Foley Family Estates, owned by insurance mogul and wine baron Bill Foley, is to purchase Chalk Hill Winery from attorney Fred Furth.
Chalk Hill produces 40,000 cases on a grand, 1,270 acre estate in Sonoma County. Its top wines sell for several hundred dollars.
Foley owns several West Coast wineries – including Sebastiani and Firestone – as well as the New Zealand Wine Trust.
Deborah Steinthal of wine business consultancy Scion Advisors said the transaction illustrates the drive toward consolidation in an overly-fragmented industry, and a focus on succession planning.
‘There are now so many suppliers, and so many wines that it’s hard for even strong brands to attract the attention of a distributor.’
She noted that anything under a million cases can be a tough sell. Foley’s total production is said to be 800,000.
‘Foley is the type of buyer who is looking for more muscle,’ said Steinthal. ‘But this is a strategic purchase, for ‘halo effect’.’
If achieved, the estimate of $100m for Chalk Hill (cited by local press) would place the transaction among the most highly valued in recent years.
According to a survey conducted by Scion Advisors, about 1000 privately-owned wineries on the US West Coast will seek to change hands by 2018, and of those, about half will look to family members.
Written by Maggie Rosen