Moet Hennessy Acquires Woodinville Whiskey

FILED JULY 12, 2017

Moet Hennessy has acquired Washington-based Woodinville Whiskey Co. The founders, Orlin Sorensen and Brett Carlile, will continue to oversee the distillery's operations, per a release. No financial terms were disclosed.

Woodinville Whiskey Co. opened its doors in 2010 and is now among the largest craft distillers in Washington state. It was founded by Orlin Sorensen and Brett Carlile with the help of whiskey guru Dave Pickerell, who continues to work as a consultant to the brand.

The portfolio includes Woodinville Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Woodinville Straight Rye Whiskey, Woodinville Straight American Whiskey and Woodinville 100% Rye Microbarreled Whiskey.

"Orlin and Brett have done a great job to establish Woodinville Whiskey as an iconic brand in Washington state with significant potential for expanded distribution through our US and international networks," says Moet Hennessy chief Christophe Navarre. "While we are no strangers to whiskey, with our Glenmorangie and Ardbeg single malts, we have much to learn from Orlin and Brett about American distilling and look forward to this important new partnership."

WEST VIRGINIA DISTRIBS. ACCUSE JOHNSON BROS. OF CREATING MONOPOLY

On Monday several West Virginia wine distributors filed suit against Johnson Bros. and its newly acquired West Virginia operation Mountain State Beverage for allegedly violating antitrust laws and attempting to monopolize the state's distribution, particularly wine.

The plaintiffs in the case include: Wine and Beverage Merchants of West Virginia; Atomic Distributing Co.; Beverage Distributors Inc., J.C. Distributing Company; Phillip Jay Shifflett, founder of J.C.; Jo's Globe Distributing Company; Martin Distributing Company. (henceforth WV Wholesalers)

"A huge national company and its West Virginia arm and partners are monopolizing wine distribution in West Virginia, using illegal, anticompetitive tactics to eliminate local, family-owned businesses," per the complaint.

The distributors allege that Johnson Bros. obtained exclusive arrangements with wine suppliers through a combination of "predatory, anticompetitive tactics" including operating at a loss, purchasing wine in quantities that exceeded legitimate business needs, paying substantial fees to suppliers as incentive to refuse to deal with other distributors since 2011. Under current state law, exclusive distribution rights between suppliers and distributors is prohibited.

The complaint calls out quite the list of large suppliers who allegedly entered into exclusive agreements with Mountain State and terminated agreements with the plaintiffs, including The Wine Group, Prestige Wine and Spirits Group, Constellation Brands, Brown-Forman, Fetzer Vineyards, Trinchero Family Estates, Delicato Family Vineyards, Kenwood Vineyards, Riboli Family Wine Estates, among others.

The distributors are seeking compensatory and remedial damages for their past and future losses, punitive damages; attorneys' fees, and that the defendants be enjoined from engaging in violations of antitrust laws.

Johnson Bros. did not respond to request for comment by press time, but we'll keep on eye on how this case shakes out.

CAYMUS PROPOSES NEW 200,000-GALLON FACILITY IN SOLANO

Caymus Vineyards' S0lano County subsidiary Cordelia Winery has proposed to develop a new 29-acre winemaking and hospitality facility in Solano, according to a new listing from the Association of Bay Area Governments and first reported by Wine Industry Insight.

The proposed facility at 4991 Suisun Valley Road would have an ultimate production capacity of 200,000 gallons of wine per year and be built in two phases.

You may recall, last year the Caymus winery began moving 80% of its production outside of Napa after a 2008 Napa County audit found the company's annual production exceeded its permit limits by nearly 2 million gallons [see WSD 05-31-2016]. To alleviate the capacity problems, Caymus bought the Solano winery in 2013, and now it appears to be working on its second facility there.

WSD BRIEFS:

PALM BAY INTERNATIONAL ADDS CHAMPAGNE BOIZEL TO PORTFOLIO. France's Champagne Boizel has been around since 1834 and is currently run by 5th and 6th generations Evelyne and Christophe Roques-Boizel and their two sons. The grapes used are sourced from Grand and Premier Cru vineyards. The portfolio, which includes Brut Reserve NV (srp $44), Rose NV (srp $60), Ultime NV (srp $90), Grand Vintage 2007 (srp $100) and Joyau de France 2000 (srp $150), is currently rolling out nationwide.

HAHN FAMILY WINES EXPANDS WINEMAKING TEAM. Juan Jose Verdina has rejoined Hahn Family Wines as winemaker, and will focus on production of Hahn and Boneshaker brands. Juan previously worked at Hahn as winemaker and most recently was head of winemaking for Jamieson Ranch Vineyards. Megan McCollough has been promoted from assistant winemaker to winemaker for the Smith & Hook wines. She joined the company in 2011. Both Juan and Megan will report to director of winemaking Paul Clifton.

JOIN US THIS MONTH. We're hosting our inaugural Distributor Productivity Summit in early August along with Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America. As the name implies, it's about the nuts-and-bolts of what goes on in the back of the house to get the wine and spirits to the retailer most efficiently -- and effectively. Check out our speaker lineup and register today.

Until tomorrow,
Your Editors

Emily Pennington - emily@winespiritsdaily.com
Sarah Barrett - sarah@winespiritsdaily.com

"The only failure is not to try." -- George Clooney

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