By Karl Klooster • Staff Writer • 

Bacchus scoops up Panther Creek

The investment firm has built a presence in the wine industry over the last five years, acquiring full or substantial ownership positions in seven companies involved in producing or marketing wine, principally in California.

Its first Oregon move came in September 2011, when the firm invested in Wine by Joe of Dundee, the multifaceted winery founded by longtime winemaker Joe Dobbes.

Panther Creek was founded in 1986 by noted Carlton winemaker and civic leader Ken Wright. It rapidly rose to prominence for its stylish pinot noirs, helping enhance Oregon's reputation for the fine but finicky Burgundian variety.

Wright sold to Ron and Linda Kaplan in 1994 and opened Ken Wright Cellars in Carlton. The Kaplans subsequently sold to Liz Chambers of Silvan Ridge in Eugene.

At the winery, Mark Eggiman advises that Bacchus Capital secured outright ownership on March 1, through its Dobbes connection. "I am now reporting to Anthony Van Nice at Dobbes," he said.

As Eggiman understands it, plans are to switch production of Panther Creek wines to the high-volume Dobbes facility in Dundee and retain the lower-volume McMinnville winery for custom crush and private label production.

Apparently Michael Stevenson will remain as winemaker at Panther Creek and continue to produce his own Stevenson-Barrie wines there in addition to overseeing custom contract production.

The winery's tasting room is currently closed. However, Eggiman said it will reopen for regular business hours, noon to 5 daily, as soon as federal license transfer paperwork has been completed.

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