beginning in 1986, Don Sebastiani ran the company that was founded by his grandfather. He stepped down in 2000 to create a new wine company and soon recruited his two sons, Donny and August, to assist him in the creation of Don Sebastiani & Sons.
While it does own and operate a small winemaking facility, Don Sebastiani & Sons acts as a negociant, buying and blending bulk wines for the Three Loose Screws Wine Company division. The company has grown extremely quickly. Core brands include Mia's Playground, Aquinas Napa Valley, Smoking Loon, Pepperwood Grove, Screw Kappa Napa and Used Automobile Parts.
Don Sebastiani & Sons is known for whimsical packaging, exclusive use of alternative closures and for having a separate division focused on direct sales, The Other Guys.
In 2006, Don Sebastiani & Sons moved into new territory by sourcing wine from overseas. The brand, Kona Baru, uses imported wines from the Southern Hemisphere--Australia, Argentina, Chile, South Africa and New Zealand. Kona Baru is known for putting the labels on the bottles upside down. Pepperwood Grove now sources Pinot Noir from four different countries.
Peter Mondavi, Jr.
Peter Mondavi, Jr., Vice President and Treasurer
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 1.2 Million
Charles Krug Winery, the first winery founded in the Napa Valley in 1861, is owned by the Peter Mondavi family. There are two brands, CK Mondavi, of which roughly one million cases of California wine are produced, and the Charles Krug brand, involving about 80,000 cases of premium Napa Valley wine.
CK Mondavi competes in an extremely competitive segment of the market against a focused group of competitors and is among a handful of companies vying in the California varietal magnum category. It's the only truly family-owned winery besides Gallo competing in that category.
The Charles Krug brand has been repositioned in recent years as an "estate-brand" for Bordeaux-style reds. The brand with volume that puts the winery on the WBM Top 30 list is CK Mondavi, which is strictly California-based, with an emphasis on Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
In 2007, Charles Krug continued to grow the Napa Valley portfolio. The winery also upgraded equipment, adding 19 fermentation tanks and an additional press, positioning the winery for growth of its estate-driven wines. Charles Krug also received CCOF organic certification on three vineyards in 2006, and two more should be certified next year.
Charles Krug Winery turned 146 this year; and after spending $21 million updating their vineyards and another $7.5 million recreating a unique dual-winery, the winery is spending $6 million to restore the classic architecture that Krug himself built.
The winery has replanted over 450 acres in the Napa Valley and is converting all to CCOF organic certification. The family will be among the largest certified-organic landowners in Napa Valley.
Stephen Kautz, President
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 900,000
Starting in 1948, John Kautz became a winegrape supplier, eventually amassing more than 5,000 acres of grapes in Lodi and the Sierra Foothills, becoming one of the top 10 winegrape growers in California. The Kautz family started making wine in 1981 and broke ground on Ironstone Vineyards in September 1989. Another leading brand from the Kautz family is Leaping Horse. The company also purchased the Sonoma Creek brand and inventory in 2003, which continues to ramp up. Ironstone is now sold in 40 countries.
Most recently, Ironstone has focused on its reserve program with grapes from Calaveras County and is receiving some good scores from critics. One of the latest brand introductions is Dog Tail, with a retail price point of $9 to $10.
Strategically, the company continues to move up the price point ladders, with new packages and products. Among the new initiatives is Christine Andrew, a brand named after the great grand-children from the family's fourth generation and priced in the $12 to $15 retail segment.
Jerry Lohr, Proprietor
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 900,000
Jerry Lohr owns more than 3,000 acres of vineyards. In addition to various wines made under the J. Lohr name, wines include Crosspoint, Painter Bridge, Cypress (with screw caps) and Ariel Vineyards (non-alcoholic).
