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Santa Barbara County-based company buys Sonoma winery; price not disclosed

Sebastiani Vineyards, the historic family-owned winery in Sonoma, has been sold to the Foley Wine Group, based in Santa Barbara County.

"Just today, we signed the final document selling the winery together with the brand to the Foley group," the winery's board chairman, Richard A. Cuneo, said Friday night. He said the purchase price would not be made public.

The winery was founded by Samuele Sebastiani in 1904, and the Sebastiani name has been associated with the winery every since. After his death in 1944, his son, August Sebastiani, carried on the family business until his death in 1980. His daughter, Mary Ann Sebastiani Cuneo, represents the third generation as president and chief executive officer.

"Since 2000, management has refocused the brand through an unwavering commitment to production of wines of quality and value. We are confident that Foley Wine's continued dedication to the Sebastiani tradition of excellence will facilitate a smooth transition," the winery said in a statement.

The Foley Wine Group, established in 1996, manages a portfolio of vineyards and wineries in California and the Pacific Northwest, including Foley Estates Vineyard and Winery, Lincourt Vineyards, Firestone Vineyards and Three Rivers Winery.

William P. "Bill" Foley II established the Foley Wine Group in 1996 with the acquisition of Lincourt Vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley appellation of Santa Barbara County. He is a highly successful businessman who is chairman of the board of Fidelity National, a leading provider of title insurance, specialty insurance and claims management services.

The wine group is headquartered at Firestone Vineyard, which Foley acquired in 2007. Long considered a destination for visitors to Santa Barbara County's wine country, Firestone produces an array of Bordeaux-influenced wines in competitively priced categories, according to the company Web site.

The huge Sebastiani Vineyards tasting room, with the feel of a European chateau, is one of the best-known landmarks in Sonoma, located just a few blocks from the plaza.

The winery has had a highly visible history in the Sonoma Valley, marked by family divisions in the early 1980s.

August Sebastiani's wife, Sylvia Sebastiani, played a major role as the matriarch of the wine family. After August's death, his eldest son, Sam Sebastiani, headed the company, but left in 1986 over differences over management of the winery. The company flourished under direction of his younger brother, Don Sebastiani, who left Sebastiani Vineyards to establish his own wine company.

Mary Ann Sebastiani Cuneo and her husband, Dick Cuneo, continued to operate Sebastiani Vineyards, concentrating on premium quality wines marketed under the family name.


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