Many Napa Vineyards on the Market

One of Pahlmeyer's properties and Pillar Rock included

by Paul Franson
Napa, Calif. -- A large number of significant Napa Valley vineyards are for sale and they seem to be moving slowly despite the advantages of buying existing vineyards and wineries vs. finding bare land and starting from scratch with permits, EIRs and other development costs.

Chuck Sawday of Pacific Union real estate in St. Helena, Calif., specializes in vineyards and land, and has offerings from $2.5 million to $16 million at present. He doesn't see many sales, however. "There's not much urgency among buyers. Even if you reduce prices, there's not much action." He notes that the county is close to capacity on vineyards, though, and expects sales to pick up as economic conditions stabilize.

Broker Steve Gregory of Morgan Lane in Napa has four major properties listed. "It takes a long time and a huge bureaucratic hassle to get approvals for a winery, and if your vineyard has a slope over 5%, it takes a $100,000 environmental impact plan and 3 years to get approval," said.

Gregory told Wines & Vines that the sellers have different motivations: some want to buy a bigger property, while others are approaching retirement and want a lifestyle with less work. Others are involved in estate planning.

Gregory's listings include:
  • Jayson Pahlmeyer's 22-acre Waters Ranch in the Atlas Peak AVA, for $28.5 million. Pahlmeyer is remaining in the business and has other vineyards.
  • Ron and Teri Kuhn's 114-acre Pillar Rock Vineyards in Stags Leap District AVA, for $19.5 million. Once one of the valley's most ambitious wineries, sales were affected by reporting by James Laube in the Wine Spectator that their wines were contaminated by TCA (score: 55). That's not from the vineyard, of course.
  • An unnamed 40-acre vineyard that just received a mid-90 score from Robert Parker for its first wine. Its asking price is $21 million.
  • The 120-acre Twin Creeks Vineyard in Wooden Valley, for $12.5 million. It's in the Napa Valley AVA, though on the east side of the Vaca mountains.
In addition, Gregory has about 440 acres of planted or plantable land in 26 parcels that range from pure vineyards to residential estates.

He also has wineries for sale, ranging from start-ups with permits of 15,000 to 100,000 gallons to working wineries of 6,000 to 40,000 gallons priced from $3.5 to $12 million. He says few wineries have actually sold, but there's a lot of interest in them, particularly if the vineyard and winery come with a brand and inventory. "Then they get immediate cash flow."

Gregory isn't alone. Portofino Realty Advisors in Yountville lists two high-visibility vineyards for sale. One is between and behind Bistro Don Giovanni and La Residence hotel on Highway 29 north of Napa city, which was recently bought by the Hall Financial Group, Craig and Kathy Hall's investment company. This 30-acre plot includes a permit for a 100,000-gallon winery. It's offered at $8.5 million.

Portofino also has a 19-acre vineyard near Signorello and Darioush along the Silverado Trail for $3 million. It's unplanned but prepared land behind the newly opened Black Stallon Winery.

Barry Berkowitz of St. Helena Real Estate has two large estates listed, one for $145 million and one for $18 million. Both have vineyards; one also has a winery on site, while the other has a high-end brand.

Details are available at nvestates.com (for Sawday), stevegregorynapa.com and sthelenarealestate.com.
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