Wines & Vines Home
   
 
Welcome Guest
LOGIN |  CREATE ACCOUNT
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 
 
 
01.18.2013  
 

Charles Smith Positioned for Growth

Purchase of former Whitman Cellars expands possibilities for Washington state winemaker

 
by Peter Mitham
 
 
charles smith wine
 
Charles Smith's purchase of the former Whitman Cellars gives him an extra 10,000 square feet of production space.
Walla Walla, Wash.—With some of the most dynamic years in the Washington state wine industry yet to come, winemaker Charles Smith (of the eponymous Charles Smith label as well as Charles & Charles, K Vintners and others) has taken steps to free up resources and move forward with new projects.

Smith purchased the former Whitman Cellars premises (including property, equipment and the Whitman Cellars trademark) for $1.1 million in August 2012, giving him an extra 10,000 square feet of production space.

More recently, Smith and partner Charles Bieler handed sales and marketing of their Charles & Charles label to Trinchero Family Estates, freeing up time to pursue new initiatives such as a single-vineyard Chardonnay line planned with winemaker Brennan Leighton, formerly of Woodinville’s Efeste Wines.

“We’ll sell more wine and not work as hard at doing it,” Charles Smith told Wines & Vines regarding the arrangement with Trinchero, noting that sales of Charles & Charles wines have been growing at 30% annually.

The deal with Trinchero means Smith’s own in-house sales team of five people won’t have to take on extra work or expand as the brand will be handled by Trinchero. He says the move will improve the brand’s exposure as well as allowing him to focus on Washington state wine.

“We get to do some bigger things without really having to be bigger ourselves,” he said.

That’s where the new space in the former Whitman Cellars premises comes in.

Moving in
Community Bank of Joseph, Ore., called loans totalling $2.66 million (principal and interest) at the end of January 2011, abruptly shuttering Whitman Cellars. While the winery was listed at $1.1 million the previous fall, it failed to find a buyer and entered foreclosure.

Driving by the Pine Street location last summer, Smith saw a sign advertising the premises’ availability just as he was wondering whether or not to lease a new facility to accommodate K Vintners’ production.

“If we hadn’t purchased Whitman Cellars, we would have been very, very, tight-squeezed,” Smith said. “We had the opportunity to purchase it lickety-split...(and) like a hermit crab, we moved in.”

While a thorough cleaning was done just in time for the first grapes to arrive the week of Sept. 17, there have been no structural changes or major renovations. The premises, which came with equipment, were ready to go.

“The idea was, be modest in our environment and spend the money where it most matters to the consumer. It’s not a place to visit; wine in the bottle is what they’re going to get,” Smith said.

While the premises are serving the primary purpose of accommodating K Vintners’ production, they’re also home to 27 single-vineyard Chardonnays now undergoing malolactic fermentation. Smith anticipates this first vintage from the project, undertaken with Leighton, will be released in late 2014.

When they do, they’ll likely flow smack-dab into the midst of a renewed Walla Walla and Washington state wine industry.

The economic landscape
While a handful of Walla Walla wineries shut down in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and ensuing recession, Smith believes the trial by economic fire has left a stronger, more dynamic industry.

“I was member No. 17. Now there’s over 120 bonds—and that was in a 10-year period,” he says of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance. “The growth has been incredible, and with any type of growth of that nature you’re going to expect that you’ll have things aren’t going to stick.”

But if the boom wasn’t all wine and roses, it doesn’t discount the wine and roses that exist.

“I think people are coming back—not that they’ve ever gone—with a real intensity, a real passion,” Smith said. “With Trinchero Estates and Gallo coming to Washington...now the American wine business and the consumer is going to take Washington even more seriously.”

Gallo bought the Columbia and Covey Run wineries in June 2012 from Ascentia Wine Estates. (See “Gallo Purchase Could Boost Grape Prices.”)

Smith himself also has expansion plans in mind, having planted 40 acres of vines last spring on a property south of Walla Walla on Cottonwood Road.

