Tag Archives: Geyser Peak

Geyser Peak gets a new owner – can that save the brand?

geyser peak

“Seriously — someone put riesling in this?”

Geyser Peak, once a great cheap wine brand, has seen sales fall by one-half and quality sink perhaps even more

Dear Robert Pepi Jr.:

I see you are the consultant for the new owners of Geyser Peak, once one of California’s great cheap wine brands. This is welcome news, given your family’s long tradition with sauvignon blanc, the varietal that made Geyser Peak one of California’s great cheap brands. Is it possible that you can convince the wine’s new owners to restore its $10 sauvignon blanc to greatness?

I ask this because American wine drinkers are eager for a $10 California label that offers consistency, quality, and value. Because, as we have too often noted on the blog, that’s almost impossible to find anymore. Geyser Peak was once once of those wines and a member of the $10 Hall of during the blog’s early days. In fact, the Big Guy used to joke that he knew it was summer in Texas when he started drinking Geyser sauvignon blanc.

But that hasn’t been the case for a long time. Your new bosses are at least the brand’s fifth owners since 2007, and the last owner drove sales from around 300,000 cases a year to half that. And no wonder. The last couple of times I tasted the wine it was, to be polite, crummy. Who mixes riesling with sauvignon blanc unless there is an ulterior motive?

Plus, the quotes I read from the new bosses didn’t fill me with confidence: “500,000 cases. … growth potential. … expanded sales force. … honing our focus.” Shudder – nothing about making quality wine in any of that, is there?

Earlier this year, a leading wine industry analyst said California desperately needs “sexy brands at $7 or $8 per bottle. …” Which you and the new owner have the chance to do with Gesyer Peak (and a $10 price would be fine, too). Grape prices have declined, so it will be possible to buy better quality grapes to put in the wine. The brand has a long history of quality – how more reassuring than marketing it as, “Great Geyser Peak wine is back, baby!”? And maybe you can even convince the new owner that this would be the perfect way to bring younger consumers to wine – cheap, fruit forward, and a product that tastes like wine.

As always, I am ready to help in any way I can.

Yours in quality cheap wine,

The Wine Curmudgeon

Photo: Librestock, using a Creative Commons license

Winebits 641: The “Big Wine makes mega-deals” edition

international styleThis week’s wine news: Constellation Brands and E&J Gallo finalize their cheap wine blockbuster, plus Geyser Peak is sold again and Treasury wants to set Penfolds free

Finally done? Constellation Brands’ $1.1 billion sale of its low-price wine labels to E. & J. Gallo is expected to close by the end of June, despite the coronavirus pandemic, reports the Press-Democrat website. The deal will send almost all of Constellation’s $10 wines to Gallo, including Black Box, Ravenswood, Clos du Bois, and Mark West, as well as vineyards and wineries in California and New York. The original April 2019 deal, worth $1.7 billion, had to be revised after U.S. regulators objected.

Poor Geyser Peak: When I started writing the blog, Geyser Peak’s $10 sauvigngon blanc was one of the most dependable cheap wines on the market. But that was also several owners ago, and quality has never been the same. So it’s not necessarily bad news that the brand has been sold once again. The current owner, Australia’s Accolade Wines, will sell Geyser Peak, Atlas Peak, XYZin and Outlot to something called 2 Bears LLC. No word on who is behind 2 Bears.

Whither Penfolds? Australia’s Treasury Wine Estates, one of the two or three largest producers in the world, has been feuding with stock analysts for the past year or so, defending what the analysts have been calling the company’s poor performance. So Treasury may spin off Penfolds, one of the world’s great wine brands and home to the legendary Penfolds Grange (which I’ve been lucky enough to taste and so can attest to its greatness). Whether this pleases anyone in the shadow boxing world of financial analysis is anyone’s guess, but it points to the pressures Treasury faces in a world where people drink less wine and Big Wine companies are being urged to shed brands.

Mini-reviews 111: Geyser Peak, Castle Rock, Ranch 32, Tyrell’s

geyser peakReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month. This, month, a highly recommended white and red:

Geyser Peak Chardonnay Water Bend 2016 ($18, sample, 14.5%): California white that tastes like coconut and pineapple – another example of the post-modern, better living through winemaking approach that dominates so much wine at this price. Coconut and pineapple are ideal for an ice cream sundae, but probably not the way chardonnay should taste.

Castle Rock Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2016 ($15, sample, 13.5%): This vintage of the Oregon red is not what the 2015 was, unfortunately – a little brambly black fruit aroma, but too heavy and not very interesting. It tastes like it has lots of something in it besides pinot noir, a practice that is legal and not uncommon for less expensive pinot noirs.

Ranch 32 Pinot Noir 2016 ($17, sample, 13.5%) If all $17 wine tasted like this California red, I wouldn’t rant about $17 wine. It’s got actual pinot noir character – almost silky, with precise black fruit and actual oak that lends to the wine and doesn’t dominate it. Highly recommended.

Tyrell’s Semillon 2016 ($22, purchased, 11%): This white is another brilliant Australian wine that was lost in the disaster that was 15 percent shiraz and that the Aussie wine business is still recovering from. It’s somehow balanced, soft and crisp and with lots of fresh stone fruit, and balanced. Highly recommended. Imported by Broadbent Selections

Mini-reviews 95: Geyser Peak, Triton Tridente, Cloudline, Anne Amie

geyser peakReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month.

• Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($12, sample, 13%): I’m sure the current owners of Geyser Peak, once a great cheap sauvignon blanc, had their reasons for blending this vintage with riesling. The reason, though, escapes me, since it adds an almost syrupy consistency and sweetness to a wine that is supposed to be crisp and fresh. Plus, $12?

Bodegas Tritón Tridente 2013 ($16, sample, 15.5%): This Spanish tempranillo sat in the wine closet for more than a year, and the age made all the difference in the world. Much better than I expected – rich and lush with cherry fruit but not hot despite the high alcohol.

Cloudline Pinot Noir 2015 ($16, sample, 13.5%): This Oregon red from the well-known Domaine Drouhin is not for all tastes, made in an almost old-fashioned French style. That means tart berry fruit and very simple in style.

Anne Amie Cuvee A Amrita 2015 ($15, sample, 12.6%): This Oregon white blend, from one of my favorite producers, is a cross between a frizzante riesling and a sweeter, more Prosecco style sparkling. It is well made, as all Anne Amie wines are, with citrus and white fruit, but could use more acidity to balance the sweetness.



Mini-reviews 47: Rene Barbier, Geyser Peak, Esperto, Dashwood

Reviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month:

? Rene Barbier Rose NV ($6, purchased, 12.5%): Not quite $10 Hall of Fame quality, but consistent, varietally correct and a steal at this price. A little more fruity (strawberry) this time around

? Geyser Peak Pinot Grigio 2012 ($10, sample, 13%): Flabby, with banana fruit and not very pinot grigio in taste or style. You can get the same thing with $6 grocery store wine.

? Esperto Pinot Grigio 2011 ($10, sample, 12.5%): Inoffensive, clean, subtly flavored Italian white without the turpentine of so many other cheap pinot grigios. Much better than I thought it would be.

? Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc 2012 ($9, purchased, 12.5%): Perfectly acceptable cheap New Zealand white; lots of grapefruit up front and not much else. But fresh and clean and not flawed.

Winebits 233: Restaurant wine, Geyser Peak, private labels

What do diners deserve? Not all that much, writes Jeremy Parzen in the Houston Press. It just seems a lot, given the sad state of restaurant wine service. His 10-point diner’s Bill of Rights includes such basics as “The right to request that a wine server open a new bottle of a by-the-glass selection if the wine has been open since the day before.” Which we all know restaurants — even ones that know better — want to do about as much as the Wine Curmudgeon wants to run naked down the street.

New owners for old favorite: Geyser Peak, about as dependable a $10 wine as there is, has been bought by Accolade Wines, an Australian group that has become the world’s fifth-largest wine company. The deal included two smaller labels, Atlas Peak and XYZin, and seems to be part of a continuing shakeout in the wine business caused by the recession, the slump in wine sales, and overextended wineries. The Australians said all the right things about Geyser Peak, but when anything like this happens, the fate of the acquired company is also a mystery.

Winery boss rips retailers: Or, as the Aussies, put it, “launched a spray.” The occasion was an industry function Down Under where one of the country’s most influential producers criticized Australia’s leading retailers for “flooding their stores with private-label wines that he said were hollow, copycats and masquerading as real brands.” I mention this here because private labels and store brands have become increasingly important for retailers in the U.S. — the Total Wine that just opened in Dallas has so many private labels I had trouble finding the branded wine. So we may soon be seeing the same sort of reaction from U.S. producers.

Winebits 197: Steve Case, Geyser Peak, $3 wine

? Virgina wine gets big name: That would be the same Steve Case who founded the original America Online, and turned it into an Internet powerhouse as important in its day as Google is today. Almost everyone who used the Internet at the turn of the century had an AOL email address. Case wants to buy Sweely Estate near Charlottesville, which gives Virginia a true big name, deep pockets investor. Why is that important? Because regional wineries are traditionally undercapitalized. Case, who made a bundle when he merged AOL with Time Warner in a $350 billion deal in 2000, has the cash to take the Virginia winery to the next step — improve the quality of the wine and do increased regional and then national distribution, which is something most non-California wineries can't afford to do. This is just another example of how Virginia is starting to challenge New York and Missouri as the top regional wine state in the country, while Texas, once considered a player, is taking giant steps backward.

? Geyser Peak bankruptcy? Lew Purdue at Wine Industry Insight (behind a pay wall) reports that Geyser Peak and its corporate parent, Ascentia Wine Estates, may be close to bankruptcy. If true, it would be among the biggest casualties of the wine industry recession. Geyser Peak, which produces quality grocery store $10 wine, has had three corporate parents over the past couple of years, as the biggest wine brands have been buying and selling labels in a furious effort to appease stockholders and reduce expenses in the wake of flat sales.

? More $3 wine: Fresh & Easy, the West Coast high end convenience chain, is expanding its line of $3 wines. Called Big Kahuna, the wines have been the retailer's best seller since their introduction in 2007. Fresh & Easy will sell cabernet sauvignon, merlot, rose, shiraz, tempranillo, sweet white and crisp white for about $3. Consider that $3 wine is now a staple of some of the country's biggest and most prestigious retailers, including Walmart, 7-Eleven, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods, and you'll begin to see a pattern emerging. Unless, of course, you're in the mainstream wine business, and desperately need to sell overpriced $15 wine whose only attribute is a cute label.