Vancouver Canucks owner snaps up Washington sites

A Canadian company outbid rivals to buy nearly 700 acres of unplanted vineyard sites in Washington State at an auction earlier this week.

Red Mountain

A planted area of Red Mountain (WA), the land bought by Aquilini is currently unplanted

Aquilini Investment Group, which owns the Canadian National Hockey League team the Vancouver Canucks among other interests, paid US$8.3 million for the 670 acres of land, 518 acres of which are in the Red Mountain American Viticultural Area (AVA) – the smallest but also one of the most highly-prized regions in the state.

In the process the group beat off stiff bidding from Washington and Napa producers, including Alex Ryan, CEO of Duckhorn Vineyards.

“He paid a lot of money for it, so we’ll see what he’s going to do with all this good land,” Ryan said. “On a big scale, it’s a good investment, so good for him.”

canucks logo trace

The Vancouver Canucks are the Aquilini Group’s most famous investment

Duckhorn is releasing a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from Red Mountain next year but so far has no land or winery of its own in the region.

Until the auction last Saturday, the land had been lying fallow although falling within the Red Mountain AVA it is perfectly legal to plant vines there.

Initially though, a representative of Aquilini, Suki Bath, told Great Northwest Wine that the company has bought the land as an investment, “With no current plans to plant vineyards.”

However, almost the next day, the company told the same website that it was planning to plant grapes, “as soon as possible,” with the owner, Luigi Aquilini, saying it was a “great opportunity” to enter the wine world.

Aquilini already has land interests in Washington, including a 1,100 acre dairy farm in the Yakima Valley and it is developing over 2,000 acres of blueberry and cranberry orchards.

With the vineyard plans, Aquilini will almost certainly become the first and certainly the largest Canadian wine owner in the US since Seagram’s who used to own Jacob’s Creek and Wyndham among other labels.

There has been little Canadian drinks investment in the US since Seagram’s collapse and dismemberment between 2000 and 2002, however there has been quite a lot of US investment in Canada, in particular Jackson Family Estates which has properties in both the Okanagan and Niagara.

 

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