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08.21.2013  
 

Oregon Wine Continues to Draw Investment

Louis Jadot's purchase of Resonance Vineyard follows Jackson's acquisition of Soléna Estate

 
by Peter Mitham
 
 
Resonance vineyard
 
Carla and Kevin Chambers sold the 20-acre Resonance Vineyard to Burgundy’s Maison Louis Jadot.
McMinnville, Ore.—Oregon’s wine industry is set for a banner year of transactions, with the past week seeing two more major winery purchases announced.

The latest deal sees Burgundy’s Maison Louis Jadot acquiring Resonance Vineyard, a 20-acre property in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, from Carla and Kevin Chambers for an undisclosed sum.

Originally planted to Pinot Noir in 1981, the vineyard is Jadot’s first foray outside Burgundy. Grapes from the vineyard will go to Trisaetum Vineyards near Newberg, Ore., for processing this fall under the supervision of Jacques Lardiere, formerly winemaker at Louis Jadot’s operations in France. Lardiere will also oversee vineyard operations.

“I can’t think of a better steward to hand off the property to than the Jadot team,” Kevin Chambers told Wines & Vines. “The timing was very good for us. The Oregon industry as a whole right now is on a new growth curve. We seemed to have survived the recession and are now back to flourishing, and there’s obviously a lot of new investment here with the Jackson Family Wines moves, and the Precept move, and now, of course, the Jadot move. And I know there are more percolating.” (See “Hot Spring for Northwest Acquisitions.”)

International Wine Associates of Healdsburg, Calif., was initially approached by the owners of Maison Louis Jadot in the United States regarding potential acquisition opportunities. Resonance surfaced as a possibility, and the deal proceeded.

“They were looking for a small, world-class Pinot Noir property,” Robert Nicholson, principal of International Wine Associates, said of what Jadot was seeking.

Oregon fit the bill.

‘World-class producer’
“Oregon is graduating from small, boutique status to being recognized as a world-class producer of great Pinot Noir,” he said. “They recognize Oregon as a world-class producer of Pinot, (and) this vineyard is a very high quality vineyard.”

The sale doesn’t mean Chambers, whose family has been farming in Oregon for five generations, is slowing down.

“I’m not retiring to a condo in the Pearl District, I can tell you that!” Chambers said, referring to the trendy quarter of Portland’s inner city.

With most of the Chambers’ resources invested in developing Resonance, the sale is yielding the couple proceeds that will fund the purchase of a new, 80-acre vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills south of McMinnville that will also allow them to refresh their housing.

But given his farming heritage, the vineyard is key for Chambers.

“I bought it for the elevation,” he said of the new property, which he expects to close on this week. “I’m going to be standing at about 900 feet—which I would have said, even a few years ago, was problematic. But I think for that area, and this time, that it’s an excellent place to be, particularly for white varietals.”

Chambers won’t betray his love for Pinot Noir, which he’ll plant at lower elevations of the new south-facing property, but he’s keen to put Chardonnay and Riesling at the middle elevations, graduating to Riesling alone on the higher elevations. He hopes the new Jadot venture will eventually be interested in Chardonnay, a variety that has received keen interest in recent years. (See “Chardonnay Meets Promise in Oregon.”)

The start of something
The investment from Jadot and other players is likely to be followed by other deals. Oregon still presents excellent value to international buyers, Chambers said, a point Mario Zepponi, a partner at Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Zepponi & Co., made to Wines & Vines earlier this year when discussing transactions in March.

“I think we’re going to see increased uptick in investments from overseas buyers in the U.S. wine business,” said Nicholson, who advised on the Mayacamas Vineyards sale to a private investor group earlier this year.

The deal making will reflect the strengths and interests of the buyer, however, rather than be a general influx that benefits all regions equally.

Artemis Wines' acquisition of Araujo Estate Wines was a natural fit with Napa, Nicholson offered as an example. “If you’re a world-class Cabernet producer in Bordeaux, you’re not so likely to go and buy a top Pinot producer in Oregon,” he said. “But if you’re a world-class producer of Pinot in Burgundy, you’re pretty likely to look at Oregon.”

Meanwhile, the Jadot deal comes on the heels of this week’s announcement that Jackson Family Wines will purchase a 15,000-case winery and 35-acre vineyard from Soléna Estate, owned by Laurent Montalieu and Danielle Andrus Montalieu. Soléna sold the property in connection with its move to a new production facility in the Dundee Hills.

The deal (for an undisclosed amount) gives Jackson Family Wines a small-scale facility that will serve its recently acquired vineyards in the area.

“In order to fulfill our vision for creating world-class Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley, we need a winery capable of producing artisan wines,” Hugh Reimers, executive vice pre sident and chief operating officer of Jackson Family Wines, said in a news release. “The Soléna winery is beautifully designed for boutique, small-lot winemaking.”

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