As the 2022 harvest began, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates announced the purchase of two Oregon wineries, A to Z Wineworks and Rex Hill Vineyards. A to Z has been largely the work of two couples, Cheryl Frances and Sam Tannahill, and Bill and Deb Hatcher, industry veterans who established A to Z in 2002 as one of Oregon’s first and most successful brands to focus on wines priced between $15 and $25. They draw from sources statewide, including southern Oregon, and blend them with the goal of producing affordable wines with regional character. They purchased Rex Hill Vineyards in 2007 and reduced its annual production, repositioning it in the market.
SMWE had purchased Erath Vineyards in 2006, and has been steadily building its presence in Oregon with that brand; its current output stands at 300,000 cases annually, making it the third largest winery in the state. A to Z, at 400,000 cases, has been the second largest. The combined output now makes SMWE Oregon’s largest producer; the privately held company has, for many years, been Washington state’s largest producer. Reached for comment, A to Z’s Sam Tannahill said, “I’ve always believed that any investment in Oregon is a good thing. To have a company like Ste. Michelle commit to Oregon in this way, with its resources nationally and internationally, is super-exciting.”
Patrick J. Comiskey covers US wines for Wine & Spirits magazine, focusing on the Pacific Northwest, California’s Central Coast and New York’s Finger Lakes.
This story appears in the print issue of February 2022.
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