Seattle's Precept Wines buys Canoe Ridge Vineyard

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WALLA WALLA -- One of the largest wine companies in the Northwest has purchased Canoe Ridge Vineyard and reportedly plans to reopen the Walla Walla winery's shuttered tasting room this spring.

Seattle-based Precept Wines announced it has purchased Canoe Ridge, as well as Sagelands Vineyard in the Yakima Valley, from London-based alcoholic beverage company Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines.

Terms of the purchase were not disclosed in the announcement. Precept Wines' founder and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Browne said in a release the company is "dedicated to investing in both brands for the foreseeable future."

"The addition of Canoe Ridge and Sagelands to our portfolio of wines greatly strengthens our commitment to quality winemaking in Washington state," Browne said in the announcement.

Canoe Ridge's tasting room in the refurbished engine house at 1905 Cherry St. is reportedly expected to reopen this spring. The reopening of the Sagelands tasting room is also reportedly in the works.

The acquisition also includes the Canoe Ridge estate vineyard located in the Horse Heaven Hills American Viticultural Area. That vineyard include 153 planted vinifera acres, which will bring the company's total in the Horse Heaven Hills area to about 1,000 acres.

"We view the Horse Heaven Hills as a premier grape growing region in the state," said Browne. "We are excited to take a more active role in the development and marketing of this premier vineyard."

Precept's total acreage in Washington state is about 2,700. The company also owns more than 1,000 acres in Oregon.

Canoe Ridge is the third Walla Walla brand in the Precept portfolio. The company also offers labels under The Magnificent Wine Company, including House Wine, the flagship brand originally started by Walla Walla winemaker Charles Smith. It is also the owner and operator of Waterbrook Winery, the 53,000-square-foot winemaking facility at 10518 W. U.S. Highway 12.

Known as the largest privately owned wine-production company in Washington, Precept makes about 900,000 cases of wine annually for just under 30 brands. The majority of those are based in Washington, but others are from Oregon, Idaho, Germany and Australia.

The public tasting rooms for Canoe Ridge and Sagelands were closed last summer as part of a cost-cutting initiative by Diageo, the international drinks company that also owns Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker, Guinness, Captain Morgan and Jos?© Cuervo. At that time a spokeswoman for the company told "Wine Spectator" the company wanted to explore options for its non-core assets, including selling them.

Bill Murray, winemaker for Precept's Sawtooth Winery in Idaho, will reportedly move to Walla Walla to take over winemaking for Canoe Ridge, expected to produce about 25,000 cases annually. He will continue to oversee winemaking at Sawtooth.

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