Project Type: New-to world brand creation
Appellation: Willamette Valley
Key Varietals: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris
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.
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.