In 1972 and 1973, Jerry Lohr planted 280 acres of winegrapes in the Arroyo Seco appellation of Monterey County and in 1974 completed his winery in San Jose. In 1988, property near Paso Robles was purchased, which now encompasses 2,000 acres of vineyards, primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other red varietals. An adjacent winery and barrel facility was also built. In 1988, he began expansion of his vineyards in the Arroyo Seco, which now includes 900 acres of Chardonnay and other cool-climate varieties, such as Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Valdiguié.
In 2006, J Lohr really established the Cuvee line at the top of the line and prepared to expand the "vineyard series" from four items to 10. The company did this by expanding its production capabilities for processing small lots to showcase vineyard designates.
J. Lohr also partnered with UC Davis on flavor-sensory work and is supporting other ongoing research, including a study of wines under extended hang times, comparing wines fermented with grapes from the same vineyards at various Brix levels.
Jerry Lohr has long been involved in giving back to the wine industry. He served as chair of Wine Institute more than a decade ago and was a co-founder of Wine Vision. Recently he's made efforts to be much more supportive of research and particularly of efforts to share the results for the greater good of the California wine industry. He's part of the executive committee of the American Vineyard Foundation, was the founding chair of the National Grape and Wine Initiative, and is visiting vice chair of the board of visiting fellows at the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis.
17. The Coppola Companies
Jay Shoemaker, Chief Executive
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 900,000 (WBM Estimate)
Rubicon Estate Winery is owned by filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola and his wife, Eleanor. Gustave Niebaum, a retired sea captain from Finland, fell in love with Napa and built the stone winery in 1887, naming it "Inglenook." Until the 1950s, its wines were considered among the best in California, but the winery fell into corporate ownership and quality declined. The Coppolas bought part of the estate in 1975 and purchased the original winery building in 1995.
Estate wines include Rubicon and Cabernet Franc and Zinfandel bottled under the Edizione Pennino label, named after Coppola's grandfather. Non-estate wines include the Directors Cut series, the Francis Coppola Reserve series, the Diamond Collection Series and Sofia.
While it makes relatively small amounts of high-end, estate-bottled wines from Napa, The Coppola Companies sells large quantities of wine under the Diamond Collection Series label and the Rosso and Bianco labels. Those wines have sold very well. As a wine company, the venture has flown under the radar screen.
Coppola closed on the purchase of a large Sonoma County winery in February 2006. The Geyserville winery, which had been home to the Chateau Souverain brand, is a landmark in northern Sonoma County. In 2007, the winery was renamed Rosso & Bianco, and it is home to the Diamond Series, Rosso and Bianco wines, among other brands. Plans awaiting county approval would see the winery transformed into a resort with a large outdoor pool with cabanas, a family-friendly destination.
When The Niebaum-Coppola Estate Winery on Highway 29 in Rutherford was renamed "Rubicon Estate Winery" in 2006, its identity changed too, with a new entrance procedure designed to elevate the guest experience and make it a more special place for people devoted to "super-premium" wines to come.
New offerings include Francis Coppola Reserve, for sale exclusively at the Sonoma winery, and a new wine called Director's Cut for on-premise accounts.
The winery will soon introduce a new package for its Claret, the biggest seller in the Diamond series, and in 2008 will introduce two new lines, one geared specifically toward a younger demographic called Encyclopedia, with imported varietals to educate the younger drinker.
Exports are up, particularly in Japan.
Patty Bogle, Proprietor
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 850,000
The Bogle family has been farming since the mid-1800s, and in 1968, the father and son team of Chris and Warren Bogle planted their first winegrapes in Clarksburg, California. Bogle Vineyards farms over 1,200 acres of winegrapes in the Delta region. The winery was established in 1978. Patty Bogle became involved in the early years of the vineyards with her late husband, Chris, when they planted fields in the early 1970s. She took over operation of the winery in 1989. Her daughter Jody is involved in the business, as is her son Warren.
