Foley Buys Oregon's Four Graces Winery
California investments continue north of border; Eugenia Keegan to manage Jackson's Oregon properties
Through the purchase Foley acquires the winery’s tasting room as well as the Black Family Estate Vineyard, with 54 acres of vines in the Dundee Hills AVA, and the Doe Ridge Estate Vineyard, with 41 acres of vines in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. “I’ve had my eye on Oregon for a long time,” new owner Bill Foley said in a statement released today. “I’m a big fan of Pinot Noir, and the Dundee, Ore., region produces some of the best.”
Foley’s portfolio of U.S. wineries and brands now totals 11, with Four Graces being his first acquisition in Oregon. In addition to the American properties, Foley also owns wine companies in New Zealand.
Four Graces founders Paula and Steven Black started the business in 2003, when they purchased the Black Family vineyard in Dundee.
General manager Eugenia Keegan told Wines & Vines the company currently produces about 22,000 cases per year and enjoys national and international distribution as well as a “very active and robust tasting room.”
Foley will consolidate the winery’s administrative operations at its headquarters in Healdsburg, Calif., but the 12 people employed in hospitality and winemaking at the winery will remain in place. Laurent Montalieu, who also owns the NW Wine Co. in Dundee, is the current winemaker at Four Graces.
Keegan joined the winery in January of 2013 specifically to help manage the business while the owners sought an acquisition deal. She said the Blacks divorced in June 2013, and no one in the family had an interest in managing the day-to-day operations of a winery.
The Blacks worked with Healdsburg, Calif.-based International Wine Associates, which also recently helped the French firm Louis Jadot purchase the 20-acre Resonance Vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA.
Keegan, the former CEO of Bouchaine Vineyards in the Carneros AVA of California’s North Coast, said the deal proceeded quite smoothly.
She said she knows that Oregonians can be particularly sensitive to out-of-state investment—particularly from California—but the nature of grapegrowing in Oregon will mean the state’s wine and grapegrowing identity likely will always remain intact. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, you can only ripen 2.5 tons per acre here,” she said. “You’re still restricted by Mother Nature up here.”
Keegan will be leaving Four Graces to manage another notable California investment in Oregon. She said she is the new general manager for Jackson Family Wines' Oregon operations, which includes La Crema’s Oregon labels and two new brands, Gran Moraine and Zena Crown. Gran Moraine is the name of a 200-acre vineyard the company purchased in 2013, and which will become an estate project at the former Soléna Estate winery in Yamhill, Ore., which Jackson Family Wines also acquired last year.
Soléna Estate had been owned by Four Graces winemaker Laurent Montalieu and his wife Danielle Andrus Montalieu.