The announcement on June 10 that business magnate William Foley bought Chalk Hill Winery came as only a small surprise to observers, who have watched his Foley Family Wines gobble up a clutch of wineries over the last few years.
From his base brands in Santa Barbara County—Foley Estate and Lincourt—foley has bought Sebastiani, Kuleto, Merus, Firestone, Venge and Three Rivers. At the Recession’s height last year, he told Wine Enthusiast of the “good opportunities right now” for purchasing wineries, and said he was looking at Napa, Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley—but not the Chalk Hill appellation—for his next move.
The decision apparently came after Chalk Hill founder Fred Furth, 78, decided to part ways with his highly-regarded winery. “Life has its phases and you’ve got to move on through the phases,” he told a local newspaper, explaining that he wanted to see the winery remain family-owned. A call to Foley was not returned by press time.
In many respects, Chalk Hill will be the pinnacle brand in Foley’s portfolio. I have given its Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs, Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots and Pinot Gris consistently high scores over the years. The acquisition also seems to move Foley’s center of gravity out of Santa Barbara and into Sonoma County.