With 18,500 square feet of production space across three locations, Smith looks forward to consolidating operations—now producing 300, 000 cases a year—in a single location at the Cottonwood Road property.

SHARE »
Close
 
Currently no comments posted for this article.
 
CURRENT NEWS INDEX »


 
Wines & Vines Home
 
866.453.9701 | 415.453.9700 | Fax: 415.453.2517
65 Mitchell Blvd., Ste. A San Rafael, CA 94903
info@winesandvines.com
Wine Industry Metrics
 
Off-Premise Sales » Month   12 Months  
August 2014 $558 million
5%
$7,613 million
6%
August 2013 $531 million $7,167 million
     
Direct-to-Consumer Shipments » Month   12 Months  
August 2014 $78 million
17%
$1,686 million
10%
August 2013 $67 million $1,530 million
     
Winery Job Index » Month   12 Months  
August 2014 218
12%
224
19%
August 2013 194 189
     
 
MORE » Released on 09.15.2014
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Practical Winery & Vineyard Library
 
Search the PWV archive »
 
 

Direct To Consumer
Wine Shipping Report
2014
 
Download full report »
 
 

CALENDAR
  • September 18-21
     
    Euphoria
     
  • September 22-23
     
    Wine Industry Financial Symposium
     
  • September 23-24
     
    Experimental Design and Chemometrics for Chemists
     
  • September 27
     
    Red Mountain AVA Block Party
     
  • MORE »
 

READER COMMENTS
 
Article: New York OKs Out-of-State Grapes »
 
If the resultant wine, using out of state juice,bears the "American" on the label, I...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Financial Impact of Napa Quake Rising »
 
I still think the numbers are low and don't include legal fees. Section 165 was...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Tasting the Effects of Wine Closures »
 
In addition to oxidation of somee of the SO2, post-bottling chemical changes are a continuation...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Tasting the Effects of Wine Closures »
 
I agree with the 14:46 post. I have switched to screwcap on most of my...
Reader: Chris Baker
 
Article: Tasting the Effects of Wine Closures »
 
What I have found in the past between the type of closures is this. A)...
Reader: Guest
 
 


Directory/Buyer's Guide — Your Wine Industry Marketplace
 
 
WINERY SEARCH
 
 
Advanced Search »
SUPPLIER SEARCH
   by Product
 by Company Name or Brand
 
Browse by Category »
2014 Directory/Buyer's Guide
The Wines & Vines Directory and Buyer's Guide
 
 
EXPANDED ONLINE SEARCH INCLUDED WITH PURCHASE
 
ORDER NOW »
 
LEARN MORE »
 
 
Wines & Vines Magazine
 
 
LEARN MORE »
 
SUBSCRIBE »
 
Digital Edition Now Available!
Wines & Vines Digital Edition Now Available
 
LEARN MORE »
 
ORDER NOW »
 
 
The Wines & Vines Online Marketing System
 
The Industry Standard winery marketing application
 
FREE LIVE DEMO »
 
VIEW VIDEO »
 
 
 
 
Latest Job Listings
 G/L Accountant
 Napa, CA
Finance
 Cellar Worker
 Santa Rosa, CA
Winemaking and Production
 Wine Steward/Merchandi...
 San Jose, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Pt - Tasting Room Asso...
 Newberg, OR
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Sales Representatives
 North And South, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Tasting Room Host
 Carmel Valley, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Retail Sales & Hospita...
 Healdsburg, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Administrative Assista...
 Benicia, CA
General Administration and
 Brand Ambassador
 Buellton, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Hospitality Representa...
 Napa, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 
More Job Listings >>
Follow Us On:
 
 





Home  |  About Us  |  Editors  |  Subscribe  |  Print Edition  |  Digital Edition

Advertise  |  Site Map  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy
 
 
Copyright © 2001-2014 by Wine Communications Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
No material may be reproduced without written permission of the Publisher.
Wines&Vines does not assume any responsibility for any unsolicited manuscripts or materials.