Ste Michelle Wine Estates has been sold to private equity firm Sycamore Partners for $1.2billion. Owned by tobacco and cigarette producer Altria for over forty years, the wine estate is the oldest winery in Washington State and accounts for nearly 60% of the state’s wine production
Altria has equity investments in the world’s largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev, as well as a Canadian cannabinoid company, Cronos Group Inc.
The sale is thought to include around 30,000 acres of vines in Washington State, Oregon and California, and is expected to go through in the second half of the year, once the necessary finance and antitrust clearances have been met.
As well as the flagship Chateau Ste. Michelle estate in Woodinville wine country, the company owns several estates in Eastern Washington, including the Canoe Ridge vineyard in Horse Heaven Hills AVA, and Cold Creek vineyards and Indian Wells in the Columbia Valley AVA. It is also the world’s largest producer of Riesling.
Officially founded in 1967, the wine estates dates back to 1954, when the National Wine Company and the Pomerelle Wine Company merged to form the American Wine Company. Over time it has added to its portfolio, acquiring Oregon’s Erath brand in 2007 and California’s. Patz & Hall in 2016. Other brands include Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars in California, Columbia Crest and Instrinsic, as well as importing and marketing Antinori and Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte in the US.
The sale looks in part to be due to the pandemic and lockdowns, which resulted in a loss of 300,000 visitors to the winery and a 12% fall in volumes, or 7.3m cases as sales through the on-channel plummeted.
Some analysts, however, noted that growth had started to slow down at the winery as early as 2016, as demand stagnated but plantings continued to grow.
For more information, head over to Ste Michelle Wine Estates’ official website.