Two Local Investment Groups Join Abeja Founders Ken and Ginger Harrison In New Ownership Agreement
April 30, 2018
WALLA WALLA, Wash. (April 30, 2018) – Ken and Ginger Harrison, founders of Abeja, have sold majority interest in the acclaimed Walla Walla winery, and the luxury country inn, to two new ownership groups with local ties.
The Harrisons will retain significant equity ownership in the continued operations of the winery and will be actively involved in the oversight of the winery. The Harrisons‘ new partner in the winery includes Arnie Prentice of Seattle’s USI Kibble & Prentice.
The Harrisons also will participate in the ownership of The Inn through a separate limited-liability corporation, The Inn at Abeja Vineyards, LLC. John Oppenheimer, founder and CEO of Seattle-based Columbia Hospitality, has become majority owner of The Inn, and Prentice is also a partner. Columbia Hospitality, a Seattle-based hospitality management and consulting company, will oversee management and operations on behalf of the ownership that is acquiring The Inn.
Located in scenic Walla Walla, Wash., the Harrisons founded Abeja in 2000 on a historic farmstead surrounded by vistas, gardens, vineyards, and creeks. The winery is known for its collectible Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot. The Inn at Abeja is a nationally renowned wine country retreat with unique private guest lodgings on a pastoral 38-acre estate. With the expansion of ownership, all onsite team members will be retained, including innkeeper Mary Besbris.
Acclaimed winemakers Daniel Wampfler and Amy Alvarez-Wampfler will continue to oversee winemaking operations on the property. “Meticulous attention to detail from vine to cellar to bottle has always defined Abeja wines,” said Ken Harrison. “Separating operations of the winery and The Inn will allow us to sharpen our focus on the wines and continue our mission of delivering the highest quality product,” he said. Under the new ownership agreement, the winery will retain control of its estate vineyards and will continue to produce its iconic Heather Hill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as other limited release, estate-grown wines.
Since founding Columbia Hospitality in 1995, Oppenheimer has carefully grown its portfolio to include such iconic Pacific Northwest properties as the Salish Lodge and Spa, The Heathman Hotel Kirkland, and Friday Harbor House. Columbia Hospitality properties are renowned for creating exceptional experiences for their guests, founded on meaningful and long-term relationships with their clients.
“From the start, our vision has been to preserve, protect and share the peaceful, calming beauty of this incredible property through world-class hospitality,” said Harrison. “John shares our unique vision, and Columbia Hospitality’s standards of excellence are in keeping with our commitment to crafting exceptional wine and providing guests with an opportunity to immerse themselves in the tranquil allure of this pristine setting,” he said.
“The Inn at Abeja is the ideal addition to our expanding collection of unique properties,” said John Oppenheimer. “We look forward to building on the phenomenal experience Ken and Ginger have created, including hosting more events and weddings on this stunning property, and continuing to work with the onsite team to provide exceptional guest experiences at this local gem.”
“As longtime patrons of Abeja we couldn’t be more excited to become partners on this incredible property,” said Arnie Prentice. “We’ve always enjoyed drinking their award-winning wines and staying as guests at The Inn, and are proud to work with Columbia and the Harrisons to continue the legacy of this extraordinary estate.”
The mergers and acquisitions firm METIS served as the exclusive advisor in both transactions.
About Columbia Hospitality
Columbia Hospitality (Columbia) is a Seattle-based hospitality management and consulting company that was established in 1995 by founder and CEO John Oppenheimer. Columbia’s growing portfolio includes award-winning hotels, public and private golf facilities, conference centers, distinctive venues, and residential properties. Columbia creates exceptional experiences for guests and team members while achieving phenomenal results for property owners. With over 20 years of proven success in management, Columbia has also consulted on over 100 hospitality projects worldwide, delivering a high level of customized service to partners and investors. For more information about Columbia and to view the entire portfolio visit www.columbiahospitality.com.
Abeja’s beautifully restored century-old farmstead provides the perfect setting for extraordinary winemaking and world-class hospitality. Meticulous attention to detail defines Abeja’s award-winning, limited-release wines crafted from estate grapes and acclaimed Washington vineyards. The Inn at Abeja provides guests with a tranquil respite from their busy lives in the heart of wine country. For more information about Abeja, please visit www.abeja.net.
Metis, an Exvere Company, advises Pacific Northwest businesses on capital transactions including mergers, acquisitions, and recapitalizations. With offices in Seattle, Walla Walla, and the Willamette Valley, Metis offers concentrated experience and expertise in the Pacific Northwest wine, adult beverage, and hospitality industries. For more information about Metis please visit www.metisnw.com.