Viticulture

Is Buying Vineyard Land Right for You?

viticulture

So, you’ve been caught with the “I want to buy the perfect vineyard site” bug. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, this is not something you simply ‘get over.’ Rather, this bug gets worse and I honestly don’t think there is a cure until you’ve actually plant that first vine and realise just how much blood, sweat, tears and money go into buying, planning, prepping, planting and maintaining a vineyard site. Well, here it goes…don’t say I didn’t warn you!

First of all, you need to find the right piece of land. One person’s right vineyard site is another person’s wrong vineyard site. You need to answer the following questions and then make some serious decisions.

  1. What type of grapes do you want to grow? This is critical because you might want to grow a particular type of grapes, but if they’re not suited to your region, then chances are they won’t grow well or produce good fruit. You can experiment, but that is also a very costly venture.
  2. Are you planning on living at the property? Some pieces of land have residential building restrictions in place. I know that in Oregon we have a law that requires you to produce a certain amount of agricultural income from the land before applying for building rights. Is it a place you would be happy living in, or is it too remote and you prefer to live somewhere else and travel to your vineyard?
  3. How large of a vineyard do you want to have? Don’t get me wrong, large vineyards are beautiful, but extra land adds huge expenditures, additional labour needs, machinery costs etc…Also, you have to think about the manageability side of things. It’s not easy running a vineyard, let alone one that covers several acres.
  4. Is there sufficient water nearby? Water is a big deal. Some types of vines (rootstocks) require consistent watering, while others are less fussy. Even if you dry farm, you still need water for basic farming needs. Additionally, water rights are a big concern in agricultural areas. This needs to be investigated thoroughly before purchasing a property. I know of one piece of land where water run-off couldn’t be collected in a purpose built reservoir because that would impact the watersheds in the surrounding area. You probably want to consult a property lawyer and find someone who lives in the area. They will be familiar with these laws.
  5. Are you looking to buy in an established viticultural area? Established viticultural areas command higher land purchase prices than areas that are not yet recognized. There is a a reason these areas have specific viticultural designations though…vitis vinifera grow better in these areas! I do know a couple who invested in a viticultural area that was waiting for it’s official approval. Needless, to say, it was granted and now they are sitting pretty concerning their investment, but that is a risk. Not all viticultural area applications are approved. A lot goes into validating these areas and of course, everyone wants their piece of land to have this distinction.
  6. Do you want to have a tasting room on the property? The reason I ask is because several counties require you to own a minimum amount of acreage before you can put a tasting room on the property. This is definitely something to investigate before buying. Does the idea of members of the public traipsing through your vines and property bother you? If it does, then you definitely want to have your tasting room off site!!
  7. How much money do you have to spend? The big question…well…??? You need to factor several things into your purchase and the cost of the land is just the starting point. Do you know that on average to plant a vineyard costs anywhere on up from $19,500 per acre in the first year according to Oregon State’s Vineyard Economics program. According to their projections, the vineyard isn’t even profitable until year 5, when the grapes are mature enough to be sold. However, this still doesn’t cover the costs from the initial 4 years. Basically, the vineyard won’t be truly productive until year 12, where it will have made enough profit to have paid for the initial vineyard costs. Wow…that’s a shocker!
  8. Do you know of anyone in the area who already has a vineyard? This is critical. We have friends who planted a vineyard near us; however, they have a real vineyard…sprawling acres, machinery, tasting room, grapes and wine! So what better resource could you have than to ask local vineyard owners for some tips. I’m sure they would love to spend some time telling their story over a glass of wine.
  9. Do you even know how to plant and grow grapes? I once heard a vineyard owner say that grapes are easy to grow. Well, that might be true if you have immediate access to expensive machinery, a bevy of vineyard workers and a vineyard manager at your beck and call; however, if you’re starting from scratch then you have a lot to learn. This requires attending viticulture classes. Most viticultural areas will have a local school where everyone takes their classes. Do your research!!!

Well, if you’re still wanting to find that perfect vineyard site after reading this, then you either have carefully thought it all through and come to the conclusion that this is a financially feasible option for you. Otherwise, you’ve got the bug! Good luck finding your site, but definitely do your research.