Elizabeth Chambers Cellar

Project Type: New-to world brand creation

Appellation: Willamette Valley
Key Varietals: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris 

Price Points:
Pinot Noir - $30-50
Pinot Gris - $17-22


The Chambers family owned Panther Creek Cellars in McMinnville from 2006 to 2012. When family matriarch Carolyn Chambers passed away in 2011, it was decided the Panther Creek brand would be sold. However, the winery facility, winemaker and vineyard sourcing were retained by Carolyn's daughter, Elizabeth. Panther Creek had resided in the same McMinnville location from 1986 until 2012, in a historic brick building dating to the 1920's that had served as the community's electric power plant for five decades. Any new brand would have no vineyard assets, although strong relationships with local growers would ensure high quality fruit sourcing, with high COGs between $28 and $40 per gallon depending on vineyard source. Pinot Noir production levels were locked in at 3,000 cases in Year 1, with planned growth to 5,000 cases by Year 4. However, no brand name or market recognition existed to drive sell-through of these stocks.  



Create new luxury Willamette Valley pinot noir brand: concept, logo, proposition and packaging. Plan and execute brand launch to media, distributors and trade, with distribution network TBD. Hire consumer-direct manager and set up winery tasting room for planned opening date in January 2014.


The primary challenge in terms of concept development was filling the vaccum created when the Panther Creek brand was sold, along with all its brand assets, distribution network,  customer base and storylines. Winemaking style emphatically skewed toward the natural, terroir-driven approach favored by David Lett of Eyrie; however, no vineyard holdings could be connected to the new brand. Timing was also problematic, with the winery tasting room opening during the slowest time of the year, and with premier 2011 pinot noir offerings from a vintage that had been panned by influential national wine critics including Harvey Steiman of Wine Spectator.


The winery owner agreed to use the brand name Elizabeth Chambers Cellar. This concept brought many benefits: a solid, familiar woman's name that would be easy to pronounce and remember; a back story based on female leadership striving to succeed in the face of resistance within her own family and in honor of her mother; and the alignment of the winemaker's stylistic preference for elegant, natural wines with a feminine brand name and image. Having established brand identity, package design followed. Two intersecting stories were the historic McMinnville winery building, and the female sensibility and leadership of the owner. During exploration it was discovered that Ms. Chambers mother collected a specific breed of butterfly called "Blue Morphos." The historic winery facade juxtaposed with this large blue butterfly combined to form the iconography for the new brand and label. A PR agency was hired to help craft messaging and execute a media blitz as part of the brand launch. In its first year Elizabeth Chambers Cellar attracted numerous accolades and one 92-point score from a major numeric. In August 2015 The Wine Enthusiast will bestow Editor's Choice recognition on three 2012 Elizabeth Chambers pinot noir  all of which carry scores at or above 93 points. Annual total-brand volume run rate has already exceeded 2,000 cases, with 50% growth projected in 2015 and distributor assignments in 12 key states.

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