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WINE: Seattle company buys Walla Walla, Yakima Valley wineries

Precept Wines in Seattle announced this morning that it has purchased two longtime Washington wineries.

Precept has taken over Canoe Ridge Vineyards in Walla Walla and Sagelands Vineyard in Wapato from Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines, based in London. The price was not disclosed. As part of the deal, Precept also will own Canoe Ridge's 153-acre vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills. Precept already owns the nearby Alder Ridge Vineyard, and this acquisition will give Precept about 1,000 acres of grapes in the highly touted region.

Sagelands was founded in 1984 as Staton Hills Winery and was purchased by Chalone Wine Group in 1999. Chalone, based in California, launched Canoe Ridge in 1994. Diageo purchased both brands in 2004 and shut down both wineries' tasting rooms last spring. Andrew Browne, who founded Precept in 2003, said the company intends to re-open Canoe Ridge's tasting room this spring. Plans to reopen Sagelands' tasting room are in the works, too.

Bill Murray, winemaker for Precept-owned Sawtooth Winery in Idaho's Snake River Valley, will relocated to Walla Walla to take over winemaking for Canoe Ridge. He will continue to oversee winemaking at Sawtooth.

Browne said Canoe Ridge will produce about 25,000 cases of wine, primarily using estate grapes, and Sagelands will produce about 85,000 cases with a goal of building into a six-figure brand.

"We're absolutely thrilled to take on these two heritage brands in Washington state," Browne said.

Precept is Washington's second-largest wine company after Ste. Michelle Wine Estates - and the state's largest privately owned wine producer. It makes nearly 900,000 cases of wine and owns such brands as Waterbrook, Apex, Washington Hills, Avery Lane and Pine & Post.

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