Have you ever dreamed of owning your own vineyard property?  Look no further - here in Santa Barbara County we are blessed with world-class winegrape growing conditions.  The great winegrowing regions of the world, from the Napa Valley to Burgundy to Piemonte to our own Santa Ynez Valley, are all marked by warm days paired with cool nights during a long growing season.  The cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean extends inland through the east-west oriented Santa Rita Hills into the Santa Ynez Valley, offering a range of temperatures from the relatively cool Sta. Rita Hills AVA in the west, known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, to the relatively warm Happy Canyon AVA in the east, known for Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.  

As Santa Barbara’s presence in the world of wine becomes more prominent, it is attracting top-notch winemaking talent, press, and investment.  Yet, as one explores the golden hills and valleys within Santa Barbara’s north county, the relative lack of development, presence of open space, and vibrant ranch and horse culture stand out alongside vineyards growing in their prestige.   The growing and vibrant wine industry’s supporting role within the Santa Ynez Valley stands in contrast to the vineyard mono-culture of the Napa Valley.  As the world market for fine wine grows, with rapidly expanding demand in China, opportunities for new planting abound.

Prospective vineyard buyers are quickly faced with a number of questions that frame their search:

  1. Is this a lifestyle purchase or a business opportunity?  Owning a home with a view, a few acres planted to vines, contracting out the farming, and keeping one ton of grapes to make wine is one thing. Buying 50 acres of raw land, planting and farming it with the intention to make wine, and building a brand is another.  
  2. If there is a business component, is it important for the business to be profitable?  For a fair number of your competitors in the wine business, profitability will be a secondary concern.  If the business is not profitable, will the other benefits (lifestyle, tax advantages, etc.) be enough?  
  3. Will you be primarily a grapegrower or winemaker?  There are vineyard owners who sell all of the grapes they grow, winemakers who buy all theirs, and folks who do both in house, and everywhere in between.
  4. What type grapes would I like to grow and/or what style of wine would I like to make?  While there is always room for the pioneering spirit, the most acclaimed wines from the following official and unofficial areas have been as follows:
  • Santa Rita Hills:  Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah
  • Los Alamos:  Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir
  • Santa Maria Valley:  Pinot Noir, Chardonnay
  • Ballard Canyon:  Syrah, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc
  • Santa Ynez:  Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah
  • Foxen Canyon:  Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah
  • Happy Canyon:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Viognier

As the search moves beyond the conceptual stage, it is important for prospective vineyard buyers to assemble a team of professionals to advise them throughout the process.  The first of these should include:

  • Realtor 
  • Vineyard Manager/Consultant
  • Financial/Tax Advisor
  • These team leaders should be able steer the buyer to local resources in:

  • Soils Engineering/Geology
  • Land Use/Compliance
  • Winemaking
  • Legal
  • Architecture
  • Other

David McIntire is a Realtor with Village Properties, Santa Ynez.  He has winemaking and winebusiness experience from the Napa Valley to New Zealand to the Santa Ynez Valley, and holds degrees in Enology and Viticulture.  Keep up to date with Wine Country Real Estate news.  Please “Like” David’s Facebook Page to follow the latest happenings at:  www.facebook.com/WineCountryRE