Farmland, Landmarks, Landowners
2020 Farmland Deal of the Year
By Christina Holbrook | Photography courtesy of Ferrari-Carano
Here’s to the 2020 acquisition of Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery by Bill Foley. The estimated $250 million purchase doubled Foley Family Wines’ holdings in Sonoma County to nearly 2,400 acres and upped production to two million cases a year. Foley is now the third largest owner in Sonoma County, behind E. & J. Gallo and Jackson Family Wines.
Thirty years ago, Bill Foley was a guy with a lot of money and a taste for wine. Founder of Fidelity National in Tampa, Foley had built one of the most successful mortgage title companies in the world. Yet he had an itch to do something else. The logical next step for the oenophile? Purchase a winery. Foley’s foray into this ultra-pricey farmland niche began with the acquisition of Lincourt Vineyards in 1996.
More than two decades later, this serial dealmaker has built an empire of vineyards that includes more than two dozen brands such as famed Chalk Hill. Foley Family Wines are produced in California, Oregon, Washington, and New Zealand.
Don and Rhonda Carano established Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery in 1981. Fumé Blanc and Sonoma Chardonnay became the winery’s signatures. To Foley, the strategic acquisition of these North Coast properties offered additional production facilities and greatly expanded his acreage — not to mention adding a priceless jewel in the crown for Foley Family Wines.
But the business, for Bill Foley, is still about a tradition of great wine. Fred Furth, he believes, would be quite pleased if he could see how his beloved Chalk Hill has fared under Foley’s oversight. And Foley is convinced that the Carano family, too, will feel the same satisfaction as the brand they built is honored by Foley Family Wines.