Global drinks giant Diageo has sold Chalone Estate Vineyard – its last remaining significant US wine business and a fixture in the 1976 Judgement of Paris tasting – to California’s Foley Family Wines for an undisclosed sum.


Diageo sells Chalone

The sale of the Monterey-based Chardonnay and Pinot Noir producer completes the sell-off of UK-based Diageo’s main wine interests – aside from Justerini & Brooks merchant – and adds to Foley’s fast-growing portfolio of wine estates in California, Washington State and New Zealand.

Foley has bought the Chalone Estate Vineyard and Gavilan brands, along with nearly 405 hectares (1,000 acres) of land, 97ha of which is planted to vines. Financial details were not disclosed.

The vineyards occupy an elevated position at 1,800ft on the north slope of Chalone Peak, part of the Gavilan Mountain Range, with spectacular views of the Salinas Valley.

The sole winery in the Chalone AVA, Chalone has the oldest vineyard in Monterey County, with Chenin Blanc plantings going back to 1919.

During the famous ‘Judgement of Paris’ tasting in 1976 – when top French wines were tasted blind against rivals from California – Chalone Estate’s 1974 Chardonnay was placed third.

‘We have incredible wineries and vineyards stretching from Lincourt in Solvang, California, up to Three Rivers in Walla Walla, Washington,’ said Foley Family Wines proprietor Bill Foley.

‘Chalone Estate Vineyard, with its great wines and incredible history, gives our consumers and guests world-class wine options along the entire coast.’

The disposal of Chalone follows Diageo’s sale of its main US wine business, Chateau and Estate Wines, plus UK business Percy Fox, to Australia’s Treasury Wine Estates in a US$600m deal last October.

A month later, the company sold its Argentinian interests, including the Navarro Correas and San Telmo wine brands, to Argentina’s largest wine company, Grupo Peñaflor.

Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes admitted wine was ‘no longer core’ to the company’s activities – and now its wine interests are limited to London wine merchant Justerini & Brooks, and local wine brands owned by Mey Içki in Turkey and USL in India.