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Sebastiani Winery Sold to Foley Wine Group

Sebastiani Vineyards and Winery has been sold to Santa Barbara County-based Foley Wine Group. The pending sale was announced Friday night by Richard A. Cuneo, chairman of the Sebastiani board.

sebastiani-front-door-small

The transaction comes amid the beginnings of a sag in real-estate prices as effects of the global recession begin to depress winery and vineyard values.

Gallo and Diageo Courted Sebastiani

According to WII’s sources, both Diageo and Gallo had expressed their interest in purchasing the operation.

Mary Ann Cuneo told Sonoma Sun columnist Kathleen Hill, that, “All of the family agreed this is a good thing. Everyone can go their own way and do their own thing. We are really happy to sell to an individual and not to a corporate takeover. My brothers, Don and Sam, and I are all pleased.”

Bold Action Not Uncommon

The last time Sebastiani made as bold a move was in 2000. Then-CEO Don Sebastiani sold the Turner Road Vintners brand along with significant other hard assets, in order to concentrate on higher-end wines.

Shortly afterwards, Don Sebastiani left to found his own negociant brands sourced from a bulk market that continues to see an abundance of high-quality wine at prices made affordable by the continuing oversupply.

Pending due diligence, Cuneo said the deal should close in mid-January 2009. Cuneo has managed the winery with his wife, Mary Ann Sebastiani Cuneo, the granddaughter of Samuele Sebastiani who founded the winery in 1904.

No purchase price for the current transaction was announced.

Foley Wine Group

The Foley Wine Group, headquartered in Los Olivos, CA, includes a group of six wine properties in California and Washington State:

  • Lincourt Vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley appellation of Santa Barbara County.
  • Foley Estates Vineyard and Winery, located in the Santa Rita Hills appellation of Santa Barbara County.
  • Las Hermanas Vineyard, located in the Sta. Rita Hills appellation.
  • Merus, in the Napa Valley.
  • Firestone Vineyard, in Santa Barbara County.
  • Three Rivers Winery, located in Walla Walla, Washington.

In addition to his ownership of the wine group, Bill Foley is Chairman of the Board of Directors of Fidelity National Inc. (NYSE: FNF), which provides title insurance, specialty insurance and claims management services. Foley also serves as Executive Chairman of Fidelity National Information Services (NYSE: FIS), which processes data for financial institutions.

The winery must now relinquish its claim as “Sonoma County’s oldest continuously-run, family-owned winery.”