Location:Home > NEWS > Fetzer looks to showcase new vintages after 50 years as Mendocino County’s wine pioneer

Fetzer looks to showcase new vintages after 50 years as Mendocino County’s wine pioneer

Time:2018-02-13 06:18wine - Red wine life health Click:

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The company, Chile’s largest producer and exporter of wine, shared Fetzer’s commitment to environmentally friendly farming practices. The Chileans decided to put the focus back on winemaking while also bringing back some well-known Fetzer labels, such as its Sundial chardonnay, that were dropped by Brown-Forman.

“We wanted to recover the quality of the wines, improve the quality of the wines and to over-deliver the wines that we are producing. That is what we have been doing the last six years,” Bianchetti said.

Today, the company employs about 300 people, with production centered in Hopland and marketing based in Healdsburg. Bianchetti also oversees the Vina Concha y Toro brands imported from Chile and Argentina into the United States, an operation that, combined with Fetzer, sells more than 5 million cases of wine in the U.S.

The recent Fetzer vintages have received good reviews from wine critics — the 2015 Sundial vintage was ranked as a best value by Wine Spectator magazine last year — proof that its efforts have started showing returns in the trade media as well as with consumers, Bianchetti said.

One incredibly bright spot is Bonterra, the organic label started by the Fetzers in 1987 before the category was common in supermarket shelves and more limited to natural health stores. The brand — priced in the $10 to $15 a bottle range coveted by large vintners — has increased from 315,000 cases in 2012 to 550,000 last year.

“That shows the decision made 30 or 40 years ago has started to pay off,” Bianchetti said.

Campaign for quality

The company has brought in consulting winemakers to help its campaign for quality. For instance, Sebastopol winemaker Paul Hobbs has offered advice on its top-tier wines. Fetzer can source Burgundian grapes from areas like its well-regarded McNab Ranch. Hobbs has been impressed with Fetzer’s commitment.

“I could see that they were very serious on some of their high-end stuff,” Hobbs said. “They’ve got a gifted team.”

The Fetzer brand had five straight quarters of sales growth up until the last quarter, when it experienced a 7.1 percent decline. The growth has been boosted by some of its newer brands such as 1000 Stories, its bourbon barrel-aged brand that features a buffalo on its label. The wine is first aged in traditional wine barrels and finished in bourbon barrels, which gives it a vanilla and charred herb profile as well as producing a higher alcohol content. Its zinfandel selection has a 15.5 percent alcohol content.

Bianchetti noted that 1000 Stories now sells 120,000 cases and was buoyed by the appeal of Americana used in its marketing campaign. It has drawn eager consumers, including millennials who were already accustomed to bourbon barrel-aged stouts that are commonplace in the craft beer industry.

“We truly think the proposition for the consumer was solid,” he said.

Last year, Fetzer released Adorada, a brand with a wax-draped packaging that was designed to resemble a perfume bottle. It offered two bottlings, a 2016 rosé and a 2016 pinot gris, that were targeted to appeal to the smell and romance of wine, Bianchetti said.

“We don’t want to do more labels,” he said. “We want to present brands to our consumers.”

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