I was reading a Dec 7th Wall Street Journal Article entitled “So You Want to Buy a Vineyard. It was about Manuel Pires, a self made Connecticut millionaire, who had a dream of owning a vineyard and winery. Apparently the most sought after land is in Napa County followed closely by Sonoma County (yeah). What was interesting is no matter how much money you have, the process of finding land and getting permits is the same as when we did it without the millions to spend.
They also posted recommendations from the real estate agents that I thought I would share. I have bolded the ones I thought were especially relevant and added one to the end.
But before I list these, I have to tell you something funny. We run a Vacation Rental (Dufranc Vacation Rental) and almost everyone who stays says we are “Living the Dream” when they show up. After I tell them all the work needed to work the farm…almost everyone says they just want to live in wine country!!!
Dos and Don’ts
Few fantasies are readily realized, and becoming a producer of great wine is especially hard. The following are a few tips compiled from conversations with Napa Valley real-estate agents Katie Somple and Holly Shackford.
Do decide how much you can spend. If all you have is the purchase price, then you shouldn’t get into the wine business.
Don’t think the wine business is about making money. It’s (almost) never about making money. It’s about not losing money.
Do understand that it will take time to find the right property. Many properties are privately listed with an individual agent. Very few appear on multiple listings. Wineries often do not want their names mentioned at all; a winery that is for sale risks losing its winemaker or distributor.
Do work with local consultants—engineers, planners and lawyers, once you’ve found the property that you want. It will save money and time. But make sure the local is a popular local.
Don’t believe an agent who tells you that a piece of land is ‘plantable’ without an ECP (Erosion Control Plan). Plantable land means a vineyard already has an ECP. Planting ‘potential’ means it does not have an ECP. Buyers should verify the difference.
Do start with the best vineyard that you can buy. A good winemaker or a good vineyard manager won’t work with a bad vineyard.
Do figure out what kind of wine lifestyle you want. Is your heart set on an actual working winery? Or maybe you just want a vineyard view?
Ours – If you decide to make wine, realize that to market and sell wine is a full time job.
As the end of the year approached, we needed to finish up some items before the rains hit. So, I got some help from Carmine Indindoli and his crew. We put in the gopher cage around the vineyard. It ended up being 1100 feet of wire that we put 3 feet into the ground with a foot sticking out. (so they don’t jump over the fence) At the same time we put in the basics of the irrigation system since we were using the same trench. Lastly, when it rained 4 inches last month we found that the driveways and house all drain to the same spot on the west end of the property. This caused a little erosion so we installed 5 drains along the edge of the field…..hope it works this winter!!!
Oh what fun it is to demolish and tear up things with a big tractor. I was going to rent a much smaller backhoe, but it was broken and they convinced me to rent a large John Deere 310. They said it was an $80,000 tractor. The rental place is about 3 miles from the house, so I drove it home during rush hour through town one night and returned it the next night. During the 24 hours we rented it we took out 20 fence posts with concrete (see above) with ease and 12 tree stumps and leveled the land before we till the land in August. Oh……I forgot to mention that I also hit a yellow jacket’s nest. They live in the ground in case you didn’t know. I ended up with about 10 bee stings. Funny thing was I took a benadryl right after it happened……should not have operated heavy equipment after, but it all worked out in the end.
As you can see from the pictures below, the landscape has changed a lot from when we moved in outside the family room. We had grass, trees, bushes and a fence. Now it is empty, but will soon be filled with a vineyard.
We have a vision that the vineyard should be an integral part of the house. The previous owners wanted privacy so they put up fences, bushes and trees. This was all very pretty but we wanted to open up the land so all 3 acres felt part of the house. The pictures here show the side yard. We started in May by taking down trees in the front of the house, on the side and back. Next we trimmed all the oaks in the field up to about 15-20 feet off the ground. When this was done, I spent about 40 hours chipping all the wood. If you have every operated a small chipper (11 hp) you know this is a big job…..I can only do it about 2 hours per day. Out in the side field is the septic system. We had to find this before we rip the land, so we rented a metal detector and found the leach field…..I still have to dig down to find it but at least I know where it is. Lastly we rented a tractor to take out the fence and stumps and smooth the land. Good pictures of that in another post.