Why Willamette Valley Vineyards Decided to Build a New Winery

Willamette Valley Vineyards is making big moves by launching a new brand; adding a new position to its leadership team; and building a new winery to serve as its primary production and bottling location.

The Pinot Noir producer is building its new winery on 40 acres in the Dundee Hills AVA on a property Willamette Valley purchased four years ago — close to Domaine Willamette, a sparkling winery at Bernau Estate Vineyard — which is under construction and nearly complete.

To support its expansion, Willamette Valley has begun searching for the right candidate to fill its new Director of Winemaking and Vineyards position, who will lead the construction of the new winery and lead its winemaking and vineyard operations.

Big upcoming moves include the launch of Domaine Willamette méthode champenoise, which is scheduled for Spring 2022.

Founder and CEO Jim Bernau explained that he expects the company’s production needs to double over the next 5-7 years.

“Our winery in the Salem Hills has served us well over the past 34 years, but we have simply outgrown its original design,” Bernau said. “We produced 175,000 cases at this winery last year on-site and are expecting continued increases in demand in the coming years as our restaurant and retail placements expand and our planned new winery restaurants are built in local communities.”

Willamette has enlisted the help of Steve Martin Associates out of Sonoma County to assist in the planning, design and development of this winemaking facility. 

The new Director of Winemaking & Vineyards position, reporting to the Winery Director, will be responsible for the overall management of winemaking and vineyards which currently includes a team of 65 full and part-time employees. 

As much of Willamette’s wine grapes are estate grown with quality control supervised directly by the winery, the new director will oversee five owned vineyards in the Willamette Valley totaling approximately 500 producing acres and 35 in the Walla Walla Valley and The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVAs. The winery also has long-standing relationships with growers in Oregon with another 500 acres under contract. 

The new Director of Winemaking and Vineyards will be charged with making improvements to existing operations and assisting with the development of new brands, products and estate vineyards. Their first priority will be to oversee the planning, building and transition into the new winery within the next 2-4 years.

WineTalent is leading the search for the Director of Winemaking & Vineyards, with any interested candidates able to learn more and apply confidentially at www.winetalent.net.  

The winery is supported by more than 19,000 wine enthusiast owner investors and plans to continue its capital formation through Preferred Stock offerings. The winery launched a $10.7M public offering in mid-June to help fund its Winery Restaurant plans.

Willamette has embarked on a strategy to take the Oregon wine story on the road through Winery Restaurants with the first four named in Lakes Oswego, the Vancouver Waterfront, Happy Valley and Bend. This major, new strategic direction has been developed from operating their restaurant at the Estate winery and the prototype outpost built last year in the historic district of Folsom, California. The Winery Restaurants will offer Pacific Northwest-inspired dishes to pair with the winery’s classic Oregon wines as well as a new Membership program. The brand experiences will be integrated into its grocery and on-premise channels by introducing more consumers to the wines.

Photo: Willamette Valley Vineyards

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