Bill Foley, owner of Chalk Hill and Sebastiani wineries, launched a membership program Thursday designed to cross-promote his many wineries, resorts and restaurants that dot the map from Montana to New Zealand.

The program, named the Foley Food and Wine Society, will offer its members discounts, rewards and exclusive experiences in an attempt to draw customers to the company's network of properties, Foley said.

"I've ended up with this whole collection of assets that I believe are under-utilized," Foley said. "We want to take our 30,000-plus wine club members and convert them to society members, and take our 100,000 on the mailing list and invite them to join."

In addition to the four lodging properties Foley already owns in California, he has become a minority owner of Bacara Resort & Spa, a 364-room property in Santa Barbara, and will help manage the resort's wine and food program. That deal will close on Feb. 25, and the property will become part of the membership program, he said.

The society will operate like a frequent-flyer club, with members accruing points that can be cashed in for discounts or access to events like winemaker dinners or guided fly-fishing trips at his Rock Creek Cattle Company in Montana.

The club will have different tiers of membership, starting with a free level where loyal customers will get discounts, and ranging to more exclusive paid memberships to be launched later, Foley said.

Foley also aims to have an educational aspect to the club and its website by offering recipes and wine-pairing suggestions, links to cooking classes at his properties, and videos featuring winemakers.

The initiative is designed to help Foley Family Wines boost its direct-to-consumer business, which is more profitable than selling wine through retail channels, Foley said.

Foley also is considering partnerships with hotel chains like Pacific Hospitality Group, which owns the Meritage in Napa, to expand the benefits for members, he said.

"If I can achieve that and allow my high-end wine club members at Chalk Hill to get the benefits of Merus or Foley Johnson, or Foley or Lincourt down in Santa Barbara County, and they get access to the lodges that we have, it's just going to help my business all across the board," Foley said. "Plus, it's fun."

You can reach Staff Writer Cathy Bussewitz at 521-5276 or