Client Feature Story - Oregon Winery for Graham & Dunn

One of a series of client feature stories created to demonstrate this law firm’s industry experience and deep commitment to client relationships.

Text of the original article appears below (Copyright 2003 - 2010, Graham and Dunn):

Family Matters at Duck Pond Cellars

Graham & Dunn helps Oregon winery with expansion into Washington

On a Memorial weekend ten years ago, family-owned and operated Duck Pond Cellars in Dundee, Oregon, opened its winery to the public. What happened during those first few days formed the reputation that Duck Pond—a client of Graham & Dunn for the past year—is still known for today.

"That weekend, we were unprepared for the barrage of people that came driving down the lane, curious about our collection of wines," recalls Lisa Jenkins, who handles operations and creative promotions for the winery. Lisa is the daughter of Douglas and Jo Ann Fries, Duck Pond Cellars' primary owners.

As only a family can, everyone worked together. "My parents, brothers, and even friends, poured samples and pulled bottles directly from cases, selling wine just as fast as we could," Lisa says. At the end of the weekend, the first vintage was gone.

But the impression was not.

"Many of the customers who stumbled upon us that weekend still buy our wine today," Lisa says. She credits the customer loyalty to people being able to see firsthand the family's philosophy and strong bond.

NO GENERATION GAP

Today, two generations of the family are actively involved in Duck Pond Cellars. Douglas Fries grows the grapes, dividing his time among the four vineyards the winery owns in Oregon and Washington. His wife Jo Ann handles administrative tasks, including the business relationship with Graham & Dunn.

Son Greg Fries is the chief winemaker, and son Matthew aids in vineyard development in Oregon. Son-in-law Scott Jenkins handles marketing, sales and coordinates distribution.

And a third generation—currently four grandsons—is growing up playing hide and seek in the vineyards. "My kids are wishing for the day they are old enough to drive the tractors," Lisa says, laughing.

Running a family business has even brought the winery an award. Duck Pond Cellars received a 2002 Family Business Award from the Austin Family Business Program at Oregon State University. The award applauds the accomplishments and contributions of family businesses—for their innovation, entrepreneurship, commitment and heart.

GROWING FAMILY, GROWING BUSINESS

Duck Pond Cellars is now the largest winery in Yamhill County, selling 70,000 cases per year and distributing to all 50 states. "From the beginning, our focus has been on growth," Lisa says, adding that the goal has been to produce high-quality, good value wines and to make enough quantity to keep overhead costs to a minimum.

Today Duck Pond grows, bottles and distributes Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Gewürztraminer and sparkling wines. Most of the vintages sell for around $10 and are meant to be consumed immediately.

In fact, many of Duck Pond Cellars' vintages have been singled out by wine critics for their consistency and reliability. The winery's Chardonnay, for example, has received a 'best buy' award almost every year it has been produced. And the 2000 Semillon, which was the first year Greg Fries produced the wine, won gold medals in the Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition, the Dallas Wine & Food Festival and other notable wine competitions.

Part of the growth plan includes the family's decision to reinvest annual revenues into paying off equipment loans, such as the 60-ton-capacity computerized wine press bought to help streamline the winemaking process.

Revenues also have gone toward buying more vineyards. Most recently, Duck Pond bought the 480-acre Desert Wind vineyard in Washington. Now the family is building a large production facility near the vineyard, and in 2004, they will build a destination Desert Wind Winery in Prosser, Washington to entertain guests. "We developed the Desert Wind label when we bought the vineyard; now we'll be able to promote it in style," Lisa says.

The Desert Wind Winery will feature a large tasting room, a banquet hall, a full-size kitchen for catering events, and an outdoor patio facing the Yakima River. "We're also building four guest suites to accommodate weekend tourists, wedding parties and spa getaways," Lisa adds.

CUSTOMIZED LEGAL ADVICE

For the expansion, Duck Pond Cellars turned to Graham & Dunn to obtain the Washington winery license, and follow the numerous tax laws and out-of-state distribution laws," Lisa says.

She adds that Graham & Dunn deftly explains the family's options and helps them make better-informed business decisions.


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