Top Producers of 2009

By Karl Klooster

Production figures on the 2009 vintage in Oregon haven’t yet been compiled, but when the National Agricultural Statistics Service releases its annual report in late February 2010, the totals will almost certainly exceed 2008 by a considerable margin.

Last year, total tonnage came in at 34,700, compared to 38,600 in 2007, an 11 percent drop. Using an average of 63 cases per ton to arrive at 12/750 mL case production, the figures translate to 2.19 million cases in 2008 and 2.43 million in 2007.

A just-completed Oregon Wine Press survey of the state’s 20 largest wine production facilities found that they alone accounted for an estimated 1.53 million cases in 2009 as compared to 1.17 million cases in 2008.

King Estate, with 179,000, continued to lead the rest in both production at a single winemaking facility and by a proprietary brand or brands. Put in perspective, however, the southern Willamette Valley winery may be Oregon’s largest, but in terms of the industry as a whole it falls on the low side of medium-sized.

Coming in a solid second once again was the combined A to Z Wineworks/Rex Hill operation at 135,000 cases, followed by Willamette Valley Vineyards in third place with 129,000 cases. Though the top two had incremental increases of 11 and 4 percent, respectively, over 2008, Willamette Valley made a single-year leap of 41 percent.

Three other wineries—all of whom produce custom crush wines along with their own brands—showed similarly exceptional results.

Foris Vineyard & Winery led the way in Southern Oregon, going from 54,600 to 64,000 cases, a 17 percent gain. Dundee-based Dobbes Family Estate/Wine By Joe’s jump from 84,000 to 127,000 cases, represented a whopping 52 percent increase.

Perhaps the most impressive of all was Eola Hills Cellars, which shot up from 38,700 cases, which put it in 10th place among brands in 2008, to 63,500 cases and 5th place for 2009.

Including other wineries’ brands made at the facility, the Rickreall winery produced a total of 102,000 cases in all last year, compared with 67,800 cases in 2008. Winemaker Steve Anderson said they anticipate harvesting more than 1,000 tons just of Pinot Noir from their own vineyards within the next five years.

Size, of course, doesn’t necessarily indicate quality. But all of the wineries on this year’s list are premium producers by any measure, and most of them seem to be well-positioned with wines covering a range of competitive price points, good name recognition and well-established distribution networks.

If any lesson has been learned in the past year or two, it’s that price is important even to discerning consumers and only a handful of the most coveted brands can hope to survive with only expensive wines in their portfolio.

Oregon’s largest wineries are solid players who seem to have taken heed of that message and will make the adjustments necessary to emerge from these challenging times not only intact but better for the experience. 

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