Castle Rock was started by Greg Popovich in 1994 as a California winery committed to making high quality wines at affordable prices. 20 years and nearly 5 million cases of wine later, the winery has never compromised on either its quality principles or the affordability of its wines, which are typically sold at retail at prices in the range $9 to $15 a bottle. “When I started the company, it was always my dream to sell 100,000 cases in a year”, says Popovich, “We left that milestone behind a long time ago.” Sales in 2014 are projected to be around 500,000 cases, of which about 300,000 will be Pinot Noir.
Evolution of the Business – Now owners Popovich and Chris Noble still manage the business from a small suite of offices in Southern California, and while the core principles of the business have not changed, the company has evolved enormously in other ways. Although it does not own vineyards, it long ago moved away from its “negociant” roots and now buys grapes under long-term contracts from a number of prestigious grape growers in viticultural areas on the West Coast, from Paso Robles to Columbia Valley. “As we’ve grown, supply security has become a key requirement for us,” says Noble, “Our distributors and customers now know they can count on us into the future. Our relationships with our growers are key to our continuing success.”
Bonded Winery – Castle Rock has its bonded winery at the Francis Ford Coppola facility in Geyserville, California, where grapes are crushed and the wine is aged and bottled. “The relationship with the Coppola team is another key one for us”, says Noble, “We’ve worked with them a long time, and truly appreciate their professionalism and dedication.”
New Team – As Castle Rock looks to the future, its eyes are set on growing the business to 1 million cases within 5 years. This would move the winery form its current ranking of 28th (of 7,000) by case sales, into the top 20 wineries in the U.S. With this in mind, the company has brought in new people into key positions. Eric Laumann, a highly experienced and innovative winemaker, took over as Director of Winemaking at the beginning of 2014. In addition, Dick Reeves, after a long career at Kenwood Vineyards, joined Castle Rock in June as Senior Vice President and National Sales Manager. Both these new team members bring an excitement about the company and a commitment to take it to the next level.
New Label and Closures – In the last twelve months Castle Rock has also introduced a new label design, which brings an extra visual crispness and clarity to the brand. In addition, the winery now produces its white wines and some of its Pinot Noir with screw-cap closures instead of corks, participating in the industry evolution which is already underway.
Quality is better than ever – Castle Rock has always taken pride in making wines which are similar in quality to wines costing two or three times as much. This claim is supported by the reviews the wines receive in publications like the Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast. In the last 12 months Castle Rock has been the top-rated winery at prices of $15 and below in the Wine Spectator, with more wines scoring higher than 85 points than any other brand.
Popovich and Noble are both very positive about the future of Castle Rock. As Popovich says “Our mantra has always been Award-Winning Wines at Affordable Prices. As we move into our third decade, that is more true today than it’s ever been.”