Two months after buying Chalone, one of California’s most historic wineries, Bill Foley has purchased a less famous one he plans to put his own name on. Foley Family Wines has reached a deal with Pat Stryker to purchase Stryker Sonoma Winery in Alexander Valley, Foley told Wine Spectator. The transaction includes 25 acres of vineyards and a winery built in 2002, but not the brand, which will be discontinued. The purchase price was not disclosed.
“It’s a great winery, great tasting room, and great wine club,” said Foley about the purchase. Foley plans to create a new brand at the property—Foley Sonoma.
Stryker Sonoma founder Pat Stryker declined to comment, but has said in a statement that she plans to leave the industry to focus on her philanthropic work with the Colorado-based Bohemian Foundation, which she founded in 2001. Stryker bought her Sonoma wine property, then known as Sommer Vineyards, in 1999 and spent the next few years replanting and building the winery. The wines have received good to very good scores from Wine Spectator.
The transaction might seem like an odd move for Foley, who has become a major player in the wine industry over the past several years, acquiring a steady stream of wineries in California, Washington, Oregon and New Zealand. Most of these were well-known names with a track record of high quality. In February, he purchased the historic Chalone Vineyards in Monterey County from Diageo.
Stryker Sonoma is a more modest operation. But Foley plans to put a bigger stamp on Stryker, starting by phasing out the Stryker brand in favor of Foley Sonoma. “I thought it was time to put our [family] name on something in Sonoma,” said Foley. That would have been difficult at places with the history and reputation of Chalk Hill, Sebastiani or Chalone. Foley added that the winery has a 20,000-case permit but is currently only producing about 5,000 cases. “We’ll be expanding production,” he said.
Heading production will be Foley’s daughter, Courtney Foley. She studied enology at Fresno State and has worked alongside some of the other winemakers in the Foley portfolio. This will be her first head winemaking position.
The purchase includes 25 acres of vines planted primarily to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, as well as some 100-year-old Zinfandel vines and about 2 acres of Tannat, a red grape that’s rare in California. Foley said he's looking forward to working with it.
As for Chalone, Foley has announced that he’s hired Michael Michaud as consulting winemaker. Michaud was the winemaker at Chalone from 1979 to 1997, where he worked closely with founder Dick Graff. Since then he has continued to work at wineries in the area. Gianni Abate will work with him as associate winemaker.