Precept Wine Brands snaps up Corus

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Precept Wine Brands, the largest privately owned wine production company in the state and the owner of Walla Walla's largest winery complex, is getting bigger.

The Seattle company has acquired Corus Estates & Vineyards, a six-brand wine operation that spans Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The purchase, effective Jan. 1, includes Seattle-based Corus' winemaking operations, accounting, sales, marketing and retail locations.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The acquisition builds on Precept's history of partnerships and acquisitions. In this case, it is a reunion of sorts. Corus Estates & Vineyards was formerly owned by the Baty family. Dan Baty is a co-owner of Precept Wine Brands.

"Dan and his family felt that it was time to consolidate some of the efforts of their wine entities," said Precept Chief Executive Officer Andrew Browne, in the announcement.

Browne said the addition of the Corus brands -- Alder Ridge, 6 Prong and Zefina in Washington, Blue Pirate and Battle Creek in Oregon and Sawtooth Winery in Idaho -- will "strengthen our commitment to producing, marketing and selling wine of outstanding value in the region."

He said Precept plans to increase distribution and consumer awareness of the core Corus Estates & Vineyards brands.

Precept entered the Walla Walla market with the purchase of Waterbrook Winery several years ago. In 2009, it opened a destination winery complex for the Waterbrook label off U.S. Highway 12. The complex includes an event and recreation facility with conference room, a Bocce ball court, a lake expected to be stocked for catch-and-release fly fishing, a visitors cottage and a 53,000-square-foot winemaking facility where annually about 300,000 cases of wine are expected to be produced -- more than half as much wine as all of the roughly 100 wineries in the Valley combined.

According to the announcement, the Baty family's 30-year history started with the acquisition of the then-22-year-old Columbia Winery in 1980. Corus Estates & Vineyard was founded in the mid-1990s, and several brands were added, including Covey Run, over the years.

In 2001 the company was purchased by Constellation Brands. Meanwhile the Baty family maintained its more than 2,500 acres of vineyard property, along with Sawtooth Winery in Idaho. The family also continued to acquire vineyards in Oregon and develop new brands in the Northwest.

Browne, who was the former president of Corus Brands, reunited with Baty in 2003 through Precept.

In the last seven years, the company has built more than 25 brands, created 10 partnerships, completed numerous acquisitions and opened the new winemaking facility in Walla Walla.

Its more than 600,000 cases of wine sold last year under various labels made it the 21st-largest wine company in the U.S., while its focus has been on production and sale of wines for $15 or less.

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