Wine mogul Bill Foley buys majority stake of Forestville’s Farmhouse Inn

Bill Foley’s empire of Wine Country holdings continues to expand.

Foley Entertainment Group (FEG), established by the business owner and Sonoma Valley vintner, announced Friday that it had purchased a majority stake in Farmhouse Inn, the upscale resort on River Road in Forestville.

Yet owners, siblings and fifth-generation farmers Catherine and Joe Bartolomei want fans of the property to know that they will still be involved in the destination they built from nearly scratch after acquiring its six acres in 2001. It took them nearly a year of hard thought and negotiations before inking the deal that retains them as 25% percent owners and in management positions.

“It will either make our lives much easier, or much harder, we don't know,” said Catherine. “We’ve been independent for 22 years. We’ve got growth plans, we’ve got things we want to do, the Foley family’s just a beautiful fit. It's going to give us opportunities at Farmhouse that we just were not going to have on our own.”

Foley, owner of the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights, owns nine wineries in Sonoma County, along with several businesses in Healdsburg: the Hotel Les Mars and its restaurant, Chalkboard, along with the recently opened Goodnight’s Prime Steak + Spirits.

In a time of increasing acquisitions of family-owned businesses by corporate behemoths, the local community connection was important in deciding the partnership, Catherine said. Foley’s daughter, Courtney Foley, is the 2nd Generation Vintner for Chalk Hill Winery, a Foley-owned property in Healdsburg. She is a friend of the Bartolomeis, and is expected to play a role with Farmhouse.

According to Foley, the first planned upgrade involves adding more rooms to the 25-room luxury resort. Part of the sales transaction includes an additional four acres located behind the Farmhouse spa barn, which the Bartolomeis acquired from Sonoma County when initially expanding their resort from its original nine rooms.

“To make it a really successful investment, we need a few more rooms,” Foley said. “Our goal is to create a really luxurious, high-end, Montage-type property on this location.”

He anticipates Joe Bartolomei leading that project, along with working with the county to hook into the Forestville sewer system and upgrading parking. Yet he doesn’t see changing the feel of the property.

“We want to preserve what the Bartolomeis have built over these last 22 years,” he said, noting some of his company’s other Sonoma County acquisitions including Chalk Hill, Ferrari-Carano and Chateau St. Jean. “These are all iconic properties that for one reason or another have gone through some sort of structural, maybe ownership was a problem, maybe cash investment was a problem.

“[But] we’ve never changed names of wineries, we’ve always kept them in their old structure, and just tried to improve them.”

Staff Writer Austin Murphy contributed to this report.

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