Successful local vintner seeks a buyer
Lost River Winery, which in 19 years has grown from an upstart local business into an established presence in the state’s fiercely competitive wine industry, is being offered for sale.
John Morgan, a co-founder of the winery and one of its part-owners, said this week that while Lost River has grown every year since its inception — including in 2020 despite the coronavirus pandemic — it’s time to part with the winery and look for new challenges.
“It’s been a fun ride, a great ride, but it’s time for a change,” he said.
Lost River Wines was launched in 2002 by Morgan and his ex-wife, Barbara, who had a home in the valley and had dreamed of finding a way to be here permanently. Morgan was a civil engineer specializing in road construction, and had no background in wine-making. But he grew up a family that appreciated wines. His father was a collector of distinct vintages.
According to the company’s website, “The more John looked into winemaking as a possible career choice, the more he reasoned that if he could learn pre-stressed concrete design on his own, then crafting quality wines seemed achievable. After a commercial-scale test batch and coursework at U.C. Davis, the winery was born.”
Liam Doyle, the winery’s marketing and sales manager as well as a part-owner, arrived in the valley in 2004 after working in the restaurant industry in Connecticut and became a vital factor in the company’s success, Morgan said.
The “boutique” winery’s production has grown from about 400 cases (4,800 bottles) in 2002 to more than 4,000 cases/48,000 bottles in 2020. Its proprietary blends include Cedarosa, Community Red, Massif, Rainshadow and Cote-Wall. Lost River partners with a dozen Columbia Valley vineyards that supply the grapes.
The winery has production facilities in the Mazama area, and owns a warehouse on Horizon Flats Road in Winthrop. At one time, Lost River had its own tasting room near the Pike Place Market in Seattle, but now shares a tasting room with other wineries in the market’s Post Alley.
Lost River wines are sold at dozens of retail outlets around the state and throughout the valley, but its high-profile tasting room in Winthrop has been the introductory point for many fans. “A lot of our customers have become good friends,” Morgan said.
Morgan said his goal in the beginning was to be “a high-quality producer in the state, with great brand value” — and he believes Lost River has accomplished that. “I wanted to grow a business and enjoy it along the way,” he said.
Lost River has also played a role in the community’s well-being. A portion of the sales of its popular and affordably priced Community Red wine is donated to local nonprofits. That has amounted to about $60,000 over the years, Morgan said.
Lost River is working with business broker Oliver Kotelnikov of IBA business brokers in Seattle. Kotelnikov’s firm has facilitated the sale of other local businesses and has a good feel for the valley, Morgan said.