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Oregon Wineries Embrace Branded Bottles

Logo from Yamhill Carlton regional association included in mold of Pinot Noir bottles

by Peter Mitham
yamhill carlton bottle
Verallia manufactured 7,500 cases of Pinot Noir bottles using a mold that includes the logo of the Yamhill-Carlton Winegrowers Association.
Carlton, Ore.—A long-term vision to bring appellation-specific bottles to Oregon has been fulfilled in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA with the purchase of 7,500 cases of Pinot Noir bottles.

The bottles, manufactured at the Verallia plant in Seattle, Wash., are embossed with the name and logo of the Yamhill-Carlton Winegrowers Association, which represents growers in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Approximately 40 wineries could potentially use the bottles.

The idea of branded bottles for Pinot Noir from the appellation was part of the vision for a new logo the winegrowers association developed in 2006. “We specifically designed it so it could be applied to…an appellation-specific bottle,” said Brian O’Donnell, co-owner of Belle Pente Wine Cellars in Carlton.

While such bottles are used in parts of Europe, appellation-specific bottles are uncommon in North America. But until recently, their production required large runs and a significant investment in custom molds that made them impractical for smaller buyers.

“Normally, if people want a custom mold with their logo on it, they have to buy a complete second mold, which is exorbitant unless they’re Chateau Ste. Michelle or Constellation (Brands), and they have to pay to have a minimum of 100,000 cases,” explained Gillian Brennan, a packaging consultant with bottle distributor TricorBraun WinePak in Tualatin, Ore. “People don’t necessarily want to commit that amount of money when they’re the smaller producers, which we are in Oregon.”

Flexible production
A flexible production line installed at the Verallia plant in Seattle changed the economics of producing small runs of bottles for customers such as the Yamhill-Carlton Winegrowers.

O’Donnell, who worked with Ken Wright of Ken Wright Cellars of Carlton on the initiative, said the best option the association found prior to Verallia was a minimum run of 30,000 cases worth of bottles. Verallia, however, produced an initial run of the new bottles totalling just 7,500 cases.

“The technology has changed pretty dramatically over the past several years. You can do fairly low-production runs of semi-custom bottles,” O’Donnell told Wines & Vines. “It became affordable for a small organization to do something like this.”

Three molds for a neck ring with the association’s logo were purchased for $8,500, and fit with the body and base of Verallia’s existing Burgundy bottle. Wineries pay about 83 cents (or $10 per case) for the bottles.

Ken Wright Cellars, the major producer of appellation-specific Pinot Noir in the AVA, purchased the initial stock to kick-start the initiative, and he is selling bottles to several wineries including Asilda Winery, Ghost Hill Cellars, Lazy River Vineyard, Roots Wine Co., Stag Hollow and WildAire Cellars.

The intention is for TricorBraun to handle sales once use of the bottles has become established and other wineries begin demanding branded glass.

Certainly, the long-term intention is that this will be a regularly stocking item,” O’Donnell said. “TricorBraun will be able to sell it to any of our growers and get Ken out of the warehouse business.”

Other wineries ordering
Brennan said interest in branded bottles has been positive, with Tinhorn Creek Vineyards in Oliver, B.C., and Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles, Calif., also ordering embossed bottles.

The initiative shown by Ken Wright helped take the risk out of it for Yamhill-Carlton wineries. Verallia discussed the idea of producing Oregon-branded bottles with the Oregon Wine Board as early as three years ago, with concept sketches produced, but the idea never took off.

Brennan, while unaware of those discussions, said getting wineries to collaborate on packaging typically presents issues. “They have to come up with a common mold that they all want and they like the shape of, and sometimes that’s hard,” she said.

There are also labeling considerations to ensure it is coherent with the identities of each brand. Yamhill-Carlton’s initiative was presented, backed by a critical volume of producers, and became a reality.

“The AVA worked very closely with all their partners, and they basically said, ‘This is what we’re going to produce.’ And they agreed to it,” she said. “It’s an ideal situation. It’s not always easy to get a group of people to agree.”

Samples of the new bottle are scheduled to be on display at the TricorBraun booth at the North Coast Wine Industry Expo in Santa Rosa on Dec. 5.

Posted on 12.03.2013 - 08:43:36 PST
This is a great example of AVA differentiation by one of the oldest premiere growing regions in Willamette Valley.
Carl Giavanti

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