Earlier this year, Bill Foley was honored by Wine Enthusiast with the 2022 Wine Star Award for Lifetime Achievement. Since 1996, the Foley Family Wines founder has grown his empire from one winery to a portfolio of 25 of the leading producers across California, Oregon, New Zealand, France and Argentina. However, he and his wife choose to make their home at Chalk Hill Estate Winery.
THAT is how special the Healdsburg property that features 300 acres of vineyards, wilderness areas, a full-scale winery, hospitality center, organic culinary garden and equestrian pavilion is to the industry icon.
Upon visiting, it is not hard to see why.
The land boasts a natural amphitheater carved into the hills. It is said that the amphitheater is what drew founder Fred Furth, who sold the vineyard to Foley in 2010, to the land in the first place. The story goes that the land was so distinctive that in 1972 he spotted it while in a plane from above, in fact. Views from the winery are as spectacular as those of the land itself, notably its unobstructed views of the Russian River Valley and the Mayacamas Mountains.
Though Chalk Hill wines are readily available, there is nothing like taking the property in in person.
To paint the picture, to access the vineyard, guests will first drive through a massive gate that feels a bit like Jurassic Park. Thankfully, the drive up has more diverse terrain than dinosaurs hunting Jeff Goldblum and Chris Pratt. Once parked, there is an epic outdoor staircase (with accessible entrances as well) guests climb that leads them to the main winery entrance. And what an entrance! Chalk Hill Estate’s wine-tasting pavilion feels equal parts Hamptons mansion and laidback country home.
Depending on the time of year, tasting experiences may slightly differ, and no matter the season this is not the spot to pop in for a quick flight. Go big or go home. Relax and plan at least 90 minutes to two hours. Even the Vineyard Overlook Experience ($40) and its seated flight of four epic wines may be enhanced with a mind-bending array of Two Journeyman Meat Co. salami, local artisan cheeses, honeycomb, fruit harvested from the estate and even American White Sturgeon Caviar for an enhancement.
The coolest option, which is available all year long, is the combination Estate & Garden Hummer Tour & Tasting ($105). It starts with an abbreviated tasting overlooking the entire property as well as the chance to explore inside the winery. (Be sure to ask guides a little more about Foley as his life reads like a movie. Case in point: in addition to his wine empire, Foley is also the owner of the Las Vegas Knights NHL team.)
After the introductory sips, guests make their way down the outdoor staircase to a waiting modified Hummer down below. The Hummer’s modification? Its back passenger space features living room-level couches and is free from a roof or windows, much like a convertible. Armed with some additional sips, the trained driver and wine educator will load up guests, get them comfortable and then give the ultimate behind-the-scenes, VIP tour of the entire property, even views from a distance of Foley’s own home. Between the riparian preserves, orchards, vineyards, rolling hills and horse stables, the beauty and grandeur are a lot to digest. Thankfully, Chalk Hill Estate Winery knows that all too well and smartly stops the Hummer in key areas to allow for photos, short walks and even a tour of the culinary garden. Completing the experience is a series of garden-grown small bites paired with estate wines. It is a wow on every level.
For those seeking to visit before the end of the year, there is a spectacular 50th anniversary winemaker dinner being planned on property for Dec. 3 as well as a holiday tasting experience that same weekend.
Finally, if in need of a little advice on what to take home (or order online immediately), here’s some of the best varietals available right now:
2018 Chalk Hill Estate Red, Chalk Hill AVA: This Robert Parker 92-point winner is sourced entirely from the estate. It is big, bold and bursting with black cherry and dark chocolate, yet exceptionally smooth on the finish. $75
2019 Chalk Hill Estate Chardonnay, Chalk Hill AVA: Like the Estate Red, this is also a Robert Parker 92-point winner. Creamy and dreamy, expect peaches, apple pie and even toasty bread as well as a long finish. $48
2019 Chalk Hill Malbec, Chalk Hill AVA: Take time with the nose on this one, as it is on another level. Between the black raspberry and dried herbs, it intoxicates before one even takes a sip. Once sipping, those flavors are joined by mixed berries, clear pepper notes and a seductive hint of vanilla. $80
2021 Chalk Hill Windy Ridge Sauvignon Blanc, Chalk Hill AVA: Tropical and bright, grapefruit and lime zest almost tickle the nose as the glass approaches the lips. Then, to the taste, each of those yummy notes give way to similarly sublime passion fruit and juicy, ultra-ripe melon. $52
For more information on Chalk Hill Estate Winery, visit www.chalkhill.com.