January 31, 2008
Hottest Winery: Ste. Michelle

The award season is under way, and one of the more eagerly anticipated tributes in the wine trade early each year is Jon Fredrikson's unveiling of his Winery of the Year, which he reveals during the annual Unified Wine & Grape Symposium now going on in Sacramento.

Fredrikson, a veteran Bay Area wine consultant and analyst, bases his honor on a winery's robust sales the previous year. For 2007, his Winery of the Year is Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in Washington state, which during 2007 saw wine sales leap by 25 percent to a record $354 million, says Fredrikson.

Ste. Michelle also made headlines last year when it teamed up with Italy's Marchese Piero Antinori to pay $185 million for Napa Valley's Stag's Leap Wine Cellars. Ste. Michelle now owns about 20 brands, including two other California wineries, Conn Creek and Villa Mt. Eden, both also in Napa Valley.

Fredrikson chose Ste. Michelle from a large field of candidates that also had revenues rise substantially last year, including four in the Sacramento region - Michael-David Winery in Lodi, Bogle Vineyards in Clarksburg, Gnarly Head in Manteca and McManis Family Vineyards just south of Lodi.

Fredrikson also indicated that the industry should keep an eye on a player that just entered the field last year, Oak Leaf Vineyards, a brand of The Wine Group in San Francisco. Oak Leaf sold around 500,000 cases in its short time on the market, said Fredrikson. The wines are available at Wal-Mart, where they sell for $1.97 a bottle.

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