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You want to buy a vineyard? ‘Work for passion’ – not economics

This article is reprinted with permission of The Escape Home, a newsletter for second homeowners and those who want to be. Registration here. © 2021. All rights reserved.

One of the takeaways from the giant pandemic is that life as we know it is not guaranteed. That leads to an increase in reconnecting with the outdoors, following your passions, and not giving up dreams. Giving up city life and moving to a vineyard to work in the wine industry embodies all that.

We asked veterans in the wine business to tell us if it was really dreamlike. Short answer? It’s correct. But it requires great work, passion and great will to succeed.

Former president and co-owner of the Benziger Family Distillery in Sonoma, California, Tim Wallace, guided us through the ups and downs of running a winery. First and foremost, he says, there are clear perks. Grapes need to be grown in a Mediterranean climate, so chances are you’re living in a beautiful part of the world. As a farmer, you can witness “nature’s beautiful cycles” throughout each year. And then there’s the wine. “You can see, if you want, the fruit of your labor. It is not an abstraction. You are literally doing it. And you can drink it! ”

Additionally, there is a strong sense of community within the industry.

“This is a more collective and collaborative industry than most because at its core is agriculture and farmers are always working to help each other.”

However, Wallace emphasized: Enjoying the wonders of nature is one thing, but running a business is another. Selling alcohol in such a regulated industry requires a lot of responsibility. And because it’s such a highly regulated and taxed industry, a large portion of the profits never go to manufacturers.

Furthermore, the success cycles in the wine business are entirely dependent on environmental factors, or what Wallace called “environmental villains.” The rising rates of fires and droughts in California are a constant and unavoidable threat. In just a few days, most of your harvest can be wiped out, meaning you will only be able to sell a small portion of the product for which you have invested time and money. According to Wallace, one of the most popular sayings in the wine industry is that “to create a small fortune, you have to start with a big one.”

Jim Martin, an expert in the real estate of wineries, has highlighted some of the economic hurdles a future winery owner must overcome. First, he warns, even in the best case, it can take three to four years from when you first planted it until you can start selling and 10 years before you make a profit.

The checklist looks like this:

  • Once you’ve figured out what kind of grapes you want to grow, you have to find a vineyard that you will either completely replant or bring the plant back to life.

  • You have to capable. In Sonoma and the nearby Napa Valley, Martin notes that vineyards can cost anywhere between $ 90,000 and $ 100,000 per acre, sometimes even $ 200,000 depending on the type of grapes.

  • Then you have to find and finance infrastructure: desiccator, boxer, worker who will pick the grapes, a watering system, and more.

  • You must also apply for a permit exploitation into reservoirs and ponds; Water rights have become more complex and costly since droughts have worsened – and you cannot grow grapes without an abundant and reliable source of water. Annual maintenance costs can be in the millions.

And doing the above doesn’t guarantee success – it’s not as easy as simply making great wine – you also need to be able to sell it. Bronwyn Ney, who runs a wine industry consulting business in Napa Valley, gives professionals tips on how to successfully market alcohol. Success, she says, revolves around targeted marketing strategies that start with figuring out “your special sauce” and creating a great story.

“You have to find your niche – why does your winery exist? Why is it better than a neighboring store? Why is your product better than the competition? “

Of course, the US wine business is more than California. Adam Lee, owner and winemaker of Clarice Wine Company explains that outside of Oregon and Washington, Texas is a growing region of wineries. The northwestern part of Austin and near the Lubbock area has a hill country ideal for growing grapes. The great part about Texans, According to Lee, they are less interested in what the next hot grape is, and more interested in whether the wine is good or not, meaning production can be a lot cheaper than in California. In addition, the area is looking to increase tourism.

Feel inspired? We asked all our experts one final question: What advice would you give someone who wants to quit everything in the city and start a winery?

“You’d better not do it for the economy,” Wallace said. “You should do it for the passion of the product because that’s what keeps you going. This is the end game. “

Similarly, Lee notes, “if you thought it was just an exciting adventure, I would say don’t do it. But if you are really passionate and want to devote your best, then please do ”.

In the end, Ney pointed out that “if the pandemic has cleared anything up, there’s no better time to start fulfilling your dreams. Life is short and if it’s your passion, do it. ”

The following is from our “in the marketplace” section.

Inspired by our columnist on vineyards? Here are some for sale:


This winery is fully operational and self contained, listed at $ 13.9 million, sits on a 40-acre vineyard in Temecula, California.


Buyers will inherit a business that welcomes 50,000 customers annually, plus a 3,266 square foot mansion on land currently used as a breakfast-only guest house and weddings.

The Kelly Group

This Willamette Valley, Oregon vineyard property features 4 bedrooms, 3 full baths and 2 baths in a covered estate complete with a saltwater swimming pool.

The Kelly Group

For $ 3.3 million, buyers receive about 30 acres of a mature Pinot Noir vineyard, plus 22 acres of arable land.


BarnHill Vineyard, a fully operating and profitable winery in Anna, Texas, marketed for $ 3.85 million.


The property includes a fenced pasture for cattle and horses, a beautiful tasting room set in a wooden barn and a 3,000 square foot mansion with a 100% stone exterior.

This article is reprinted with permission of The Escape Home, a newsletter for second homeowners and those who want to be. Registration here. © 2021. All rights reserved.



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