Home Back Issues March 2009 Q&A with Willamette Valley Vineyards' president

Q&A with Willamette Valley Vineyards' president

| Print |  Email
Archives - March 2009
Sunday, March 01, 2009

BEARING FRUIT

JimBernau.jpg PHOTO BY MICHAEL HALLE

WHEN JIM BERNAU founded Willamette Valley Vineyards in 1983, his 15-acre, one-man operation was one of about 115 vineyards dotting Oregon’s landscape. As Oregon’s wine industry has grown in size and reputation, so has Willamette Valley Vineyards, which is now one of the leading producers of pinot noir in the state. As the president of Oregon’s only publicly traded winery — with $16.7 million in annual revenues — Bernau oversees 121 employees and the production of more than 120,000 cases of wine annually. We caught the winemaker on a rare day away from the winery to discuss the challenges facing Oregon’s wine industry.

Q How are Oregon wineries, including your own, faring in the recession?
A Sales growth has flattened, and in some cases we are seeing downturns, especially with our restaurant accounts. I hear from my colleagues that they are seeing the effect of the economic slowdown, especially those that are making and selling fairly expensive products. Our wines are fairly expensive because our yields are so low and the costs of how we make our wines are high. Oregon pinot noir, to be really good, takes a lot of money to make. People are being very careful of how they spend their money, which they should be.

Q What’s the industry doing to survive the recession?
A What happens sometimes in downturns is you see consumer behavior fundamentally change. People start making lower-cost choices and stick with those choices. I think what you’re going to see are some people trading down from expensive wines to less expensive wines. You won’t see much price cutting, because the cost is already in the product. You’ll see some real slowdown in spending by wineries — cost saving, cost cutting. But then you’ll also see something else. For those capable of doing it, you’ll see investing. Often the best times to develop a stronger market position [are during] economic downturns.

Q Lobbyist, cellar rat, CEO — you’ve worked nearly every position in the industry. Have a favorite?
A Growing. I love being in the vineyard, absolutely love it. As a consequence, we have quite a few vineyards.

Q You recently acquired more than 200 acres.
A Yes. We’re going to be busy. What’s important when you want to make a high-quality pinot noir, you have to have absolutely the best growing site for it, and reduce the yield on the crop in such a way to produce a high-quality, world-class wine. The best way to ensure that is to do it yourself. There is an advantage of making sure you control every aspect of the growing process, but also there is no margin. So by growing more yourself, you have more ability to get pinot noir to the public at a price that is fairly reasonable. Part of Willamette Valley’s great strategic advantage is that our size as a grower allows us to do that.

Q Would reducing personal wine consumption to save a few dollars ever be an option?
A Have you seen the size of my cellar? There is no way I could cut back.

 

NICOLE STORMBERG

 


Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

 

More Articles

Green Endeavor cleans up

News
Wednesday, August 06, 2014
080614 ULnew greenendeavorBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Portland startup Green Endeavor strikes gold, inking a partnership with Underwriters Laboratories, an Illinois-based consulting and certification company with offices in 46 countries.


Read more...

Fast Food Slows Down

September 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
BY KIM MOORE

The ubiquitous fast-food restaurant may be on the decline.


Read more...

Why I became an Oregon angel investor

Guest Blog
Monday, July 14, 2014
AngelInvestBY TERRY "STARBUCKER" ST. MARIE

I really didn’t know that much about angel investing, but I did know a lot about the entrepreneurial spirit.


Read more...

A Taste of Heaven

September 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
BY VIVIAN MCINERNY

Craft beer comes to Mount Angel.


Read more...

Launch

September 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY

September's Launch article features Orchid Health, BuddyUp and Inter-Europe Consulting.


Read more...

Video: The 100 Best Survey

News
Thursday, August 28, 2014

100-best-logo-2015 500pxw-1OB Research Editor Kim Moore shares some pointers about the 100 Best Companies to Work For survey.


Read more...

Interview: Dr. Mark Goulston

Contributed Blogs
Thursday, July 10, 2014
JustListenBY TOM COX | OB BLOGGER

Tom Cox interviews Dr. Mark Goulston, author of Just Listen, Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS