The Sebastiani Family has been feuding for decades. The knock-out punch was thrown a few days ago, when family members sold Sebastiani Vineyards to the Foley Wine Group of Los Olivos in Santa Barbara County, owners of nearby Firestone Vineyards, Merus in Napa, Three Rivers Winery in Washington, and more.
Some have called the family’s fights an Italian opera. Whatever you call it, this sale marks the end of a 104-year chapter in California viticulture history. As a kid, I used to frequent the Sebastiani Movie Theatre on the square in downtown Sonoma. It was named after Samuele Sebastiani, a laborer from Tuscany who started making wine in the town in 1904. From one 501-gallon redwood vat, he built a business that generated multimillion bottles of wine per year with multiple varietals.
According to the SF Chronicle, the sale includes the Sebastiani winery, two office buildings, the tasting room and event center in downtown Sonoma, plus 225 acres of vineyards. Half of the vineyard acreage will be owned outright by Foley, and the other half will be farmed by Foley in a crop share agreement with the Sebastianis.
Don Sebastiani, a grandson, said, “There have been a number of transactions over a number of decades. A lot of time has passed. This began when my father and grandfather were selling dry table wine and dessert wines in bulk in railroad train cars. Then in the ’50s and ’60s, they were doing 15,000 cases. In 1974, they did over a million cases.”