Spanish family continues strong series of investments in Washington
“We are looking for wines with a little bit higher acid, a bit fresher style. This site gives us that naturally,” says Jesús Martínez Bujanda Mora, CEO and fifth generation winery owner who also oversees Bodegas Valdemar in Rioja.
Valdemar began working with V2 fruit in 2019, and winemaker Devyani Gupta was actually involved with planting the site in 2016. (Read a recent Seattle Time profile of Gupta here.) The winery has been increasing its tonnage from V2 in recent vintages.
“It’s going to be the backbone of our Walla Walla Valley Cabernet,” says Martínez Bujanda of the winery’s plans for the site.
Since establishing its Walla Walla winery, Valdemar has been aggressively investing in property. The winery purchased a nine-acre vineyard in the Rocks District, eight of which are currently planted. This includes 2.5 acres of Grenache, 2 acres of Syrah, and 3 acres of white varieties (Grenache Blanc, Viognier, and Viura). The site is second leaf this year.
Valdemar also purchased property in the nascent North Fork region of the valley, which saw its first plantings in 2011 at Christophe Baron’s Hors Categorie Vineyard. Valdemar co-owns 100-acres in the region in partnership with Force Majeure. Valdemar has planted seven acres of the site to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Chardonnay and intends to ultimately plant 25 acres in the region.
“Those will be the three estate vineyards,” Martínez Bujanda says of V2, its Rocks District, and North Fork sites. “Never say never, but I don’t foresee us chasing anything else for a long time.”
Valdemar has made other significant investments in addition to these vineyards and its multi-million dollar winery. Earlier this year, the winery opened a tasting room in Woodinville that includes 2,800 square feet of interior space and 1,500 square feet of outdoor patio space. The winery had its first pickup party in Woodinville last weekend.
“I think it’s going to be a great location for us,” Martínez Bujanda says.
Valdemar’s investments are already beginning to pay dividends. The winery’s early releases have been impressive, making it easily one of the most exciting wineries to open in Washington in recent years.
V2, which will likely be renamed, is located in the SeVein project, a 2,700-acre development in the southern section of Walla Walla Valley. The vineyard is north-east facing, at an elevation between 900 and 1,250 feet above sea level. Betz Family purchased the land in 2014 and began its plantings in 2016. The vineyard is managed by North Slope Management, which will continue to oversee the site.
The property has 28 acres of water rights and currently has 22 acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. Martínez Bujanda intends to increase plantings to 24 acres in the coming years. This will include some replanting, which will start in 2 to 3 years. Cabernet Sauvignon will ultimately comprise at least half of the vineyard.
Valdemar also intends to plant Maturana Tinta at V2, which will be the first plantings of this variety in the United States. Valdemar is currently working with Washington State University to bring in and cultivate this red variety that is indigenous to Rioja. The hope is to begin planting Maturana in 2024.
Valdemar’s new estate vineyard is located near some well-heeled neighbors. It’s bordered by Serra Pedace (an estate vineyard for Leonetti), Pambrun (a project by Willamette Valley Vineyards), and Walla Squared (a vineyard for Echolands, a project from MS/MW Doug Frost and investors).
This area of the valley has already proven its potential, with a legion of Seven Hills Vineyard designated wines. However, it’s the higher elevation sites that are proving the most exciting in their youth, including Leonetti’s Serra Pedace-designated wine, L’Ecole’s Ferguson Vineyard wine (which Decanter named Best Bordeaux Blend in its first vintage at the World Wine awards), and an otherworldly Malbec from Devison from Southwind Vineyard. Other wineries have recently planted in this area as well, including Grosgrain.
For Betz Family, which has long-term contracts at various vineyards throughout Columbia Valley, V2 was its first estate property. Betz also purchased Ancient Stones Vineyard in the Rocks District sub-appellation of Walla Walla Valley in 2014. The latter is used for the winery’s Domaine de Pierres Syrah.
Owner Steve Griessel says the original intent had been to use V2 for a vineyard-designated, Left Bank-style wine. However, as Betz’s Heart of the Hill Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon has become an increasingly important part of its portfolio, adding another Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant wine made less sense. Griessel also says the profile of V2 contrasts a bit too sharply with Betz’s focus to date for Bordeaux varieties, much of which have come from the considerably warmer Red Mountain appellation.
“It just doesn’t work for the style of wine that we want to make, even though the quality is exceptionally high,” Griessel says.
With Griessel and Martínez Bujanda close friends and Valdemar’s interest in the property waxing as Betz Family’s waned, the solution became increasingly obvious. “It turned out to be a perfect marriage,” Griessel says of the sale.
Betz Family was established by Bob and Cathy Betz in 1997. The winery was purchased by Steve and Bridgit Griessel in 2011. Last year, Betz Family announced that it would not be releasing its 2020 vintage wines due to concerns about smoke impact. Griessel says the decision to sell V2 is unrelated to that issue.
METIS, a Pacific Northwest mergers and acquisitions advisory firm, was the sole transaction advisor on the V2 sale. Financial details were not disclosed.