Bogle Vineyards continues to grow, especially with Cabernet and Syrah. Bogle is probably the biggest producer of Petit Sirah. Patty Bogle said part of that success came from simplifying the Bogle line into a couple different levels--line pricing. They also added a Pinot Noir. "Our biggest issue has been continuing to keep the programs spot on and, as they grow, to add growers or more grapes of our own," Bogle said.
Tom Klein, Proprietor
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 800,000
Tom Klein's family has been farming for more than 100 years in the Stockton, California area, and has a diversified family farming business, growing nuts, fruits and vegetables. The business also sells grapes to other wineries. The winery was founded in 1959 by Rodney Strong. Strong had taken his wine company public before it was purchased a few years later and then taken private by the company's largest shareholder. The Klein family purchased Rodney Strong Vineyards from Guinness, the Irish brewing company, in 1989.
Rodney Strong Vineyards makes six varietals and about 15 different wines, all of them from Sonoma County.
Over the last few years, the winery has purchased or planted about 600 acres of new vineyards. More than half of the company's wines come from its own estate vineyards. Two years ago, Rodney Strong Vineyards installed a solar energy project that supplies 40 percent of its energy needs.
Rodney Strong completed the installation of a new "winery within the winery" in 2006, focusing on Reserve Cabernet, Symmetry and Reserve Pinot Noir, the best lots of lines.
Other news at Rodney Strong includes the launch of Sonoma Vineyards, its 2007 purchase of the Davis Bynum brand and an overall focus on the high end of the winery's portfolio, its reserve and single vineyard wines and Symmetry.
Tom Selfridge, President
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 650,000
The Hess Collection, which is owned by Swiss businessman Donald Hess, was purchased by Peter Lehman Wines of Australia in late 2003. Peter Lehman is a 650,000-case brand worldwide. Hess also owns Glen Carlou of South Africa and Bodega Columé in Argentina, a project that Donald Hess has focused on and where he is a true pioneer, working with what may be the highest planted vineyards in the world.
Though it is in very small quantities, Hess also makes Artezin, a Zinfandel brand and blend sourced from Mendocino, Dry Creek and Amador County in California. Hess owns roughly 1,000 vineyard acres in California, all of it in Napa Valley except a Monterey vineyard that supports its Chardonnay program.
Tom Selfridge was named president of The Hess Collection in 2005 and before that served as chief executive at Chalone Wine Group. Hess has since been focusing more on its wines from Mt. Veeder and on marketing its vineyard estate-based wines.
Since joining Hess as president in 2005, Tom Selfridge has been increasing the winery's emphasis on its roots in Napa and Mt. Veeder. The winery is investing approximately $30 million on a five-year revitalization plan. With 30 years of experience, the company understands which rootstocks and clones fit the different slopes and soil exposures of Mt. Veeder. Malbec, for instance, does very well there and will become a key blender. The winery's marketing focus will put more emphasis on the Mt. Veeder collection and its estate grown varietals.
Andrew Browne, CEO
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 600,000
Founded in 2003 by Andrew Browne and a team of industry veterans, Precept Brands is the fastest growing wine company in Washington. Browne was president and chief executive of Corus Brands, until 2001, when Canandaigua Wine Company (Constellation Brands) acquired most of the Corus portfolio (Alice White, Covey Run, Columbia Winery, Paul Thomas and Ste. Chapelle).
Precept has grown through acquisitions and organically, and operates as a brand incubator with few production assets but a knack for effective sales and marketing. The company has launched several domestic and joint venture import brands since its inception.
Brands sourced from Washington include: Avery Lane, Barrelstone, Big Sky, Grizz, Pine and Post, Pavin and Riley, Washington Hills, Sol Duc, Sweet Pea and more. Brands imported in joint ventures from Australia include: Shingleback, The Gate, Red Knot, Screwed, Sinplicity and Outback Chase. Another brand, Fauna, is from New Zealand. European brands include: Bloom and Struktur from Germany, Ciao Bella from Italy, El Paseo and Solo from Spain, as well as Red Beret Côte du Rhône from France.
