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Rapid Growth Prompts Sale of Meiomi Brand

August 2015
 
by Jim Gordon and Paul Franson
 
 
Joe Wagner
 
Joe Wagner sold his brand Meiomi to Constellation for $315 million.
    JOE WAGNER TO SPEAK AT CONFERENCE
     

     
    Joe Wagner, who sold his Meiomi Pinot Noir label to Constellation Brands for $315 million, will be the lead speaker at the Wines & Vines Packaging Conference on Aug. 19.

    Wagner plans to share with conference attendees the stories of his family’s brands and the role that packaging played in their successes, including Meiomi, and others like the wax-topped Belle Glos line and Mer Soleil Silver, the concrete-aged Chardonnay sold in a ceramic bottle.

    Other sessions and speakers will address package design and materials, quality control during bottling and natural cork selection. A special presentation by Andrew Haney of Nielsen Design Solutions will explore the connection between package design and brand image based on consumer research conducted for the conference.

    Optional tasting sessions will present trials that explore the sensory differences between bottled wine and kegged wine, mature Pinot Noir sealed with natural cork vs. screwcap, and more.

    The Wines & Vines Packaging Conference will take place at 500 First St. (the former Copia building) in Napa, Calif. For more information and to register, visit wvpack.com.

St. Helena, Calif.—The young winemaker who recently agreed to sell the Meiomi brand of California wine to Constellation Brands for $315 million said the transition came at a time when his company faced a high hurdle: continuing to make enough wine to fill fast-growing demand as production surpassed 500,000 cases.

Joseph “Joe” Wagner, a member of Napa Valley’s Wagner Family of Wine (founders of Caymus Vineyards), developed Meiomi while working for the family. He perfected an extremely popular flavor profile for the primarily Pinot Noir line while paying close attention to the wine’s package design and marketing Meiomi almost exclusively to on-premise accounts at first.

In 2014 Wagner formed Copper Cane Wines & Provisions to produce Meiomi, Elouan and Carne Humana—and to market other wines and merchandise. He said he remains a part-owner of Wagner Family of Wine. Constellation Brands announced July 1 that it had agreed to acquire the Meiomi brand, but no facilities or vineyards. The deal was set to close Aug. 1.

Meiomi wines typically retail for $20 per bottle, indicating a wholesale price of about $100 per case. This calculation would mean annual sales of around $50 million.

The sale is one of the biggest deals in recent memory for a California wine brand. One similar transaction was Constellation’s 2012 purchase of the 600,000-case Pinot Noir brand, Mark West, from Purple Wine Co. for a reported $160 million.

What attracted Constellation—publically owned and often cited as the world’s largest wine company by case volume—was Meiomi’s outstanding sales performance and high rate of growth. IRI data showed Meiomi had dollar growth of more than 50% over a recent 52-week period.

Meiomi fills a niche in Constellation’s luxury portfolio, said Jay Wright, president of Constellation Brands’ wine and spirits division. “The rapid growth rate Meiomi has achieved in such a short time is evidence that the brand resonates with consumers, and we’re excited about adding it to our wine portfolio,” he added.

Greg Fowler, senior vice president of operations for Constellation’s wine and spirits division, said Meiomi sourced grapes from three California counties, and that Constellation will make the wine at three of its locations near the vineyards: Estancia in Soledad for Monterey County, Wild Horse in Paso Robles for Santa Barbara County and Clos du Bois in Geyserville for Sonoma County grapes.

“We’re assuming most of the contracts, and we already do business with many of the growers,” Fowler said. “Using the same sources allows us to maintain the same style and quality that has made (Meiomi) so popular.” Wagner will reportedly advise Constellation on winemaking during the transition.

He said most of the wine has been produced at The Ranch custom-crush facility in St. Helena, Calif., where tanks as large as 300,000 gallons helped his team assemble homogenous blends before bottling. He said the other Copper Cane wines would continue to be made at The Ranch while he looks for a larger facility to accommodate his still-expansive growth plans. To fulfill Wagner Family’s Belle Glos line and Copper Cane’s lines, he expects to crush 7,000 tons this year for a total production of about 400,000 cases.

 
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