France’s Henriot buys major share in Oregon’s Beaux Frères
French company Maisons & Domaines Henriot has muscled its way into the American wine market, with the acquisition of a majority ownership stake in one of Oregon’s key Pinot Noir producers Beaux Frères for an undisclosed sum.
The sale includes the winery in Newberg and around 35 acres of vines.
Winemaker and cofounder Michael Etzel will remain a partner, while French-Canadian investor Robert Roy sold his shares and Etzel’s brother-in-law, wine critic Robert Parker retains only a small percentage of his.
Etzel said that his two partners approached him about a year ago about selling. “Both of them were of the same mindset, ‘Let’s just simplify our lives,’” he said. Etzel, 62, adds that he was not in a financial position to buy out his partners, so the group
Numerous approaches were made by potential investors, but Paris-based Henriot stood out. “Henriot was the most likeminded. It was not strictly a financial decision,” Etzel said. “The relationship had to work.”
Henriot has built an impressive winery portfolio in recent decades that includes Champagne Henriot, Burgundy négociants Bouchard Père & Fils in Beaune and William Fèvre in Chablis, and Château de Poncié in Beaujolais.
“The addition of the Beaux Frères winery is a perfect fit with the traditions and values of my family, built over many generations,” Gilles de Larouzière, Henriot’s president, said in a statement.
Named after the French term for “brothers-in-law,” Beaux Frères was part of the second wave of the renaissance of the Oregon wine industry, following in the footsteps of pioneering winemakers like David Lett and Dick Erath.
The Beaux Frères Pinot Noirs were quickly recognized for their depth and power and typically have been rated as outstanding, or 90 points or higher, on the Wine Spectator 100-point scale. Since the late 1990s, as his vineyards matured, Etzel eased off on tannin levels and ripeness to create more elegant wines without sacrificing richness.
Last year he produced around 8,500 cases of Pinot Noir, and in the same year scopped the earned the No. 3 spot in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the Year.
Etzel remains president and CEO of the winery, and his son, co-winemaker and viticulturist Mike Etzel Jr. has stayed on board as well. Etzel and his wife, Carey Critchlow, retain ownership of a second label, Sequitur, and its 12-acre vineyard, and will continue to produce the wine at Beaux Frères.