DUNDEE, Ore. – This summer, the Fries family celebrated the 25th anniversary of Duck Pond Cellars.
“I am very grateful for all the hard work that everyone on the Duck Pond team has put in to build the Duck Pond Cellars brand, cultivate vineyards, and create a destination for consumers,” Greg Fries, President of Fries Family Wines stated in a news release. “With their extensive experience in Oregon, we’re confident that Great Oregon Wine Co. will carry on Duck Pond Cellars’ legacy of quality.”
The acquisition includes the production facility near Salem, the Dundee tasting room and reportedly 300 acres of vines in the Umpqua Valley, the Willamette Valley and the Dundee Hills. That combination immediately makes The Great Oregon Wine Co., one of the largest producers and growers in the Beaver State. They take over a brand that has consistently produced some of the Pacific Northwest’s top value wines.
“We are thrilled to add Duck Pond Cellars to the Great Oregon Wine Co. portfolio, giving us access to premier vineyards in the region as we grow our winery operations in Oregon,” said Ari Walker, CEO of Integrated Beverage Group. “With this acquisition Great Oregon Wine Co. moves into the first rank of Oregon winegrowers.”
There was no immediate word on the future of Desert Wind Vineyard in Prosser, Wash., or the family’s vineyards on the Wahluke Slope. The Duck Pond transaction closed Aug. 30. Financial terms were not made public.
Great Oregon Wine Co., eyes 300,000 cases
Capacity for Great Oregon Wine Co., launched in 1998, will stand at more than 300,000 cases, the company said. That would place them not far behind the scale of A to Z Wineworks and Union Wine Co. Its Oregon brands include Rascal, the canned Lil’ Rascal lineup and Rose City under the Great Oregon Wine Co., label.
As the parent company, Integrated Beverage Group has generated headlines for its Replica brand, which reverse engineers some of country’s most popular styles of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. There also is Swing Set, a Cab made with Napa Valley fruit. Replica wines are available in nearly every state in the U.S., and have a presence in grocers on the West Coast such as WinCo Foods – all signs of Integrated Beverage Group’s distribution channels.
The wine program is headed up by Brett Zimmerman, a Master Sommelier with a business degree from the University of Colorado. Chief winemaker is Sonoma County native Ed Killian. McMinnville winemaker Matt Cechovic took over production of Great Oregon Wine Co., in 2011, growing it to 40,000 cases.
Plans are for Fries (pronounced ‘freeze’) and his team to remain involved until all regulatory approvals are complete.
“Greg is in the middle of harvest,” said Nick Berube, marketing and sales manager of Duck Pond Cellars.
Fries holdings spanned 1,000 acres, 100,000 cases
Fries’ parents Doug and Jo Ann began planting vineyards in Oregon in 1983 and shifted their focus from hazelnuts to wine production a decade later. They named their brand as a tribute to their home along Duck Pond Lane in Sunriver.
By 2013, Duck Pond Cellars grew to 46,000 cases, Desert Wind was at 12,000 cases, bulk wine production stood at 62,000 cases and 1,235 tons of grapes sold on contract.
At one point, the Fries family farmed 1,017 acres of vineyards across eight sites in Oregon and Washington.
Steve Thomson, past chair of Oregon Wine Board, said, “We’re excited to see this type of investment into Oregon wineries and vineyards and look forward to continued work alongside GOWC as we promote the many exceptional wines produced here in Oregon.”
Zepponi & Co., with offices in Portland and Santa Rosa, Calif., served as the exclusive financial advisor to Duck Pond Cellars.