California-based wine company Jackson Family Wines is further expanding its footprint in Oregon, already 1,300 acres and five wineries strong, announcing Monday that it has reached an agreement to purchase Penner-Ash Wine Cellars. Neither party would disclose the price.
Founded in 1998 by Lynn and Ron Penner-Ash, the winery has earned a raft of outstanding ratings from Wine Spectator over the years, twice reaching the annual Top 100 list. It grew from 125 cases in its first vintage to 12,000 cases currently.
"We're a luxury wine company," Hugh Reimers, chief operating officer of Jackson Family Wines, told Wine Spectator. "This complements our portfolio of luxury Pinot Noirs and works well with the fruit resources we have in Oregon."
In their late 50s, Ron and Lynn were looking ahead to how they could make a smooth transition to retirement. Neither of their college-age children has shown interest in continuing the business, and production had jumped unexpectedly to 18,000 cases in the high-yielding 2015 vintage.
"I've been at this as a winemaker for over 30 years—18 at Penner-Ash," said Lynn, the winemaking half of the partnership. Ron, an award-winning teacher, and Lynn, who had worked at Stag's Leap Wine Cellars and Domaine Chandon in Napa Valley, moved to Oregon in 1988. Lynn joined Rex Hill in 1988 as winemaker and was later promoted to president before leaving in 2002 to devote her full attention to the nascent Penner-Ash winery. She has also consulted with Alexana Vineyards since its inception in 2005.
"To grow our successful business has taken a lot of energy," she added. "We realized we were spending too much of our time on the business side, dealing with distributors and label compliances. We are impressed with how well [Jackson Family] has worked with the growers here, and we're impressed with the wines they've made. That's given us confidence."
Penner-Ash specializes in plush-textured single-vineyard Pinot Noirs made in a gravity-flow winery next to its own Dussin Vineyard, a 15-acre parcel in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Its top bottlings include several vintages sourced from Zena Crown Vineyard in the Eola–Amity Hills AVA, which Jackson Family Wines purchased in 2013.
That was the year Jackson began a major expansion into Oregon, also buying Gran Moraine Vineyard in Yamhill-Carlton and Maple Grove, near Monmouth, south of Salem, and adding Oregon bottlings to its value La Crema brand. Last year, Jackson acquired Siduri Wines, which produces both Oregon and California wines.
Company executives also revealed plans last year to make Zena Crown and Gran Moraine estate wines under their own brands, and in December, Jackson Family bought the former corporate headquarters of Evergreen International Airlines at auction, giving the company two 25,000-square-foot buildings in the area. Plans are afoot to convert the buildings, across the road from the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum near McMinnville, into showcase wineries in time for the 2017 vintage.
This is a large-scale development for Oregon, but Jackson's 450 acres of producing vineyard land in Oregon pales in comparison to the company's 12,500 acres in California. Now headed by Barbara Banke, widow of founder Jess Jackson, the firm owns more than 35 wine brands, including Kendall-Jackson, Arrowood and Cambria in California and Yangarra in Australia.
As it has bought vineyards, Jackson Family has honored existing grape contracts with Oregon wineries. One of those wineries was Penner-Ash, and discussions over those contracts gradually led to the talks about buying the winery, vineyard and brand assets.
Penner-Ash expects to maintain the same vineyard sources, including Zena Crown and Gran Moraine. Lynn remains at the winemaking helm for the foreseeable future. "From a production standpoint nothing much will change," Reimers said. "We're not going to blow it up to make a quick buck. We don't work that way. But we can use our sales and marketing team and distribution muscle to get the wines into A-plus restaurant accounts."