Precept also has a joint venture with Allen Shoup called "Pendulum," a 2003 Columbia Valley red wine that made its debut in 2005.
In 2006, Precept Brands and The Magnificent Wine Co. of Walla Walla, Washington formed a new partnership, with Precept providing marketing, sales and administrative duties. Charles Smith, of K Vintners and The Magnificent Wine Co., is working with Precept's team to grow Magnificent's wine brands, particularly House Wine red and white blends from Columbia Valley. Precept also purchased Waterbrook Winery of Walla Walla, Washington in a deal that included the brand, inventory and tasting room in downtown Walla Walla, but not Waterbrook's production facility or vineyards. One big change for Precept in 2007, though, was new investments in vineyards and facilities in Washington State. The company is building a winery in Walla Walla, Washington, a 250,000-case facility that should be operational for the 2008 harvest.
The Riboli Family
Steve Riboli, Vice President
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 500,000
The Riboli family has operated the San Antonio Winery for 90 years, a milestone. During Prohibition, the winery survived by making sacramental wine, a niche that is still very important to the winery. San Antonio is the only winery located in downtown Los Angeles. Much of the production is jug wine; but there are several fine-wine labels, including Maddalena Vineyard, San Simeon, Riboli Family Vineyard and San Antonio and the San Antonio Artisan Series.
23. Purple Wine Company
Dennis Carroll, President
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 470,000
The Purple Wine Company was founded by Derek Benham, who with his brother launched Codera Wine Group and saw success with the Blackstone brand, ultimately selling it to Constellation Brands. Benham learned an important branding lesson: make a good wine with a good price point synonymous with a varietal--as he had with Blackstone Merlot--and the wine almost brands itself. The lesson carries over into the Purple Wine Company, with brands including Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon, Rock Rabbit and Mark West--all reasonably priced. Its newest brands include Blue Jean, Capalon and Bex, a Riesling. Purple Wine Company continues to grow its distribution base, primarily on-premise and with broad market retailers.
Purple Wine Company's sister is Sonoma Wine Company, a major custom crush wine facility that shares employees.
Benham repurchased the original Blackstone facility later in 2002 as well as its contract bottling business. The facility, now the Sonoma Wine Company, continues to produce nearly 2 million cases of wine annually for Blackstone along with over 25 other producers.
Malcolm Dunbar, CEO
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 440,000
Domaine Chandon is the Napa-based arm of France's giant Moët & Chandon (part of the Moët Hennessy Group) and is the second-ranked U.S. méthode champenoise producer by volume after Korbel.
Domaine Chandon has enjoyed double-digit growth for the past five years and plans to maintain strong growth despite an increasingly competitive environment. Newton Vineyard has also enjoyed enormous growth in recent months. Recent initiatives include rationalized and refreshed labels, to make the brand architecture clearer for consumers. International markets are a growing and increasingly important development with some 15 percent of Newton wine being sold overseas.
2007 included various new product launches and revisions to the existing wine portfolio. Chandon repositioned the reserve tier of sparkling wines, now stating the varietal from which it is made on the front label. Many consumers enjoy Pinot Noir and Chardonnay still wines. Chandon Reserve Pinot Noir Brut and Reserve Chardonnay Brut make the connection clearer for consumers that these are the grapes that also make their favorite sparkling wine. "Our hope is that when a restaurant customer asks for Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, the waiter will reply: 'Sparkling or still?'" Chandon chief executive Malcolm Dunbar said.
In 2007, Chandon continued to expand still wine offerings: Domaine Chandon Unoaked Chardonnay and Pinot Noir Rosé were released in time for summer, an alternative to the Carneros Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The winery also added ultra-premium Pinot Noir still wines from regions renowned for that grape, introducing a Santa Rita Hills and Russian River Valley Pinot Noir in addition to a Vineyard Select wine from the Carneros Ranch. Chandon Rosé, which was launched in September 2007, is now offered in a convenient 187ml package. Chandon also recently launched its first national television campaign to provide strong brand awareness in key markets.
