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New Zealand Winery Mud House Sold

Brand will grow to 120,000 cases with addition of buyer's already vast vineyard holdings

Daniel Sogg
Posted: September 29, 2006

Marlborough producer Mud House has been acquired by New Zealand Vineyard Estates, a Marlborough-based company that owns vineyards in several regions and two other wine brands. The deal, finalized on Sept. 21, includes the rights to the Mud House brand, current inventory and the production facility. The purchase price was not disclosed.

Mud House currently makes 80,000 cases a year, about two-thirds of which is Sauvignon Blanc, with the balance split among Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling. The Mud House Sauvignon Blanc has shown steady improvement in recent years, scoring 90 points on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale in the 2005 vintage. However, John and Jennifer Joslin, who founded Mud House in 1996, said they lacked the resources to fuel the brand's expansion.

"There's just Jennifer and myself, and the company had gone from 300 cases to the 80,000 we'll sell this year. We had orders from around the world for 105,000 cases and we didn't have the capital [to acquire the additional grapes]. Rather than hold the company back, we felt the best way was to sell it," said Joslin, 69.

The facility housing Mud House's tasting room, café and store--popular with tourists since it's located in the heart of Marlborough's wine trail--is separately owned and was not part of the deal. Although the Joslins are holding onto 20 acres of vineyards, they said they plan to sell the land later on. The vast majority of Mud House wines are produced with purchased grapes from 300 acres of Marlborough vineyards owned by 14 different growers. Mud House will continue to buy those grapes, and the new owners anticipate increasing production.

"We expect to produce about 120,000 cases of Mud House in the 2007 vintage," said New Zealand Vineyard Estates director Neil Charles-Jones. "What we're able to do is supplement their grape supply with our own production, which will allow the brand to move ahead quite quickly."

Vintner Matt Thomson, who also makes wines for Lake Chalice and Saint Clair, will continue to consult for Mud House. Resident winemaker Allen Hedgman will also remain on board.

New Zealand Vineyard Estates has 870 acres of vineyards on the South Island: 300 acres in Marlborough planted to Sauvignon Blanc; 400 acres in Waipara mostly planted to Riesling and Pinot Noir; and 170 acres of Pinot Noir in Central Otago. The company has undergone rapid expansion in the last year, merging with Waipara Hills winery and acquiring Canterbury House.

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