SND: O’Neill Vintners & Distillers Buys Sonoma’s Ram’s Gate Winery

Wine

California wine company O’Neill Vintners & Distillers is creating a new luxury division and starting it by purchasing a Sonoma winery. Shanken News Daily (SND) reports that the 1.8 million case company has purchased Ram’s Gate Winery in Sonoma for an undisclosed sum. Ram’s Gate is known for upscale Pinot Noir and Chardonnay retailing from $45 to $150 a bottle, with its wines regularly garnering 90-plus scores from Wine Spectator.

Ram’s Gate will now join O’Neill’s extensive stable of brands, which also includes Line 39, Harken Chardonnay, Rabble Wines, Charles Woodson’s Intercept, FitVine Wine, Robert Hall Winery, Allegro Cellars, BrandyLab and Javelin Vodka.

Positioned just above the San Francisco Bay at the gateway to Sonoma wine country, Ram’s Gate is a 125-acre organic estate that currently produces about 8,000 cases annually. “We’ll look at slowly expanding that,” O’Neill founder and CEO Jeff O’Neill told SND, “but only if we can find vineyards that are truly world-class. We’re here to set a standard in Sonoma County for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.”

O’Neill has been an investor in Ram’s Gate since it opened in 2011, and ran the winery for its first several years before stepping back to focus on the larger O’Neill Vintners & Distillers business. Now he’s bringing Ram’s Gate into that fold as the first brand in a new luxury unit. The new division will be run by industry veteran Maeve Pesquera, most recently a senior vice president with Paso Robles-based Daou, which was acquired last year by Treasury Wine Estates for nearly $1 billion.

Jeff O’Neill has been focused on value-priced brands but has begun a shift to premium wines. (Photo Courtesy of O’Neill Vintners & Distillers)

O’Neill says he’s planning more acquisitions in the luxury space. “We believe there is such a unique opportunity in Paso,” he said. “Those wines continue to overdeliver. There are some extraordinary vineyards. We have some of them already, but we will continue to look to add to that portfolio.”

More broadly, O’Neill says that despite “a lot of people writing about the doom and gloom of the industry, we are very optimistic about the future of the industry, but it’s not below $10.” That’s because the new generations exploring the category are not entering at lower price points, as in the past, he says. “These young people, they’re talking about entry-level as twenty bucks. So I think we just have to be cognizant of the fact that the industry’s moving.”


For more wine industry news, visit Shanken News Daily.

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