Yarra Valley’s Sticks grows up

Name: Rob ‘Sticks’ Dolan

South Australian Global Wine Ventures (GWV) has purchased Yarra Valley's Sticks for $10 million and will take over the 4000- tonne winery, bottling line, 24 hectare vineyards, stock and bulk wine storage as from 31 March. GWV managing director Sam Atkins says Sticks was the obvious purchase because it had a range of income supply from domestic and export sales to contract bottling, winemaking and processing.

Sticks founder Rob 'Sticks' Dolan who will remain general manager of the winery says moving into a boutique public structure will allow the Sticks team to have an increased focus on grapegrowing and wine quality whilst gaining access to staff who have experience in corporate management, international sales, distribution and marketing.

'From a personal point of view this will allow me and my family to take a more liquid shareholding in a larger wine business that produces wines initially under the Sticks brand with a clear long term plan of further growth and acquisition,' Dolan said.

'The aim is to build a successful boutique public wine business whilst personally maintaining a senior management role and strong shareholding.'

Sticks' facilities are capable of producing more than 250,000 cases, with present production at about 50,000 cases which is focused on a domestic market. Sticks operates as a contract winemaker and processor for larger companies and smaller family owned structures as well as producing the Sticks branded product from the Yarra Valley and Yea Valley/Strathbogie Ranges regions to the north of the Yarra Valley.

'For Sticks to move forward it needs to have a more aggressive brand-oriented strategy and focus on distribution and sales structures in all markets,' Dolan said.

'The Sticks wine business has operated as a partnership structure between several grapegrowers and myself and eventually as with many partnerships people have varying goals as to what they wish to achieve from the business. Some partners may wish to sell their interests and focus on smaller structures, others cash out and enjoy life, and in my case this presented an opportunity to take equity in a public structure and be part of building a fully integrated, strong wine company from the 'ground floor'.

'To move forward as a business a greater focus will be needed into export markets in United Kingdom, Europe, United States, Asia (including India) and Canada. This is also an expensive exercise and takes considerable knowledge, international contacts, time, money and manpower, GWV will be able to assist in a number of these areas.'

Dolan says the sale of Sticks will allow the company to 'grow up' and build on the strong multi-faceted business base that is currently in place.

'GWV presents a fantastic opportunity to move the business forward and focus on building the Sticks Yarra Valley brand without placing all the financial pressure on several individuals,' he said. 'It is a great opportunity to take the Sticks brand to the next level of sales and recognition - it is a great brand and a great region and this is a good opportunity to gain recognition for both on a global scale.'

Dolan sees little change in the short term but hopefully with a successful growth strategy Sticks can build on being one of Australia's leading wine producers from the region focusing on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and cooler climate dry reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Merlot blends and Shiraz Viognier blends, as well as some up and coming whites such as Viognier and Pinot Gris, which are well suited to the Yarra and Yea Valley regions.

'Sticks, which is the first fully integrated wine business to move into the GWV structure, will take time to 'bed down' in the business structure but we are confident that our goals and expectations will be achieved,' Dolan said.

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