California winery buys Oregon’s Penner-Ash Wine Cellars

by | Apr 19, 2016 | News, Oregon wine | 0 comments


Lynn Penner-Ash was Oregon’s first female head winemaker when she arrived in 1988. She and her husband, Ron, launched Penner-Ash Wine Cellars in 1998. (Photo courtesy of Andréa Johnson Photography)

NEWBERG, Ore. – One of Oregon’s top artisan wineries has been purchased by a large California wine producer.

Penner-Ash Wine Cellars announced Monday that Jackson Family Wines will take over the 15,000-case winery.

“Artisanal winemaking is first and foremost about grape sourcing,” said Lynn Penner-Ash, who founded the winery with her husband, Ron, in 1998. “Over my long winemaking career in Oregon, I have been blessed with the opportunity to make wines from some of the best vineyard locations throughout the Willamette Valley.”

penner-ash-wine-cellars-zena-crown-vineyard-pinot-noir-2012-labelPenner-Ash went on to say she is excited to work with Oregon vineyard sites already owned by Jackson Family, including Zena Crown and Gran Moraine. In 2013, Jackson Family purchased Zena Crown Vineyard in Oregon’s Eola-Amity Hills. The 83-acre vineyard was the first land that Jackson Family had purchased outside of California. It purchased Gran Moraine that same year, as well as the former Soléna Estate building in Yamhill, Ore.

Penner-Ash already is familiar with Zena Crown fruit, as she produced one of the best Oregon Pinot Noirs of the stellar 2012 vintage from the vineyard. In addition, the Penner-Ash 2012 Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir ranked No. 5 in Great Northwest Wine’s top 100 list of 2015.

Penner-Ash graduated from the University of California Davis with a degree in viticulture, then went to work for Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Domaine Chandon and Chateau St. Jean in California. In 1988, she came to Oregon as winemaker for Rex Hill Vineyards near Newberg, making her the state’s first female head winemaker. Today, Oregon is one of the most gender-diverse wine industries in the country.

In 1998, she and her husband launched Penner-Ash Wine Cellars with 125 cases, growing it today to 15,000 cases with a focus on Pinot Noir, Syrah, Viognier and Riesling. Ron Penner-Ash was a schoolteacher for 20 years before devoting all his time to the operation of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars.

“This opportunity will allow our family to focus our time, efforts and passions on those parts of the Penner-Ash business we find most rewarding and enjoyable,” Ron Penner-Ash said in a news release. “Our friends know that we are passionately committed to the local community. We see that same community in Jackson Family Wines, not only in California, but here in Oregon as well. That was very important to Lynn and me.”

Jackson Family is best known for Kendall-Jackson Vineyard Estates in Santa Rosa, Calif. It was launched in 1974 by Jess Jackson. He died in 2011 at the age of 81. His widow, Barbara Banke, now runs the company.

“My family and I have always been impressed by Lynn and Ron’s stellar wines and the exceptional vineyard sites from which they have been sourced,” Banke said in the news release. “Our shared passion for site-specific winemaking from the best vineyards in Yamhill-Carlton, Ribbon Ridge, Eola-Amity, Dundee and throughout the Willamette Valley makes this a natural collaboration. I am excited about the opportunity to work with Lynn, Ron and their terrific team to continue the success of Penner-Ash.”

The Penner-Ash team will stay on and continue to run the winery in relative autonomy, with Lynn Penner-Ash making all winemaking and grape-sourcing decisions. Jackson Family acquires the business assets of Penner-Ash, including the winery and 15 acres of estate vineyards. Lynn and Ron Penner-Ash will keep a financial interest in the winery, according to the news release.

Penner-Ash latest Oregon wine country move

Willakia Vineyard is in Oregon's Eola-Amity Hills.

Willakia Vineyard is in the Eola-Amity Hills south of Dundee. Ste. Michelle Wine Estates purchased it in 2014. (Photo courtesy of Erath Winery)

The Penner-Ash purchase is the latest in a number of moves in Oregon wine country the past four years. Others include:

  • In 2013, Jackson purchased Zena Crown and Gran Moraine, as well as the former Soléna property.
  • In 2013, Jackson Family purchased Maple Grove, a 350-acre property in Polk County.
  • In 2013, Burgundy’s Louis Jadot bought Resonance Vineyard, a 19-acre site in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA.
  • In 2013, Bacchus Capital Management in San Francisco purchased Panther Creek Cellars, a famed Oregon winery that was launched in 1986 by Ken Wright, who later went on to start Ken Wright Cellars. Bacchus hired Tony Rynders as its consulting winemaker.
  • In 2013, Bacchus Capital Management invested in Dobbes Family Estate in Dundee.
  • In 2013, Precept Wine in Seattle purchased Yamhela Vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. At the time, the 374-acre site had 30 acres of vines planted.
  • In 2013, Domaine Drouhin Oregon bought Roseback, a 279-acre vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills.
  • In 2014, Elk Cove Vineyards in Gaston purchased Goodrich Road Vineyard near Yamhill. Elk Cove is one of Oregon’s oldest wineries.
  • In 2014, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in Woodinville, Wash., purchased Willakia Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills. Ste. Michelle, which purchased Erath Winery in 2006, bought the 119-acre vineyard as another source of estate fruit. It is the first Ste. Michelle-owned vineyard in Oregon.
  • In 2014, Foley Family Wines in California purchased The Four Graces, a winery in Dundee. The wines are made by French-born Laurent Montalieu.
  • In 2015, Willamette Valley Vineyards purchased 42 acres of land in SeVein, a vineyard development on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley.
  • In 2016, Chris Figgins of Leonetti Cellar purchased 42 acres of land in the Chehalem Mountains with the intention of planting an estate vineyard for his Toil Oregon label.

Last year, an economic impact report indicated that the Oregon wine industry adds more than $3.3 billion a year to the state’s bottom line, and that is driven by Pinot Noir, which fuels most of the state’s 600-plus wineries and many of its 950 grape growers.

Pinot Noir, which was first planted in Oregon in the 1960s, makes up more than 60 percent of the wine grape scene in the state. Comparatively, Washington’s wine industry is split primarily between five grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot and Syrah.

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About Andy Perdue

Andy Perdue is founding partner of Great Northwest Wine LLC and a longtime wine columnist. He is a third-generation journalist who has worked at newspapers since the mid-1980s and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine with Eric Degerman and served as its editor-in-chief for 15 years. He is the author of "The Northwest Wine Guide: A Buyer's Handbook" (Sasquatch, 2003) and has contributed to four other books.

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