Earlier this week, Walla Walla Valley stalwart Woodward Canyon announced that winemaker Kevin Mott and sales director Thomas Woodley have become shareholders in the winery. This creates an ownership group of Rick Small and Darcey Fugman-Small; their adult children Jordan Dunn-Small and Sager Small; and now Mott and Woodley.
In announcing the change, Rick Small stated, “As we worked through succession planning, it became clear that Kevin and Thomas are integral to the operation of Woodward Canyon and to its future.” Mott and Woodley both joined the winery in 2003.
The Smalls will continue day-to-day management. Indeed, for anyone who has met the irrepressibly energetic Rick Small, it is clear that he is as passionate about grape growing and winemaking as ever (read a previous post on Woodward Canyon here). While this change therefore has no immediate external impact, it does have long-term implications for Woodward Canyon – one of Washington’s oldest and most storied wineries.
Elsewhere in the state, eyebrows raised last month when word that Cave B Inn and Spa in George, Washington were being put up for auction (see listing here). This facility, adjacent to Cave B Estate Winery, is one of the more majestic in the state, overlooking the Columbia River near the scenic Gorge Amphitheatre.
After speculation that the auction might be a distress sale, the winery wrote on its Facebook page, “This planned and voluntary sale event is part of the Bryan family’s succession planning….We want to assure you that Cave B Estate Winery, and our winemaker Freddy Arredondo and other Bryan family members will continue to make available premium Cave B wines before and after this sale event for the foreseeable future.”
Speaking with Arredondo at the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers annual meeting earlier this month, he stated that the Bryan family has been looking to sell the inn and spa in recent years. Not having found a suitable buyer to date, they decided an auction was the best way to move forward with the sale. “We’re all excited about it,” Arredondo, who is the Bryans’ son-in-law, said of the sale.
While the auction focuses on the inn and spa, it does include parcel options for the winery and vineyards in case the buyer wants to purchase the entire site. However, Arredondo stated that even if these parcels were sold, the brand and inventory would not be. The auction will take place March 15th.
Prior to these announcements, succession planning most recently came to the fore in Washington after the sale of Betz Family Winery last spring (Read a Focus Report on the new owners of the winery, Steve and Bridgit Griessel, here). What will succession planning look like for Washington’s numerous small, family wineries? Read some thoughts posted after the Betz sale here.