North Bay Business Journal

Friday, November 9, 2012, 5:51 pm

Foley acquires Lancaster Estate winery


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    Lancaster Estate winery

    Lancaster Estate winery in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley (photos from lancaster-estate.com)

    SONOMA COUNTY — Sonoma-based Foley Family Wines has reached a deal to acquire Lancaster Vineyards, adding two brands to Bill Foley’s now million-plus-case-a-year portfolio and key access to cabernet sauvignon grapes from Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley.

    The deal includes the 12,000-case-a-year Lancaster Estate and 35,000-case-a-year Roth Estate brands, the Chalk Hill Road winery and tasting room, 6,000-square-foot guest house, 42 acres of existing mostly Bordeaux-variety vines, mainly cabernet sauvignon, according to Mr. Foley.

    Ted and Nicole Simpkins

    Ted and Nicole Simpkins

    Winery founder Ted Simpkins will remain a minority owner. Other financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

    Bill Foley

    Bill Foley

    “This is a great add,” he said. “I’ve been short Alexander Valley cabernet.”

    Lancaster Vineyards has contracts for fruit in the valley that will allow Foley to shift supply between the Roth brand and other portfolio brands, according to Mr. Foley.

    Of particular interest for more of those grapes is the Sebastiani Vineyards brand. Current production is 6,000 to 7,000 cases a year, and Mr. Foley wants to increase it to 11,500 to 13,000 annual cases.

    “We’ve had a couple of tough vintages, and everybody’s prices have gone up,” he said. “We didn’t chase pricing.”

    Lancaster’s winemaker, Jesse Katz, who Mr. Foley credited with lining up that sourcing, and the consulting winemaker, the renowned Dave Ramey, will stay on along with winery staff.

    Mr. Foley plans to increase vineyard acreage on the property to 60 acre by planting seven acres of sauvignon blanc in the Creekside vineyard across Chalk Hill Road and 10 acres on a bench — flat area — on the main property, with 1.5 acres of sauvignon blanc and the rest in cab.

    The Lancaster property is complementary to the hospitality side of Mr. Foley’s portfolio. It’s on the same road as Chalk Hill Estate, which he acquired in 2010.

    We can use LeMars hotel as an origination point and shuttle guests to Chalk Hill and Lancaster,” Mr. Foley said. “That allows us to capture more of our customer base.”

    Mr. Simpkins asked Mr. Foley to buy the winery while they were playing a round of golf, Mr. Foley recalled. Mr. Simpkins, a top executive at major alcoholic beverage distributor Young’s Market, which also distributes Foley portfolio wines in seven Western states, could not devote as much time to the winery as he wanted to, according to Mr. Foley.

    The Foley Family Wines is set to produce 1.25 million cases of wine this year from U.S. and New Zealand ventures. The largest U.S. brand is Sebastiani Vineyards at 280,000 cases, and the New Zealand operations produce 450,000 cases.

    Mr. Simpkins credits the advice of the late Kendall-Jackson founder Jess Jackson with his acquisition of Melim Maacama Winery in 1995 to start Lancaster.

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    1 Comment

    1. November 10, 2012, 9:25 am

      by Winepine

      Bill Foley is a brilliant man. This looks like an excellent acquisition to expand the Foley Family portfolio. He’s been able to maintain a robust group of wine brands while keeping with a standard of high quality. I hope it remains this way in the future.

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