Wine Press Staff
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, the third largest premium wine company in the U.S., with a global ‘string of pearls’ collection of wine estates, has acquired Willakia Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills for its Erath Winery.
The 298-acre parcel features the picturesque Willakia Vineyard, which currently comprises 119 acres, with 98 acres planted to Pinot Noir and 21 to Chardonnay. There is the potential to plant an additional 30, and the balance eventually could accommodate a winery. Willakia Vineyard is also LIVE and Salmon Safe certified.
Ste. Michelle President and CEO Ted Baseler said the acquisition was part of the company’s well-established commitment to produce terroir-based wines from the world’s great growing regions.
“Erath is one of the founding wineries of the Oregon wine industry. Our acquisition of the Willakia Vineyard demonstrates our commitment to upholding Erath’s legacy as the leading Pinot Noir producer in Oregon,” Baseler said.
Ste. Michelle owns more than 3,800 vineyard acres in Washington and California and holds long term contracts for substantially more acreage in these states and Oregon.
Winemaker Gary Horner currently produces numerous single-vineyard bottlings for Erath. He has been particularly interested in pursuing clonal diversity to achieve unique interpretations of Oregon Pinot Noir.
“Willakia Vineyard is a dream vineyard for a winemaker,” Horner said. “It offers this great combination of small blocks planted with diverse clones and rootstocks at different aspects, slopes and orientations. It will give me a broad array of fruit styles to craft beautiful estate wines.”
The well-drained Willakenzie and Nekia soils, from which the name Willakia is derived, dominate the area surrounding the vineyard. During the growing season, the region benefits from the temperature-moderating effect of the prevailing ocean breezes flowing through Van Duzer Corridor. When combined with the viticultural and winemaking expertise of Horner and Ste. Michelle, this site has all the elements necessary to produce balanced, complex and expressive Pinot Noir.
In its 80-year history developing the Northwest wine industry — the companies that ultimately founded Ste. Michelle joined forces in 1934 — Ste. Michelle Wine Estates has remained focused on its primary mission to introduce consumers worldwide to prestige wines from Washington and Oregon.
Baseler is widely acknowledged by the U.S. wine industry as the leading champion for research, education and investments benefiting wine industries at large throughout the Northwest.
“It is critical, of course, that we grow our own business by constantly improving on everything that we do,” Baseler said. “Those improvements always lead back to wine quality and our ultimate purpose of creating wines with soul, character and a sense of place.”