Ted Baseler, who is stepping down as the president and CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, led the Woodinville winery to the top of the world’s wine stage.
Ted Baseler, who has led Ste. Michelle Wine Estates through a period of tremendous growth, announced Wednesday he’ll retire in October, ending a 34-year career with the company, including the past 17-plus as its president and CEO.
Baseler, 64, started with the winery in 1984, when Allen Shoup hired him as director of marketing.
“We lost $3 million that first year, so I thought this will be a short gig,” he said Wednesday with a laugh.
Since taking over as CEO in 2000, Baseler said the company has grown from $21 million in operating income to $146 million last year. During the same period, company case production has grown from 2.8 million cases in 2000 to 8.5 million last year.
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Jim Mortensen, a senior vice president of human resources for Altria Group, has been named Baseler’s replacement. Ste. Michelle is owned by the Altria Group, formerly Phillip Morris.
Ste. Michelle bought Oregon’s Erath Winery in 2006, growing one of the state’s first wineries from 50,000 cases to more than 300,000. The company jumped onto the world wine stage in 2007 when it bought Napa Valley’s Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, whose 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon won the legendary Judgment of Paris tasting in 1976, an event that propelled the American wine industry while also shocking the French industry.
Ste. Michelle bought Stag’s Leap with the Antinori family of Italy, which also partners with Col Solare, a premium winery on Red Mountain in Benton County. International collaborations will be one of Baseler’s legacies. He forged business deals with wineries in France, Italy, Germany, Spain and New Zealand to help broaden the company’s portfolio as well as its footprint on the global wine stage.
That position was solidified in 2009 when the Columbia Crest 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was ranked No. 1 in the world by Wine Spectator magazine.
Two years ago, Ste. Michelle purchased Patz & Hall, a highly considered Sonoma County winery.
Baseler was born and raised in Oregon, moving to Bellevue in his teen years and graduating from Interlake High School. A graduate of Washington State University, he helped raise $23 million to build the Wine Science Center in Richland, which opened in 2015. The research center already is paying dividends, helping growers and winemakers deal with smoke taint that has been an issue the past two vintages.
Baseler’s last day as CEO is Oct. 1, which will be about the midway point of wine grape harvest, which began Friday when the first load of sauvignon blanc arrived at the winery. Baseler will remain in place as a Ste. Michelle consultant, working with suppliers, strategic partnerships and charitable events, including the Auction of Washington Wines, which raised $4 million this past weekend. He will continue to live in the Seattle area.