Less than a year after snapping up Washington's Seven Hills Winery for $5.75 million, Crimson Wine Group has purchased a significant part of the Walla Walla Valley vineyard that Seven Hills founder Casey McClellan planted. Crimson, a California-based wine firm, bought Seven Hills Vineyard from Premiere Partners IV, an investment group with multiple properties in the northwest. The deal includes 109 acres of land on the Oregon side of the border, with 52 of those acres under vine. A separate 14-acre vineyard in The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater was also included in the sale. The price was not disclosed.
With some of the oldest vines in the Walla Walla Valley, Seven Hills Vineyard is a source of single-vineyard wines for more than a dozen wineries. Located on a north-facing slope at an elevation ranging from 850 to 1,050 feet, the vineyard stretches across more than 200 acres, planted mostly with Bordeaux varieties.
"Our whole business model is to work on regions and areas that we think can be best in class," Crimson president Patrick DeLong told Wine Spectator, explaining that the company was looking for a source of Walla Walla Merlot. "Owning this vineyard is in perfect alignment with that."
Included are 21 acres of the oldest blocks of the vineyard, planted by the Hendricks and McClellan families in the 1980s. The McClellans used the grapes for their Seven Hills Winery and continued to buy the fruit under long-term agreement after they sold the vineyard. Producers such as Leonetti, L'Ecole No. 41 and Pepper Bridge have been buying the grapes for decades.
Crimson will use the grapes for Seven Hills Winery and plans to continue selling some of the fruit under long-term contract. Current vineyard manager Tom Waliser will remain onboard.
Premiere Partners IV, which has diverse agricultural holdings including vineyards and almond orchards in California, was reevaluating Seven Hills when Crimson approached them. “I think that it’s a situation where you have an ownership that’s not really tied to the wine industry,” said Waliser, who has managed the vineyard since 1994. “It made sense from their perspective to divest of that particular asset.”
For McClellan, winemaker and general manager at Seven Hills Winery, it's a return to some favorite ground. "I am very pleased to have this property in the Crimson family," he said. "I've waited 22 years to see the Old Blocks and the Seven Hills Winery brand reunited."
The land expands Crimson's footprint in Washington. In addition to Seven Hills Winery, the company also produces Cabernet Sauvignons under its Double Canyon label from the 90-acre estate Double Canyon Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills. "We are very bullish on Washington," said DeLong. "We think it really overdelivers on quality and value."
The Napa-based holding company owns or manages more than 1,000 acres of vineyards spread across the Pacific Northwest and California. It has a diverse portfolio, including Zinfandel specialist Seghesio Family Vineyards in Sonoma, Pinot Noir house Archery Summit in Oregon's Willamette Valley and Pine Ridge in Napa.