Welcome Bounty Cellars

Gary Bannerman writes


Bounty Cellars' founders Ron Pennington and Wade Rains

The salvation of an industry

Négociants may prove to be the salvation of the premium-price sector of the wine industry. Scientific advances in agronomy and viticulture, and related technology has dramatically raised the quality and consistency of low-priced wines, in an era when the number of boutique-sized wineries and speciality labels have literally exploded world-wide. The marketing and promotional costs associated with a boutique product, if it is to achieve a market identity worthy of the price, is about the same as a label with a production volume 100 times larger.

The paradox is that the scores of new, small-volume wines are entering the market (often former grape growers who used to sell to the majors, but who have cashed-in on breaking up their acreage, selling plots to multiple owners), while the public is amidst a mass evacuation from the premium-priced market. Tanker trucks full of wine that had been destined for $50 a bottle and up retail, are now selling as Charles Shaw ("Two Buck Chuck") in the U.S., Yellow Tail from Australia or the litre boxes of Don Pepe in Spain for less than one Euro. Veritable oceans of great wine are being dumped.

Négociants can build value for a specific label or brand and achieve a standard of quality that can only be delivered from top grapes or outstanding juice and first class winemaking. Selling this basic stock to a prestigious négociant for a premium price may deliver a better net return without the cost of bottling, labelling, packing, transporting and marketing


It has been a privilege of mine during a long media career to have met, interviewed and/or dined with some of the legendary names in the world of wine: Hugh Johnson, Robert Mondavi, Leon Adams, Alexis Lichine, Paul Bouchard, Brother Timothy of Napa, the Baroness Rothschild and many others. A few became great personal friends, such as the late Leigh Knowles Jr., the former Glen Miller orchestra member who managed the distinguished Beaulieu Vineyards (BV) of Napa Valley, and Robert N. Lindeman, a direct descendant of the founder of the Australian wine industry who had been honoured world-wide, including a special award presented by the President of France.

Through these contacts, travel and some investment, I have also had an opportunity to taste at least one vintage of just about all of the world's greatest wines, and obtained case lots of a few of them.

It goes beyond the word "admiration" (astonishment would be more accurate) to describe how I view the courage and persistence of Harry McWatters, Tony von Mandl, Dr. Joe Peller and hundreds of smaller players who have metamorphosed British Columbia's Okanagan into a prime wine growing region.

Bounty Cellars

I was at a business associate's private party early in 2005 and discovered an amiable chap in the corner pouring glasses of red and white wines. I grabbed a glass of red and carried on to my next conversation. My friend was in mid-sentence when I took the first sip of wine, blurting out "wow," the factor that means the most to me - the very rare wine that commands attention. This was my first taste of Bounty Merlot. Merlot is the workhorse varietal that is the winemakers' blending dream world-wide, but which is otherwise the ultimate vin ordinaire, rarely better than mediocre. Occasionally, such as in the State of Washington, the merlot rises to greatness.

That is what I tasted in the Bounty Merlot that evening in 2005. I met Ron Pennington that night, the Bounty Group president. He, his partner Wade Rains, a group of investors and an extraordinary winemaker, Todd Moore, set out on a different direction from all of the boutique wineries of the Okanagan.

The Bounty Cellars plan was in the tradition of the great French négociant, using the best grapes, juice and wine from throughout the Pacific Northwest to produce a portfolio of top-quality wines year after year. Négociants have operated in France for centuries. Some own vineyards but most don't. Instead they buy grapes, juice and wines at various stages of fermentation and aging, and the winemakers create house brands to meet the criteria on the label. More than 190 négociant wineries operate in the Bordeaux region alone. Some négociants, such as Georges Duboeuf, have a recognizable house style and have become world famous for their wines. Many négociants also own vineyards. In Burgundy for instance, Duboeuf and Louis Jadot, are the largest owners of vineyards.

The Bounty Group set out to create special label wines for specific clients or events, as well as house brands. Despite Bounty's relative youth as a business, both the client list and an impressive number of prestigious industry awards have added ever-more confidence to both the initial vision and the long-term business plan.

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Since that chance encounter in 2005, the Bounty Group have been suppliers of promotional gifts to this company's friends and clients. They never cease to please and win compliments. We are now proposing to take this relationship to another level, business development joint ventures on behalf of our respective clients.

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