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Satellite Entrepreneur Stumbles Into Tequila Investment

Hoernig is a 50 percent partner and chairman of the board for Casa Noble.

Aug 24, 2007 3:00 AM - by Melissa Frederick, The Examiner

WASHINGTON - After founding and eventually selling Dulles-based SpaceLink International, Otto Hoernig found himself with some time — and money — on his hands.

“I found myself kind of bored immediately,” Hoernig said. Starting a new company, McLean-based defense contractor Trace Systems, kept him busy for awhile. But on a fishing trip to Mexico with his wealth management advisor, he got another idea.

Hoernig and Merrill Lynch’s Paul Pagnato took a tour of a tequila distillery in Mexico, and on the jet ride home, the pair, fueled by liquor, became convinced of what Hoernig’s next investment would be.

“I fell in love instantly with the concept; visiting a distillery is very much the romantic experience, like going to Napa Valley, pulling up to a winery and seeing rows of grapes,” Hoernig said. “Tequila is similarly rustic; the agave plants make the entire hillside blue.”

Hoernig and Pagnato began researching and negotiating, meeting with 12 different distilleries. In May, Hoernig became a 50 percent partner and chairman of the board for Mexican tequila manufacturer Casa Noble.

Casa Noble appealed to Hoerning because its image was classical and sophisticated rather than overtly macho like many other brands.

“Tequila has a bit of an image problem,” Hoernig said. “People say they’ve had a bad experience with tequila, but what they’ve really had is an experience with bad tequila.”

Casa Noble sells three models of 100 percent agave tequila, including a blanco, which retails for around $45, a reposado aged 11 months ($60) and an añejo aged five years ($90). The brand can be found locally at restaurants such as Rosa Mexicano, Cafe Atlantico and D.C. Boathouse.

Hoernig recently worked with Casa Noble’s founders to redesign the label’s logo and craft a new bottle to house the liquor. The company will begin an aggressive U.S. marketing campaign in the next few months.

Since the 1990s, the tequila industry has seen annual sales growth ranging from 5 percent to 20 percent, according to Ian Chadwick, who runs the Internet’s longest-running tequila site, In Search of the Blue Agave.

Though entrepreneurs are experimenting with ideas like flavored tequilas, Chadwick predicted higher-end products will be most successful.

“That seems to be the market,” Chadwick said. “People don’t want to be associated with drinking rotgut.”

E-mail: melissa.frederick@dcexaminer.com

Source: http://www.examiner.com/a-897641~Satellite_entrepreneur_stumbles_into_tequila_investment.html

Last Revision - 06 March 2011 - jat
Satellite Entrepreneur Stumbles Into Tequila Investment