Oregon wine country at center of global land grab

PORTLAND, Ore. — The pace of transactions for Oregon wineries and land in wine country is picking up significantly, and it’s being helped along by capital infusion from California, France and Washington state.

A number of factors, from relatively cheap land prices to availability of water, are driving the trend, The Oregonian reported.

“The pace of transactions has picked up dramatically this year,” said Chris Hermann, who founded Portland law firm Stoel Rives’ Winery and Vineyard Management group. “It’s like watching the stock market right now.”

Oregon, which makes only about one percent of the wine California does annually, has seen purchases by the major California firm Jackson Family Wines, Seattle’s Precept Wine and France’s Maison Louis Jadot.

“Oregon has earned a reputation for producing some of the highest-quality pinot noir available today,” Caroline Shaw, Jackson’s spokeswoman, in an email. “It’s exciting to see the spotlight focused on this very deserving region.”

Through August, Oregon recorded an increase of nearly six percent in volume sold. California wine, by comparison, saw an increase of only 1.4 percent.

Also indicative: Oregon wine sold for an average of $15.32 per bottle compared with California’s retail price of $6.13.

“15.32 per bottle?” said Steve Thomson, executive vice president at King Estate Winery, one of Oregon’s biggest wineries. “No one else is even close to that. We’re stealing dollars from California and, obviously, they are noticing.”

Smaller producers could find themselves struggling to get access to grapes as big money locks up long-term vineyard contracts.

“As a small winery, I’d be concerned about sources,” said Laurent Montalieu, sold his Solena Estate to the Jacksons, then bought more than 300 acres of vineyard land this year. “The only way to secure your grape sources is to own them.”

But any vineyard shortage will likely translate into increased demand.

“The point is that the consistently high level of our wines here has made really important outside companies sit up and take notice,” said Sam Tannahill, a principal at A to Z Wineworks in Dundee. “There’s no doubt in my mind that the best days for Oregon are certainly ahead of us.”

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