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Premier Pacific Vineyards

Premier Pacific Vineyards creates and farms high-end vineyards. They acquire investment capital, secure the best sites, and develop world-class vineyards. As the vineyards begin producing and proving their worth, wineries searching for new high-quality vineyards can lease or purchase from the portfolio of vineyard estates in the best winegrowing regions of California, Oregon and Washington. One of the challenges created by the current strong demand for Pinot Noir is ensuring there is an adequate supply of truly high-end vineyards. It is impossible to produce more great Pinot Noir without more quality vineyards. The supply of truly high caliber vineyards is limited by the scarcity of land with the right combination of soil and climatic conditions, regulatory restrictions and limited capital. For example, prime vineyard land in Oregon now costs $50,000 an acre or more, and it costs $20,000 to $25,000 an acre to properly plant and develop a vineyard.

Premier Pacific Vineyards was founded by vineyard development pioneer William Hill and real estate developer Richard Wollack. Together, they have rounded up a team of financial, viticultural and wine industry experts and are developing thousands of acres of vineyards throughout California and the Northwest. The company’s investment partners are private investors and the CalPERS retirement fund in California. Prominent Pinot Noir vineyards in California include Cotati Hills and Gap’s Crown in the Sonoma Coast, Bellflower (Piner) in the Russian River Valley, Lone Tree Ridge and Annahala (Philoville) in Anderson Valley, and Rancho Salsipuedes, Santa Rita Ridge and Santa Colina in the Sta. Rita Hills. Oregon properties include Willakia, Roserock Eagle Crest, Roserock Gibson Ridge, Roserock Popcorn Hill and Zena Crown in the Eola-Amita Hills and Gran Moraine, Yamhela and Goodrich in the Yamhill-Carlton District.

As reported in the latest issue of Oregon Wine Press (August, 2007), the explosive growth in sales of Oregon Pinot Noir is leading to a shortage of fruit, because the new planting growth rate is declining from historic levels. It is estimated that by 2012, there will be a shortage of almost 15,000 acres in Oregon. Similarly, new plantings in high-end California regions cannot keep up with the growing demands for premium Pinot Noir and other varietals.

Premier Pacific now has more than 1,000 acres in Yamhill and Polk counties of Oregon. 778 acres are either being planted or are in the first three years of growth. Clients in Oregon who are already on board include Adelsheim, Antica Terra, Beaux Freres, Belle Vallee, Bergstrom, Bethel Heights, Bighorn, Dobbes Family Winery, Elk Cove, Folio, Francis Tannahill & Hatcher Winery, Grochau, King Estate, Penner Ash , Ponzi, Rex Hill, Scott Paul, Solena Cellars, Soter Vineyards and Torii Mor. In California, the clients include Belle Glos, Brewer-Clifton, David Bruce, Flowers, Francis Ford Coppola, Freestone (Joseph Phelps), Harrington, Kosta Browne, Landmark, Papapietro-Perry and Patz & Hall. As the wineries become familiar with the new vineyards and a compatible working relationship develops, Premier Pacific will allow the wineries to manage their own vineyard blocks (often 10-15 acres) on a long term, usually 12 year, lease arrangement.

Before the IPNC, I visited one of the Premier Pacific vineyards, Willakia, in the Amity Hills with Patrick Matheny, the Director of Vineyard Marketing for Premier Pacific. The vineyard is being planted in stages and as we stood at the top of the vineyard (photo below) we could see spectacular vistas which included part of the 120-acre vineyard below. 95 acres are planted to Pinot Noir and the rest to Chardonnay at elevations from 200 to 900 feet. The ground we were standing on had just been ripped in preparation for planting. Patrick told me Premier Pacific was founded in 1998, but really got started in 2000 and has enjoyed remarkable growth since then. Premier Pacific has no intention of getting into the winemaking business.

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