The family behind Napa Valley’s Silver Oak is the newest landowner in Oregon’s booming Pinot Noir scene. Wine Spectator has learned that the Duncan family has purchased Prince Hill Vineyard, located in the Dundee Hills appellation of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, from Oregon pioneer Dick Erath. They plan to use the nearly 40-acre vineyard as a source of Pinot Noir for their Twomey brand. The deal closed today; the sale price was not disclosed.
The acquisition comes just five months after the Duncans acquired Napa’s Ovid. “There’s no debating the wines coming out of Oregon are exciting,” CEO David Duncan told Wine Spectator. “We’ve had our toe in the water, producing Oregon Pinot Noir for the last three vintages, and when Prince Hill came onto our radar, we felt we had enough experience that we knew what to do with the site.”
Erath planted the vineyard in 1983. It offers an array of Pinot Noir clones and enjoys multiple exposures on rolling hills in a prime area of Dundee Hills. Neighbors include Archery Summit, Bergström and Domaine Serene. Erath wines produced from it have consistently received outstanding scores. “We are proud to be the next stewards of this special vineyard,” said Duncan. “The most exciting part is the location and the red Jory soils of Dundee Hills; we’re in a wonderful neighborhood.”
In a statement, Erath said, “The Duncan family’s commitment to sustainability and excellence was important to me when selecting a steward to carry on the Prince Hill tradition.” Now 82, the vintner sold his eponymous winery in 2006 to Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, along with the majority of his vineyard holdings. But he had kept Prince Hill because he has a home on the property.
“We were aligned in things that are important,” said Duncan, adding that his sustainable vineyard practices important to Erath, given that he still lives on the property part-time. Erath currently splits his time between Oregon and Arizona, where he has partnered on a vineyard outside the town of Wilcox.
The Twomey brand began in 1999 with a focus on Merlot, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc from both Napa and Sonoma counties, but in recent years has concentrated on Pinot. The addition of Prince Hill will expand their portfolio. They currently produce appellation and single-vineyard bottlings from the Russian River, Anderson and Santa Maria Valleys, as well as Santa Lucia Highlands. Twomey’s current annual production is approximately 20,000 cases. Silver Oak production totals 100,000 cases.
Twomey winemaker Erin Miller was a key component in the search for an Oregon vineyard. Miller joined Twomey from Evening Land in Oregon in 2014 and was eager to continue working with Oregon Pinot Noir.
Outside wine companies like Jackson Family and Louis Jadot have been purchasing estates in Oregon in recent years. As vineyard land in Napa and Sonoma becomes scarcer, many vintners have looked north to build and diversify their portfolio. Willamette Valley is still growing, with just over 20,000 acres planted and 500 wineries. The region has become a hotbed for Pinot Noir due to its cool climate, sweeping hillsides and complex soils. “As a serious-minded Pinot Noir producer, Oregon is the frontier right now,” said Duncan.
Twomey will have use of the vineyard starting with the 2017 vintage. “We had our team up there just the other day,” said Duncan, adding that they will likely sell some of the grapes over the next few years, but saying that the vineyard was going to be a work in progress, and he expects some replanting and change in clonal selection.