We started the Foley Food & Wine Society to celebrate three of life’s greatest passions – world-class wines, exquisite cuisine, and amazing experiences. With locations around the globe, the FFWS provides members with a variety of culinary, travel, and entertainment experiences unmatched by anyone else.
Each month, our FFWS Spotlight series will feature one of the many destinations, experiences, and individuals who make the Society what it is. To kick off this new series, and the new year, we’re taking a closer look at the most historic property in our portfolio – Sebastiani Vineyards and Winery located in Sonoma, California.
A BRIEF HISTORY
Samuele Sebastiani immigrated to Sonoma County from the Tuscany region of Italy in 1895. He worked hard as a stonemason and quarry-mined the Sonoma hills for cobblestone used to build the streets of San Francisco. With the money he earned from quarry-mining, Samuele purchased some land and started Sebastiani only nine years later.
Interestingly enough, Sebastiani was the only winery in Sonoma County to continue operations during Prohibition. The winery made a small amount of sacramental and medicinal wines during this time. The Great Depression hit not long after Prohibition was enforced, so Samuele initiated major projects at the winery to keep the community employed. He started canning peaches, nectarines, and pears to create more jobs. When there weren’t enough jobs at the winery, he built a skating rink, theater, motel, and meeting hall at the Catholic Church.
When Samuele died in 1944, his son, August, and his wife, Sylvia, purchased the winery from the estate and began expansion. They introduced new varietals and proprietary blends. Sylvia and their children Sam, Don, and Mary Ann, continued to run the winery after August died in 1980.
Foley Family Wines Owner and Founder Bill Foley purchased Sebastiani in 2008 and immediately took initiative to enhance wine quality and raise the winery’s image. Today, the winery is now producing the finest wines in its long history.
Sonoma County is one of the most diverse wine growing regions in the world. The climate is influenced by the distance and exposure to the cold Pacific Ocean. While the areas near the water tend to be cooler, the areas inland typically are warmer. There are also a large variety of soils in Sonoma County ranging from volcanic from the Mayacamas Mountains to marine-based in the coastal areas. The cooler areas like Russian River Valley are superior for Pinot Noir. Other regions like Dry Creek and Chalk Hill are great for Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, and Merlot. Warmer locations like Alexander Valley and parts of Sonoma Valley and Chalk Hill are ideal for Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec).
THE TASTING ROOM
Sebastiani offers a unique, historic winery complete with antique redwood tanks, original winemaking tools, intricate wooden carvings, and a grand event space. The tasting bar has a relaxed atmosphere and is located a few blocks away from the downtown Sonoma plaza. Wine tastings dive deeper into the history and culture of the winery and offer an interesting insight into the winemaking philosophy of Sebastiani.
Sebastiani specializes in both Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon varietals from Sonoma Valley, Alexander Valley, and Russian River Valley AVAs. One of their most famous wines is the Cherryblock Cabernet, which has earned 90+ and 95+ scores from some of the top publications in wine the past ten years. The Cherryblock vineyards are located right in Sonoma Valley. The winery offers a tour focused solely on Cherryblock, where, you’ll discover the exclusive viticulture and winemaking practices behind the Cherryblock Cabernet as well as enjoy a side-by-side comparison of two vintages.