B.C.’s Laughing Stock Vineyards sells to Arterra

Transaction comes two months after several other Okanagan winery sales

Another sale for an Okanagan winery highlights how large wine companies are snapping up boutique family-run ventures.

Arterra Wines Canada Inc., which was formerly known as Constellation Brands Canada, announced November 28 that it is buying 14-year-old Laughing Stock Vineyards from owners David and Cynthia Enns, who will stay on for at least two years and run the winery.

“It was a private deal so we’re not comfortable releasing the price,” David Enns told Business in Vancouver after the deal was announced.

The news comes a couple months after Andrew Peller Ltd. announced its plan to buy three B.C. wineries in separate transactions totalling $95 million.

Peller purchased Black Hills Estate Winery for what Black Hills principal Glenn Fawcett told BIV was a $31 million cash offer. Fawcett is staying on as usual at the winery.

The other two wineries that Peller bought were Tinhorn Creek Vineyards and Grey Monk Estate Winery. Sandra Oldfield, who had been in charge of running Tinhorn Creek, has since left working for the winery.

News of other big money to be pumped into the Okanagan came in July, when Vancouver’s Bai family revealed that it is spending an estimated $100 million into its wine business in the Okanagan.

As for the Enns' pact with Ontario Teachers Pension Fund-owned Arterra, Enns explained to BIV that he and his wife enjoyed steady success during the past five years, increasing volume to nearly 10,000 cases from about 6,000 cases.

Their wines continued to sell out every year, he said, adding that the winery was not able to add more inventory because of space constraints.

“So we were at a tipping point where we needed to either pony up and expand [or] shrink, which is really counterintuitive for a business to do,” he said. “[We also wanted to] continue to make good wine or better wine every year. That was our mantra.”

When the Ennses decided that they needed a partner, they wanted one with a similar drive to produce high-quality wines.

Arterra president Jay Wright confirmed to BIV that his interest in the winery was because it produces high-quality wines and because of its location. Arterra, already owns B.C. properties, such as Sumac Ridge, Inniskillin and Jackson Triggs, but Wright said that the company did not own anything on the Naramata Bench and that he wanted to change that because the area is a quality sub-appellation.

The transaction is scheduled to close on December 1.