Bill Leigon, President
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 400,000
Wimbledon Wine Company produces Hahn Estates, Cycles Gladiator, Smith & Hook, Huntington Wine Cellars and Red Flyer.
Five years ago, Wimbledon Wine Company was a medium-sized winery, but the winery sold more than 400,000 cases of HRM (His Royal Majesty) Rex Goliath in 2004 before selling the brand to Constellation Brands.
The winery has since been as successful with Cycles Gladiator, for which sales and prices have been rising. The company recently completed replanting 400 acres of Pinot Noir in the Santa Lucia Highlands. It has about 650 vineyard acres in the Santa Lucia Highlands, 160 acres in Paso Robles and roughly 350 vineyard acres in Arroyo Seco--about 1,200 acres in total. One of the latest launches is a high end Pinot Noir, Lucienne.
Greg Popovich, Founder and President
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 400,000
Castle Rock Winery owns no vineyards and no winery and has taken advantage of great opportunities on the bulk wine market. The winery's strategy is different from most in that it sells limited quantities of many different appellation-specific wines for less than $12, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from Napa Valley and Pinot Noir from the Russian River. But the brand does employ a basic and traditional label. Roughly 60 percent of the winery's volume is Pinot Noir.
Founder and president Greg Popovich attributes the brand's growth to the quality in the bottle. He has also worked with smaller wholesalers where he stands out as a brand, and his business model is predicated on low overhead.
Timing played a role in Castle Rock's success. The brand started 13 years ago when many in the trade were emphasizing more expensive wines and was well positioned when the emphasis among many shifted to "value." The brand was also well positioned when sales of Pinot Noir surged because it was already producing quality Pinot Noir at attractive prices. The popularity of Pinot Noir has also forced Castle Rock out of the negociant model so that it is now making about 80 percent of its wine from grapes purchased under long-term contracts.
Wines are made on a contract basis at a number of custom crush facilities, including the Sebastiani facility in Sonoma.
Popovich continues to build the brand on-premise and estimates that it is sold in 7,000 restaurants. The annual Wine & Spirits Restaurant Poll ranked Castle Rock as number four in the country by the glass.
"Things are going well," Popovich said. "We've stayed focused."
Morgan Zaninovich, president
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 350,000
Rutherford Ranch Vineyards and Winery is owned by Marko Zaninovich. Zaninovich also owns ASV wines of McFarland, California. ASV provides bulk wine, bottled products and custom services to wine marketers.
Zaninovich owns Sunview Vineyards, one of California's three largest table grape-growing operations, and ASV operates two California wineries: one in the Central Valley and another on the Central Coast. It has made private label wine since the 1970s. ASV deals in bulk truckloads of wine. Converted to nine-liter cases, those truckloads represent more than 700,000 cases of wine. Rutherford Ranch Vineyards and Winery and ASV are part of an international enterprise that includes a grapevine nursery, laboratory services, package manufacturing, fresh table grapes and other fresh fruits.
Zaninovich bought Rutherford Ranch Vineyards and Winery in May 2000. The winery focuses on private label wines, mostly for casual restaurant sales. The Round Hill brand exists in an intensely competitive price category, and the winery is shifting some of its focus to Napa. Much of the recent focus has been on the core Rutherford Ranch label, which has seen double-digit growth. The winery has long been active in the private labeling business, primarily for restaurants. One of the newest brands launched by the winery is Grand Pacific, with a locomotive on the label, red and white blends.
The core direction is private labels, which ASV wines has led in for two decades. Exports are also up at the winery, with recent strides in Japan, Taiwan, Ireland, the U.K. and Switzerland. Zaninovich said the company continues to work on new brand development, with considerable research and development on flavor profiles and niche development.
