Foley Family Wines to buy Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery of Healdsburg
Wine and sports businessman Bill Foley has scored his biggest deal to add a trophy property to his collection of Sonoma County wineries by agreeing to buy Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery in Healdsburg from the Carano family.
The acquisition announced Tuesday, which one industry source estimated to have a price tag between $250 million and $300 million, represents a turning point for two prominent county wine families as the industry continues shrinking amid a backdrop of flat wine sales and the nettlesome coronavirus pandemic.
For the Carano family, the sale represents its final chapter in the wine sector. About 40 years ago, founders Don and Rhonda Carano turned their Alexander Valley ranch into the well-regarded winery specializing in white wines and complete with a grand Italian villa on the property, plus more than 1,000 vineyard acres elsewhere in the county.
After Don Carano’s death in 2017, the family’s focus shifted to its publicly traded Nevada gambling business Eldorado Resorts, which is close to finalizing a $17 billion blockbuster buyout of Caesars Entertainment, owner of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
For billionaire Foley, the deal expected to be completed July 1 is his most ambitious yet to expand his collection of wineries in the Foley Family Wines portfolio, which includes Chalk Hill, Sebastiani and Banshee. Since making his fortune in the financial services sector and parlaying that into ownership of the National Hockey League’s Vegas Golden Knights, Foley has been an aggressive winery buyer over the past decade. His goal has been to reach annual production of 2 million wine cases through his various labels to better compete in an intensely competitive market.
On top of competitive pressures, the pandemic hit the North Coast wine sector with its biggest challenge since Prohibition, which ended in 1933.
“Probably COVID-19 hit us harder than some of the other large-size wineries,” Foley said in an interview. “As restaurants open and they start to run through some inventory, they will start buying again. This acquisition will give us the leverage to really expand our distribution.”
Besides the Ferrari- Carano Estate Winery, the sale includes: the winery’s Villa Fiore Tasting Room and three other tasting areas; the PreVail Mountain Winery on the east side of Alexander Valley; and 3,183 acres of land —1,223 planted at 21 vineyard sites — across the wine appellations of Alexander Valley, Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Carneros Napa Valley, Mendocino Ridge and Anderson Valley.
Also part of the sale are several residential properties, a large temperature- controlled warehouse, and the Estate Winery Garden, home to more than 2,000 plant species. The deal does not include the Vintners Inn, the Santa Rosa luxury resort the Carano family will retain.
“I’m happy to see our winery become part of a family-owned and operated company that shares our vision and core values,” Rhonda Carano, chief executive officer of Ferrari-Carano, said in a prepared statement. “Foley Family Wines has shown that they value the individual character of each of their estate wineries. We know that the reputation we’ve worked hard to build over the last four decades is in good hands.”
The Ferrari-Carano Winery and related assets have been on the market for some time, though given their size and reach had a limited pool of potential buyers, according to one wine industry analyst who spoke on the condition of anonymity.