In a development that, if it comes to be, would have major ramifications for the Oregon wine trade - there are parallels with E&J Gallo going to Washington - Jackson Family Wines has been rumored to be purchasing two significant properties there. The rumors took on new life this week, after they were picked up in the Wall Street Journal.
The properties, which were previously managed by Premier Pacific and owned by Common Fund, include the 40-acre Zena Crown vineyard in Oregon’s Eola-Amity Hills AVA and Maple Grove, a sweeping 650-acre parcel in the Willamette Valley.
Premier Pacific acquired Maple Grove in 2008 but never had the chance to develop the property.
Last December, when I first checked in on this, a representative of Jackson Family Wines, indicated that no deals had closed in Oregon, saying,
"As you know, the family is always looking for great, iconic vineyards."
After all, a deal's not a deal until it closes.
This week the news reports came out but I received a similar statement:
Thanks for your note. We do not discuss rumors or speculation nor do we share details around grape purchases or wines prior to release. However, as specialists in cool-climate varietals we’re always focused on exploring the finest growing regions for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and the Willamette Valley has an excellent reputation. If or when we have news to share I will keep you informed and provide details or access to our team as appropriate.
One source I spoke with said that Jackson Family Wines will develop Maple Grove, with a first wave of vineyard plantings in 2013, and may build a winery there. There's also speculation that La Crema could soon include an Oregon tier. Jackson Family Wines is the leading producer of Pinot Noir in California, and makes perhaps 900,000 cases under the La Crema label.
Jackson Family Wines has been actively purchasing vineyards in the past year, having invested more than $200 million in capital improvements – mostly vineyard acquisitions in California – during 2012. Most recently Jackson Family Wines purchased the Saralees property in Sonoma County.
The market premium vineyards continues to pick up momentum.
Other properties that were once part of the Premier Pacific portfolio and that are owned by CalPers, have been quietly on the market for some time.
In the ongoing saga that was PPV, the latest news - besides K-J in Oregon - is that Preservation Ranch, the most controversial vineyard development project CalPers had backed, will likely be preserved - if so, it's a happy ending.