Carolyn Wente, Vice-Chairman
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 300,000 cases
Annual Global Sales Case Volume: 400,000 cases (includes airline
channels and exports)
channels and exports)
After learning about winemaking from Charles Krug, C. H. Wente, a first-generation immigrant from Germany, founded his own winery in 1883. The winery is now managed by the fourth and fifth generations of the Wente family. The winery owns more than 2,000 acres of vineyards in the Livermore Valley, San Francisco Bay and 700 in Arroyo Seco, Monterey. In Livermore, the winery also operates a restaurant and a golf course. Wente also has a mature export program, though it has narrowed its export focus.
Wente Vineyards continues to be family-owned and operated with the fifth generation now in place, including winemaker Karl Wente and marketing director Christine Wente. The winery continues a focus on being estate-grown, produced and bottled, with growth fueled and sustained by Wente's own vineyard resources and assets.
Brands include: Wente Vineyards, Murrieta's Well and Hayes Ranch, a relatively new brand bottled in screw caps with a western-style label.
Dan Leese, President
Doug Walker, Chief Operating Officer
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 340,000 cases
The Red Truck brand got its start in 2003 as a blended table wine produced by Cline Cellars; 585 Wine Partners was formed in 2005 when a group led by industry veterans Dan Leese and Doug Walker purchased the Red Truck brand and formed a new venture. Fred and Nancy Cline continue as minority investors. The company has its sights set on building a $100 million business.
Leese, 585 Wine Partners' president, previously served as managing director of Beringer Blass Wine Estates (now Foster's Wine Estates Americas) in North America. Chief Operating Officer Doug Walker served as senior vice president of business strategy and development at Foster's.
Red Truck sales have more than doubled, and the line has been extended with Pink Truck. Wines are still made at Cline, but now the company has added Red Truck Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. In an exclusive to Whole Foods, Red Truck has been making organic Petit Sirah and Sauvignon Blanc.
The company is also embarking on other wine projects. Picket Fence is a Russian River Chardonnay and Pinot Noir project made by Don Van Staaveren, who has his own winemaking venture but previously made wine for Chateau St. Jean and Artesa. Yet another project just getting underway involves working in Italy to produce Chianti and Pinot Grigio. The wine is called Bivio, which means fork in the road. 585's partner in the venture is GIV, Groupo Italiano.
30. Winery Exchange
Phil Hurst, co-founder; Peter Byck, co-founder
Annual U.S. Sales Case Volume: 300,000
Though in past years it has flown under the radar screen, Winery Exchange has billed itself as the "leading global supplier of quality private label wine brands for global wine retailers."
The company mostly works with imported wines but supplies domestic wines too. Its wines are sold by major retailers, such as Albertsons, Costco and even 7-Eleven.
Working with retail partners, the company creates wine blends, brand names, packaging and marketing plans. The company manages production, compliance and distribution.
Winery Exchange was founded in 1999, with headquarters in Novato, California, by a group that had worked for Golden State Vintners (now part of The Wine Group).
National wine brand Solemar, an Italian Pinot Grigio, is one of the newest brands. Other brands include: Marq Wines from Monterey County with sub-brands to "reinforce the regional essence of the appellation," including The Foraging Boars, The Mossed Grove, The Sculpted Stone and The Fatted Otter.
Other brands include: Arrow Creek and Jenica Peak, both from California, and Q, a Napa/Sonoma brand.
The company is also involved in private label spirits brands, owning World Brews, which develops private label and national brand beers.
During 2006, Winery Exchange/World Brews shipped over 2,000,000 cases of wine, beer and spirits to the United States and global markets.
The company is now launching a suite of its own brands for smaller retailers.
The company has seen major growth on the beer and spirits side of the business. The company was just named importer for the Bavaria brand, the number two Dutch beer in the world after Heineken. Winery Exchange is also behind Costco's Kirkland Signature vodka. wbm