Foley Family Wines acquires Château St. Jean in Kenwood


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Foley Family Wines of Santa Rosa announced on Wednesday that it has purchased Chateau St. Jean with the intention of returning the Kenwood winery to its former glory as one of the gems of the Sonoma County wine industry.

Foley purchased Chateau St. Jean from Australian company Treasury Wine Estates, which was previously part of Foster’s Brewing Group which had owned the beloved local vineyard since 2000. The vineyard was founded in 1973 and its first vintage on the property was lasted two years. later with legendary winemaker Dick Arrowood, whose work was later followed by winemaker Margo Van Staaveren.

The deal, the purchase price of which has not been disclosed, includes the historic 1920s chateau, a 6,000-square-foot visitor center, a 39,000-square-foot, 79-acre wine production facility. of vineyards planted.

Founder Bill Foley said he wanted to revive the brand that pioneered the production of Sonoma County single-vineyard chardonnay wines and was the first Sonoma wine to win the Wine of the Year award from the Sonoma County. Wine Spectator magazine in 1999 for its flagship blend of Bordeaux Cinq Cépages.

About five years ago, production from Château Saint-Jean was transferred to Treasury’s Beringer’s facilities in Napa Valley. Foley said he plans to restart the winery which has a license to produce 750,000 cases a year.

“The Treasury has done him a disservice,” Foley said in an interview. “It’s really starting to make a lot of single vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs and bringing Cinq Cépages back to where it was a 100 point wine at one point. … This is really going to be a return to what Château Saint-Jean used to be.

Foley Family Wines was ranked 18th largest wine company in the country last year by Wine Business Monthly, producing 1.5 million cases. The company’s portfolio includes Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards in Healdsburg and Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery in Healdsburg, which it purchased last year and has become the largest label in its portfolio.

In recent years, Foley has been aggressive in buying properties on the North Coast, although this is his first purchase this year in connection with major mergers and acquisitions.

Two local companies, the Duckhorn Portfolio and Vintage Wine Estates, went public this year to fuel their growth, while Modesto’s E. & J. Winery completed an $ 810 billion acquisition of wine brands at low price of Constellation Brands Inc. at the beginning of the year.

Foley Family Wines sold its wholesale business unit, Epic Wines & Spirits of Santa Rosa, in February to Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits in Miami, the nation’s largest wine and spirits distributor, to focus more on wine production .

Foley said he would like to close about five more deals in the future; however, this is unlikely to involve additional Sonoma County facilities.

“We have a good presence in Sonoma County, but we need a little more presence in Napa,” he said.

His company has three Napa labels, including Foley Johnson.

Foley added that he had considered making Foley Family Wines a publicly traded company. But he has reservations about whether this is the right model for a wine business, given that Wall Street can punish a company for missing a quarterly profit target.

“If you miss income or income a quarter or two, you are really being punished,” Foley said.

He noted that private companies have more flexibility to invest in things like renovating a tasting room or redesigning a direct-to-consumer program – things that may not generate quick returns but are essential for long-term growth.

“If you’re a private business, you can do whatever you want,” Foley said.

The Chateau St. Jean Heritage Use License will also be transferred to Foley Family Wines and will allow 24 special events per year and six other large-scale events that include weddings.

You can reach editor Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or [email protected] On Twitter @BillSwindell.

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