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11.27.2012  
 

Bill Foley Adds Langtry Estate & Vineyards

Lake County deal follows purchase of Ramal East Vineyard in Sonoma and swells Foley portfolio

 
by Paul Franson
 
 
foley family estate properties
 
Bill Foley is purchasing Guenoc/Langtry Estate Winery & Vineyards in Lake County.
Middletown, Calif.—After announcing last week that his Foley Family Wines had bought the Ramal East Vineyard in the Carneros appellation and Lancaster Estate in the Chalk Hill appellation of Sonoma County, Bill Foley is buying a majority of the Guenoc/Langtry Estate brand, winery and vineyards in Lake County.

He’s also buying a minority interest in the non-vineyard parts of the massive 23,000-acre Langtry property in Guenoc Valley and nearby; part of the property laps over into Napa County. Most of the land is wild and undeveloped, but the current owner (Malulani Investments Ltd.) has extensive plans and permits for development including a resort community and already has built a golf course on the property.

The property includes the historic Langtry House, built by British entertainer Lillie Langtry in the late 1800s, and the hunting lodge of her lover, Freddie Gebhardt.

No price has been released for the acquisition. Foley had previously signed a deal to market the Guenoc/Langtry wines. Under the Langtry and Guenoc brands, the winery now makes approximately 175,000 cases of wine per year.

The winery offers four tiers of wines: Langtry Single Vineyard Wines (limited, estate, single-vineyard, luxury-class); Guenoc Lake County Wines (premium, single-AVA); Guenoc North Coast Victorian Claret (Bordeaux blend) and Guenoc California Selection Wines (value, broad distribution.)

“We are excited to be partnering with the robust sales and marketing team at Foley Family Wines,” said Easton Manson, president of Langtry and Malulani. “Their expertise and execution will be invaluable in our efforts to expand sales and distribution across the county for all of our tiers, especially our Guenoc California Selection wines, which feature new packaging and redesigned labels.”

“Langtry and Guenoc are the two most recognizable and important brands from Lake County,” Bill Foley said. “The addition of their wines will strengthen our portfolio and help us gain access to a number of important national and regional accounts.”

The property was once owned by engineer Orville Magoon, who comes from Hawaiian royalty. The inveterate experimenter planted many varieties of grapes, including the obscure “other” three Bordeaux varieties: Carmenère, Gros Verdot and St. Macaire. Also on the property are original Syrah vines dating back to the mid-19th century.

Lake County property seems to be attracting much interest from wineries attempting to assure grape supplies. Notably, E. & J. Gallo recently bought the 2,000-acre Snows Lake Vineyard in the Red Hills AVA; the Beckstoffer family bought 300 acres to add to its Red Hills property, and other smaller deals are reported.

Last week's acquisitions in Sonoma
Already owning Sebastiani and Chalk Hill wineries in Sonoma County, Foley last week added the Ramal East vineyard to support Chalk Hill Estate’s new lower cost Sonoma Coast wines.

He also bought a majority interest in the high-end Lancaster Estate in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley.

Chalk Hill will release a small amount of 2011 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay into limited distribution in 2013 with increased production of Chardonnay in 2012 and 2013 and the introduction of a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir with the 2013 vintage.

According to proprietor Bill Foley, “With the launch of the new Sonoma Coast tier we needed to make sure the winemaking team had access to a consistent supply of high-quality fruit. When the opportunity arose to purchase a first-rate vineyard in Carneros we jumped at the prospect. This great piece of land will provide Chalk Hill with enough Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to support the growth we have projected for this new tier of wines.”

No price was announced. Last year, Jackson Family Wines paid $13 million for the neighboring Ramal West property, which included 197 acres of vineyards. The seller valued the Ramal West and Ramal East parcels together at $25.6 million combined. If those land values held, that would put Ramal East in the range of $12 million to $13 million.

Foley bought the property from EPR Properties, which owned most of the vineyards affiliated with Ascentia Wine Estates, the now-defunct company that once owned Geyser Peak, Eos and Buena Vista. Jean-Charles Boisset’s Boisset Family Estates bought the Buena Vista brand and historic stone winery in Sonoma, and Sonoma Vintners acquired the modern former Buena Vista winery and is now operating it at a custom winery.

Lancaster Estate
In addition, Foley Family Wines acquired a majority interest in the high-end Lancaster Estate in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley. The purchase includes the winery, vineyards, residences, the Lancaster and Roth labels as well as inventory.

