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North Bay Business Journal

Wednesday, November 21, 2012, 2:24 pm

Foley buys 206-acre Carneros vineyard

Fruit to go into new Chalk Hill Sonoma Coast line

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    HEALDSBURG – Foley Family Wines plans to launch a lower-cost extension of the Chalk Hill Estate brand early next year with the acquisition of about 206 acres of mostly chardonnay and pinot noir grapes that make up Ramal East Vineyard in Sonoma County’s Los Carneros winegrowing region.

    Foley, which has been adding new assets rapidly to its portfolio of wineries and vineyards, purchased the vineyard on Nov. 2 from SBV VinREIT, LLC. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

    SBV VinREIT sold the 350-acre west side of the vineyard, with 197 acres of planted pinot noir and chardonnay, to Jackson Family Wines in May for $13 million.

    Foley Family Wines plans to use the Ramal East grapes primarily for a new Sonoma Coast tier of Chalk Hill Estate wines. These wines will be priced lower than others from Chalk Hill, which has a 2010 chardonnay retailing for $48 a bottle. A small amount of 2011 Sonoma Coast chardonnay is set for limited distribution early next year. Production of Sonoma Coast chardonnay wine will increase as fruit comes in from the 2012 and 2013 vintages. A Sonoma Coast pinot noir from the 2013 vintage would be released in 2014.

     ”With the launch of the new Sonoma Coast tier we needed to make sure the winemaking team had access to a consistent supply of high-quality fruit,” said owner Bill Foley. “When the opportunity arose to purchase a first-rate vineyard in Carneros we jumped at the prospect. This great piece of land will provide Chalk Hill with enough chardonnay and pinot noir to support the growth we have projected for this new tier of wines.”

    Foley Family Wines’ acquisition of Ramal East follows the mid-November purchase of a majority stake in Lancaster Vineyards in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley appellation.

    SBV VinREIT is an affiliate of VinREIT, LLC, a joint venture between Kansas City, Mo.-based EPR Properties (NYSE: EPR), formerly Entertainment Properties Trust, and St. Helena-based investment bank Global Wine Partners. VinREIT has been selling properties in the past few years, including five vineyards and wineries targeted for sale this year, as certain investments ran into financial trouble.

    In the first quarter of this year, EPR had five vineyard and winery properties that were under sale agreements. Estimated fair value for them was $47.1 million, and EPR recorded impairment charges of $12.8 million because estimated cash flows were below carrying values, according to company filings. 

    The former CE2V winery and 154-acre property in Pope Valley, once part of the bankrupt Cosentino Signature Wines portfolio, is in contract for sale, according to EPR filings. EPR reported a $5 million loss for discontinued operations in the first nine months of 2012, largely from the loss of rental income from the Ramal vineyards, which were under lease to troubled Ascentia Wine Estates, and the Pope Valley properties.

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