Treasury Wine Estates recently sold the historic Chateau St. Jean winery to Foley Family Wines. The mansion was built in 1920 on a 300-acre plot bought by iron and timber magnate Ernest Goff as a summer home. The building clearly reflects the builder’s social and financial status and represents Kenwood’s most elegant architecture, clearly visible to many people making the passage between Santa Rosa and Sonoma.
The property was later bought by Ken Sheffield and Bob and Ed Merzoin, grape growers and shippers from the San Joaquin Valley, who became some of the earliest wine producers to adopt new varietals made possible with new, disease-resistant root stock in 1973. The chateau was named after Jean Sheffield Merzoian, sister, sister-in-law, and wife to the owners, according to the company website.
Legendary winemaker Dick Arrowood was Chateau St. Jean’s first winemaker, producing the first vintage in 1975. By 1980, the business was fully developed to produce estate wines. By 1999, it produced one of Sonoma County’s finest wines ever, Cinq Cépages, a Bordeaux-style blend of five Cabernet Sauvignon varietals that merited a 100 rating by Wine Spectator. Bottles today sell for over $200, though bargain hunters can take one away for $110.
In 2000, the business was folded into a portfolio of wineries owned by Treasury Wine Estates, formerly part of Foster Brewing Group. Margo Van Staaveren later became chief winemaker and has continued the tradition of superior winemaking.
On Dec. 8, Foley Family Wines announced its acquisition of the winery, including the “chateau, a 6,000-squarefoot visitor center, a 39,000-square-foot wine production facility, 79 planted acres of estate vineyards, on-site tasting salons, and extensive gardens,” according to a press release. The winery’s legacy use permit will transfer to the new owners, which allows for the production of 750,000 cases per year, as well as 24 special events and six large-scale events, such as weddings, per year.
“We are eager to refocus on the production of vineyard-designate wines from Sonoma County, and to invest in the estate vineyards that support Cinq Cépages,” Foley Family Wines president Shawn Schiffer said.
“We’re looking closely at how best to optimize the production facilities at Chateau St. Jean and eventually bring that winemaking back home,” said Schiffer.
Foley Family Wines was established in 1996 and now owns more than two dozen wineries across the globe. The Foley Food & Wine Society offers members a luxury lifestyle community with culinary experiences, entertainment, and travel in the United States, New Zealand, France, and Argentina, according to the press release. The corporate office is in Santa Rosa.