Foley Family Wines to buy NZ Pinot maker Mt Difficulty

California’s Foley Family Wines has been cleared by officials in New Zealand to buy Pinot Noir producer Mt Difficulty for around US$35 million.

New Zealand’s Overseas Investment Office (OIO) said it has approved Foley’s purchase of Mt Difficulty for NZ$52m (US$35m).

The deal includes 70ha of freehold land and 110ha of leasehold land in Central Otago.

California-based Foley Family Wines is majority owned by Bill Foley and his wife, Carol, and already has several New Zealand wine interests. The group also bought Diageo’s Chalone Estate Vineyard in California in 2016, while Bill Foley owns the Las Vegas Golden Knights hockey team.

Mt Difficulty offers a major foothold in Central Otago, a key region for premium Pinot Noir.

The producer is particularly known for its Pinot Noir, including single vineyard bottlings, and its Roaring Meg label, which includes Pinot Noir and Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

OIO officials said that they spent eight-and-a-half months considering the Foley acquisition plan. It said that the firm was required to make changes to some of its proposals, but did not specify what.

It added that Foley plans to expand the Mt Difficulty restaurant and cellar door, and will seek to expand exports of Mt Difficulty wines.

Separately, the OIO said that Foley intended to expand its existing Te Kairanga estate in Martinborough and expand production capacity at its Grove Mill winery in Marlborough.