Bill Foley Purchases a Portion of Crushpad

The vintner invests in the wine-producing facility and envisions a hospitality experience like no other.

Wine Enthusiast’s 2010 Man of the Year Bill Foley, whose portfolio consists of nearly 20 wineries on two continents, is now a minority investor in Crushpad—a custom luxury wine-producing facility that began as a little San Francisco startup before moving to Napa Valley last year. The company will now relocate to Sebastiani Vineyards and Winery in Sonoma, a Foley property.

“A lot of the things [Foley] wants to do, with leveraging his own wineries, are consistent with what our strengths are,” Michael Brill, Crushpad founder and CEO told Wine Enthuasiast. The move to Sebastiani, he says, “gives us the opportunity to have an experience center, a kind of tasting bar and exploratorium, where people can have a self-guided experience that lasts 15 minutes.”

Foley’s reasons for investing in Crushpad include the company’s vast customer base.

“I liked what they were doing with their customer base, their outreach program. They have 10,000 customers, and I thought if I could put them into Sebastiani, near our tasting room, they’ll do some interesting things in there,” Foley told Wine Enthusiast. “Our customers can wander over there, and their customers can visit our tasting room, and we can do joint promotions.”

But that’s not all. “My big idea for the future, if this works, is at Chalk Hill Winery,” says Foley. “I’d like to create a lower-scale Reserve, like [Bill] Harlan did at Meadowood, and have a facility there where people can become members, and make whatever kind of wine they like. My goal is to have Crushpad morph into something bigger.”

Foley cites the fee to join Harlan Reserve: $250,000, which doesn’t include any extra member services, such as dinner. He envisions charging less and offering more.“I’m thinking something like $100,000, tied in with hospitality, like Les Mars [Foley’s hotel in Healdsburg], or my ranch in Montana. I’m trying to evolve my wine business into a hospitality and customer experience, and with Crushpad, there’s the potential for a great cross-marketing tie-in,” he says. “If nothing else happens, this will bring more traffic into Sebastiani. Crushpad will start buying grapes from our vineyards and we’ll have our winemakers work with them, so they can expand the portfolio of wines they’re making, like Pinot Noir.”

Published on April 13, 2011



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