Fou nded in the 1990s, Lancaster Estate boasts nearly 50 acres of estate vineyards micro-farmed for maximum quality and accuracy. The winery and tasting room are in an ivy-covered building designed by architect Eugene Silva. A labyrinth of caves in the adjacent hillside are used for winemaking and barrel storage.

The purchase also includes former proprietor Ted Simpkins’ 6,000-square-foot estate home and a smaller guest cottage.

According to Bill Foley, “Lancaster Estate is an elite producer of Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties. An example is the 2008 Lancaster Estate Cabernet, which received a 94 score from both the Wine Advocate and the Wine Enthusiast. We believe the winery’s quality reputation and positioning fits perfectly within the Foley Family Wines portfolio.”

Simpkins, a Young’s Market executive who used to be with Southern Wine and Spirits, will continue to be a minority owner and involved with the business. He said, “I am excited to be partnering with Bill Foley to further expand the Lancaster Estate and Roth brands. We strongly believe that the wines have great potential, and the Foley Family Wines team will be excellent stewards of the brands.”

International Wine Associates of Healdsburg, Calif., served as the exclusive adviser to Lancaster in this transaction.

In unrelated news from Sonoma County that further demonstrates wineries’ thirst for vineyards, Jackson Family Wines has acquired the famed 260-acre Russian River vineyard site owned by Saralee and Richard Kunde. The deal was valued at about $23 million, according to wine industry sources.

More activity in Napa Valley
In May, Foley Family Wines bought Sawyer Cellars in Rutherford in Napa Valley from Charles and Joanne Sawyer, who had owned the winery for 18 years.

The purchase included a 49-acre parcel containing 40 acres of premium vineyards and a 20,000-gallon winery and tasting room along Napa’s famed Highway 29. Foley did not buy the Sawyer brand but will continue to sell the wines from the tasting room. He has renamed the property Foley Johnson Winery (Johnson is his wife’s maiden name.)

According to Bill Foley, “We’ve been looking for a home along Highway 29 for our Foley Johnson winery. This purchase provides us with a great location for our tasting room, an excellent winemaking facility and 40 acres of superb vineyards in the heart of the Rutherford appellation.”

The winery and hospitality center are housed in a converted redwood barn that has stood on the property since the Prohibition era.

It also contains an underground barrel room, wine library and a modern gravity-flow cellar.

foley family estate properties
 
Brad Warner, the winemaker at Sawyer since 1999, will become the head winemaker for Foley Johnson. He began his career in 1967 at Charles Krug. Three years later he moved to Robert Mondavi winery and remained there for 30 years.

The Foley Johnson wine brand is composed of two tiers of wine: Napa and Handmade. The Napa tier focuses on wines from the estate vineyards in Rutherford and from other high profile vineyards in Napa.

The Handmade tier features special small lots from Foley Family Wines’ California winemakers Camille Benitah of Merus, Dave Lattin of Kuleto, Lisa Bishop Forbes of Chalk Hill, Mark Lyon of Sebastiani, Paul Warson of Firestone, Leslie Mead Renaud of Lincourt and Brad Warner of Foley Johnson.

Foley earlier acquired Kuleto winery and brand (though not most of the property and vineyards), plus Altus and Merus, all in Napa Valley.

Bill Foley established Foley Family Wines in 1996 with the acquisition of Lincourt Vinyards in California’s Santa Ynez Valley. Since then, Foley Family Wines has grown to become a major producer, marketer and distributor of highly acclaimed, handmade wines from some of the world's greatest vineyards. Every brand in the company’s portfolio is distinct and autonomous with its own identity, style, techniques and personnel.

Foley Family Wines owns the following properties: Foley Estates (Santa Rita Hills, Calif.), Lincourt Vineyards (Solvang, Calif.), Merus (Napa Valley, Calif.), Foley Johnson (Napa Valley, Calif.), Kuleto (Napa Valley, Calif.), Altus (Napa, Calif.), Chalk Hill (Sonoma County, Calif.), Sebastiani (Sonoma County, Calif.), Lancaster Estate (Sonoma County, Calif.), Three Rivers Winery (Walla Walla, Wash.), Firestone Vineyard (Santa Ynez Valley, CA), Eos (Paso Robles, CA), Vavasour (Marlborough, New Zealand), Clifford Bay (Marlborough, New Zealand) and Te Kairanga (Martinborough, NZ.)

It also produces or markets these brands: Wayne Gretzky, Two Sisters, Grove Mill, Curtis, Discoveries and Lost Angel.

Bill Foley is chairman of the board of directors for Fidelity National Inc. and executive chairman of Fidelity National Information Services. Both are Fortune 500 companies.

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