As one of the pioneers of the prestigious Red Mountain AVA in Washington State, Larry and Jane Pearson planted their first vines in the Tapteil Vineyard in 1984. Subsequent plantings occurred throughout the 80s and 90s including blocks of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and the oldest plantings of Cabernet Franc on Red Mountain. Grapes from Tapteil Vineyard have gone into hundreds of top scoring wines from wineries across the state including Cadence, Long Shadows, Tamarack, Kiona, Barrister and multiple 100 point scoring wines from Quilceda Creek. In 1999 the onsite Tapteil Winery was bonded, and a tasting room opened on the property in 2000.
Upon entering their fourth decade of operating Tapteil Vineyard, Larry and Jane concluded it was time to consider retirement. They wanted to sell all of the real property associated with Tapteil, comprised of 12 separate legal parcels, the production facility, equipment and their 5,000 sf private residence adjacent to the vineyard. Larry and Jane approached the METIS team to explore such a sale.
The challenge was to find a buyer wanting to acquire not only one of the oldest Vineyards on Red Mountain, but also the unique collection of other assets on the property. While Larry and Jane wanted to sell the Vineyard and onsite buildings, they also wanted to retain the Tapteil brand so they can continue to own and farm a separate parcel elsewhere on Red Mountain and produce a small amount of wine they continue to sell direct to consumer.
METIS developed a broad list of prospective buyers of various types that would potentially be interested in acquiring the vineyard. METIS prioritized that list to a small number of strategic winery and vineyard operators whose operations would be uniquely enhanced by this specific vineyard acquisition. It became clear early that the ideal candidate would be an established, ultra-premium Washington winery who relied heavily on Red Mountain fruit but did not yet have their own Estate vineyard.
Taking into account the Pearson’s desire to maintain confidentiality, the METIS team did not employ an overt marketing strategy. Instead, they approached specific entities on the strategic buyer list discretely and individually. At the top of that list was Chris Peterson and Marty Taucher at Avennia.
Launched in 2010, Avennia has become one of Washington State’s most acclaimed wineries and was a logical fit. Winemaker Chris Peterson had already been making award winning Red Mountain wines, sourcing fruit from the neighboring WeatherEye vineyard as well as nearby Kiona and Klipsun Vineyards. The METIS team also believed that the team at Avennia would see the value in the Woodinville based winery having an operational presence in the heart of Washington wine country.
After being approached by METIS with the opportunity, the team at Avennia was intrigued. After several subsequent conversations about the potential of the property and how a deal could be structured, their intrigue grew to genuine interest. Once Chris and Marty were able to walk the property with Larry, the vision of Avennia having a permanent home both for old-vine fruit as well as hosting guests on Red Mountain took hold. METIS worked with the Avennia team to help structure an offer that would also meet the goals of the Pearsons and an LOI was executed by both parties.
A thorough Due Diligence period ensued, with significant effort put to viticultural evaluation, financial feasibility, evaluating the suitability of the unplanted steeper rocky slopes for additional vineyard, water rights analysis, and establishment of an ongoing farm management plan. METIS worked closely with both buyer and seller to manage all aspects of the diligence process.
Ultimately, the deal allowed Larry and Jane to retain their Tapteil brand while selling the vineyard, the production facility, and the private residence to Avennia. A post-close leaseback included in the transaction allowed Larry and Jane to stay in their home for a mutually agreeable time period while also maintaining possession of the tasting room through the 2021 season. This allowed for a smooth transition for Larry and Jane personally, but also time for Avennia to more fully develop their plans for the property. Larry also agreed to stay on to manage the vineyard through the 2021 harvest and to work with legendary Washington winegrower Dick Boushey to hand over management of the vineyard in the future.
Both parties remain thrilled about the results. Marty Taucher remarked, “plans are underway to fully utilize the buildings on this property that will include opening an Avennia Tasting Room next year. We look forward to being a part of the Red Mountain community and having a base of operations in the heart of Washington Wine Country.”
Larry Pearson said, “We couldn’t think of a better steward of this property than Chris Peterson, Marty Taucher, and the team at Avennia. As one of the first to plant vines in the Red Mountain AVA, Jane and I have a lot of great memories wrapped up in this property. We can’t wait to taste the great wine Avennia will produce from this vineyard.”