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Sonoma County vintner Bill Foley honored with lifetime achievement award from Wine Enthusiast

Vintner Bill Foley, founder and owner of Santa Rosa-based Foley Family Wines, has won the Wine Enthusiast 2022 Wine Star Award for Lifetime Achievement.

As if playing a game of Monopoly — and winning — Foley has purchased many wineries over the last quarter century, making him one of the most influential vintners in California.

“I’m humbled by the recognition of this award,” Foley said. “I consider my greatest achievement in the wine world has been acquiring and turning around many iconic brands that had lost their way and, at the same time, greatly improving those brands through great viticulture and winemaking.”

Foley Family Wines, founded in 1996, has acquired nearly a dozen Northern California wineries since 2007, including iconic Sonoma County properties Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery, Sebastiani Vineyards, Ferrari-Carano and Chateau St. Jean. The vintner owns many other wineries in California, the Pacific Northwest, France, Argentina and New Zealand.

As for Foley’s vineyard holdings, they are the third largest in Sonoma County. Foley has 7,000 acres planted across California and Oregon.

Wine Business Monthly ranked Foley as No. 20 in sales volume this year among U.S. wineries, with the vintner producing nearly 2 million cases.

Foley was also chairman of this year’s Sonoma County Wine Auction, and his family has donated more than $5 million to wine country communities over the past five years.

The 77-year-old entrepreneur appears to be a natural at multitasking his philanthropic pursuits along with his other enterprises. In addition to his role as a vintner, he’s executive chairman of the board for Fidelity National Financial and principal owner of the Vegas Golden Knights NHL team.

Foley ventured into the world of wine after working in the title insurance business. His first venture was in 1996 when he and his wife, Carol, purchased a 1,000-acre property in the Santa Rita Hills of Santa Barbara County and founded Lincourt Vineyards in Solvang. Foley Estates followed in 1998, but the portfolio expanded in 2007 with the addition of Firestone Vineyard in Santa Barbara. Since then, acquisitions have closed in 11 of the past 14 years.

As for his legacy, Foley said, he’s intent on creating great brands to pass on to his children.

“My dad’s commitment to his vision is incredibly impressive,” said his daughter, Courtney Foley, a second-generation vintner. “He knows that with any venture he starts, there will be plenty of lessons to be learned and bumps along the way. But he doesn’t let those bumps thwart the big picture. Instead, he always drives on.”

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5310.

Peg Melnik

Wine, The Press Democrat

Northern California is cradled in vines; it’s Wine County at its best in America. My job is to help you make the most of this intriguing, agrarian patch of civilization by inviting you to partake in the wine culture – the events, the bottlings and the fun. This is a space to explore wine, what you care about or don’t know about yet.

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