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Brand Profile: Folie Takes Sonoma

Posted on  | May 30, 2012   Bookmark and Share
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Napa Valley’s Uber-Successful Folie à Deux Brand Moves to the Appellation Next Door

If you’ve been wondering why California’s Folie à Deux wines taste different these days, it’s because they’re now crafted with grapes grown in a handful of diverse Sonoma County AVAs.

“Our portfolio was missing wines from Sonoma and we really felt Folie à Deux was the perfect brand for us to develop in this key California region,” explains Bob Torkelson, President & CEO, Trinchero Family Estates, which owns Folie à Deux and sibling Ménage à Trois brand. “Folie’s transition to Sonoma also allows Ménage and Folie à Deux’s distinct identities to continue to evolve.”

Taking Off with Trinchero

Folie à Deux’s extraordinary life story is one that few brands can boast. Founded in Napa Valley in 1981 by two psychiatrists (the French name translates as “a passion shared by two”), Folie was selling a respectable 20,000 cases per year when Trinchero acquired it in 2004. Today the Folie/Ménage brands sell over 2.5 million cases annually (with Ménage responsible for the lion’s share of that volume).

“We purchased the brand and facility partly to serve as a good home base for the Trinchero wines,” recalls Torkelson. “We had no idea these brands would resonate with the consumer in this way—we would have considered 100,000 cases a success.” He chalks up the near-instant sales explosion to a number of factors: Ménage helped pioneer the now-burgeoning red blend category, and benefitted from first-mover status; it was a more elegant package than people were used to seeing at the $10 price point; and, Torkelson adds, “it was a flavor profile that consumers couldn’t get elsewhere—we had the ability to ramp up production while keeping quality consistent.”

Standing Out

At a higher price point than Ménage, Folie à Deux operates in a much more competitive space—all the more reason to find a way to be distinctive and over-deliver, insists Torkelson. The move to Sonoma County enables this: Sonoma’s incredible diversity gives Folie winemakers the opportunity to work with grapes from an array of vineyards, from coastal sites to warmer inland mountain sites.

With a Russian River Valley Chardonnay, a Sonoma County Merlot, a Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, an Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and a soon-to-be-added Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (all between $18 and $24), the new Folie portfolio offers a comprehensive cross-section of what Sonoma is capable of—and a leap in quality for the brand across the board.

Trinchero sources fruit from established Sonoma growers currently, but Torkelson is confident that Sonoma real estate is in the company’s near future: “It makes sense for us to develop vineyards there—we’re very excited to expand our presence in the region.”Ménage à Trois is now focusing on its varietal range—the new Moscato and Chardonnay are on fire, which “shows us that our red blend-loving Ménage customer wants to expand and is eager for more varietal-based wines from us,” says Torkelson, adding that a Pinot Grigio is on the way. Meanwhile, the focus for Folie à Deux is on-premise accounts, particularly by-the-glass offerings. “We are continuing to make the best wine for our consumers and our distributor partners,” he asserts. “It feels good to be in Sonoma.”


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