Stimson Lane Vineyards & Estates, owner of Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Crest wineries in Washington and Villa Mt. Eden in Napa Valley, has agreed to form a joint venture with Australia's Petaluma Vineyards. The two companies will produce a premium line of Australian wines marketed in North America exclusively by Stimson Lane.
As part of the deal, Stimson Lane will acquire Smithbrook Wines, a 150-acre vineyard in the Pemberton region of Western Australia.
While final details have not yet been completed, Stimson Lane plans to purchase a 50 percent interest in Bridgewater Mill, a brand that has been a second label for Petaluma. Located in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia, the Bridgewater Mill facility was an abandoned flour mill when Petaluma executive chairman Brian Croser purchased it in 1984.
Croser, one of his country's most innovative winemakers and a key figure in the explosive growth of the Australian wine industry, thinks that Stimson Lane is a perfect match for Petaluma. "They've taken a very experimental approach to grapegrowing that I like," he said. "They're not complacent or arrogant, and there's a willingness to innovate. Our business cultures fit."
Stimson Lane CEO Allen Shoup said that the joint-venture wines, which will likely be called Petaluma's Bridgewater Mill, might be only the first of several projects. "We are discussing other ideas," he said. "The opportunity to use Brian Croser's talents in this country are exciting to him and to me. The plan is to develop wines in Washington, but that is still in the talking stages."
The Petaluma deal is the third international milestone reached by Stimson Lane this year. In March, Col Solare, a joint venture with Marchese Antinori of Tuscany, released its first wines. In September, Stimson Lane agreed to produce a Washington Riesling with Ernst Loosen of Germany's Mosel region.
Shoup considers globalization to be the key to success in the 21st century market. "We believe that no one has become the category leader of premium wine," he said. "We might not get there first, but it won't be for lack of trying. Whoever does will certainly be a global company."
To learn more about Stimson Lane's other ventures:
To learn more about Brian Croser: