Italy’s Marzotto family, which built Santa Margherita into a Pinot Grigio juggernaut, acquired majority ownership of Roco Winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley this week. Financial terms were not disclosed, but the purchase marks the company’s first winemaking venture outside Italy.
The sale includes Roco’s winemaking facility just outside Newberg, the Roco brand and current inventory. Founders Rollin Soles and wife, Corby Stonebraker, retain a minority share and full ownership of Wits’ End Vineyard, but will continue to supply grapes under a long-term lease.
“Our affinity and admiration for the U.S. made the location of our first international winery venture a natural choice,” said Gaetano Marzotto, chairman of Santa Margherita Gruppo Vinicolo, in a statement. “The U.S. marketplace is dynamic, and we believe in the quality of Oregon wines, specifically from the Willamette Valley region.”
Soles is a veteran of Oregon winemaking and was among the founders of Argyle Winery in 1987. Argyle wines help set the standard in Willamette Valley. Soles launched Roco in 2001 as a side project and it quickly grew, and by 2013 he left Argyle to focus on Roco, which produces Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and bubbly, a similar portfolio to Argyle.
The partnership, Soles said, allows the winery to continue making wines that express their terroir. “They looked everywhere in the United States and they chose Willamette Valley. Who am I to argue?” said Soles, who indicated he’s not going anywhere. ”I’ll keep a strong hand on the tiller. I’ll hang around as long as they let me hang around.”
Roco produces about 15,000 cases a year, and Santa Margherita USA chief executive Vincent Chiaramonte said the company plans to grow production in the future, he did not rule out additional winery acquisitions in the United States. “We will continue to look for viable opportunities that complement our family’s vision,” he said in a statement.
As Soles sees it, the partnership bodes well for Oregon’s future. “It says a lot about the excitement building for Willamette Valley.”