Most oenophiles approach wine with a simple motto in mind: provenance, provenance, provenance. Nothing is more important than the source. This is why bottles from Romanée-Conti or Château Lafite Rothschild can fetch upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars at wine auctions. But there is one label that is even more thrilling to bring to a dinner party: your own.
Owning a vineyard is a common fantasy among wine lovers, but over the past couple of decades, it’s started to become a common reality as well. Reasons vary—the pride of creating your own product, the beautiful property—but turning a profit is generally not one of them. (There’s an old joke: How do you make a small fortune? Start with a large one, then buy a vineyard.)
Nothing Is More Important Than the Source
According to a study conducted by the University of California, Davis, establishing a vineyard in Napa County can set you back $30,000 per acre for the first year, and $3,500 per acre for each of the following two years. Once you’re producing wine grapes, net returns will be about $3,700 per acre per year. That said, it’s much more difficult to turn a profit in Napa Valley than it is in, say, Argentina, where land and labor costs are much lower.
If you’ve already decided to invest in land, your first decision involves what to search for. It takes a long time for grapes to grow, so if you’re not the patient type, you’re probably better off buying an established vineyard. And if you don’t want frost protection and pest management to become daily topics of conversation—or if you don’t have the faintest idea how to protect against frost, pests and mildew—it’s definitely worth hiring a vineyard management company to take care of the day-to-day operations.
For those who aren’t quite ready for the commitment, there are a growing number of companies that let you become a winemaker without the daily headaches of actually running the vineyard. Crushpad, in Sonoma County, for instance, allows individuals to create their own wine without owning any land. There are also opportunities for fractional ownership: in the U.K., WineShare sells 50-vine rows at a time, which it then manages for you.
Now that the caveats are out of the way, here are a few of The Financialist’s favorite vineyards which are currently for sale. It’ll be the most expensive glass of wine you ever drink—but definitely the most satisfying.