Foley Johnson: Fun Tasting in Rutherford

The initial tasting lineup at Foley Johnson.

Bill Foley has been on a mission to build a wine business, much in the way Jess Jackson did with Jackson Family Wines. Bill started with Foley Estates in the Santa Rita Hills AVA of Santa Barbara County about 20 years ago, and now has, as part of Foley Family Wines, wineries in Santa Barbara, Sonoma and Napa Counties, Oregon and New Zealand, with the current total being somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 wineries. He’s also built a wine distribution company to help get the wines to the consumers. He even recently hired the former president of Jackson Family Wines.

Halloween scarecrows in the Foley Johnson patio.

Lori and I recently visited Foley Johnson Wines in the Rutherford AVA of the Napa Valley, essentially between Yountville and St. Helena on Highway 29. Foley Johnson was founded in 2012, and is named in honor of Bill Foley and his wife, Carol Johnson Foley. They have a beautiful tasting room, with a great patio if you’d like to take your tasting outside, and have views of the vineyards and hills.

A statue of head-trained old vine Zinfandel is the centerpiece of the Foley Johnson fountain.

We had a great tasting there, helped by Kenny, an ex-Marine who has been in the wine business for about 20 years and now is certified as an advanced sommelier. Foley Johnson makes “Estate” wines, with grapes grown on their property, and also makes a “Handmade” series of wines with grapes both from their estate and from other vineyards in Napa Valley and Santa Rita Hills. We started by tasting both the Estate and Handmade Sauvignon Blancs from 2016. Two different styles of Sauvignon Blanc, the former with a bit more bite, possibly better with food, the latter a bit smoother, might age well for a white. Lori and I split on these, with Lori liking the Estate better, while I liked the Handmade one. We moved from there to the 2013 Estate Merlot (98% Merlot) and the 2014 Estate Meritage (52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, 10$ Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec). The Merlot was nice, not too soft, with some good tannins on the finish. The Meritage was similar, but with a better entry into the mouth. Really liked that Meritage, and at $45 per bottle, it’s a very good value. (Yes, we bought a few.) Last we tried a couple of the Handmade Cabernet Sauvignons, made mostly with grapes from their Rutherford estate. Delicious! These were priced more in line with Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at $110 per bottle. (That’s probably median pricing for Napa Valley, but not the ultra-high end of $200+ per bottle.) Bought a couple of the 2014 Foley Johnson Handmade Cabernet Sauvignons too.

My takeaways from Foley Johnson? More down to earth than many of the Napa Valley wineries, more affordable than the majority of the Napa Valley wineries with their wines priced below $65, and really good wines. On my list to recommend to friends for Napa Valley visits.

L’Chaim,

Larry

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