The Financialist published a story a couple of weeks ago that reminded me of an interview I had winemaker Lucas Meeker give me on this very subject, a little over a year ago. If you have any thoughts about opening your own winery, you need to read my four-part “Thinking of Opening a Winery in Napa? You Should Probably Read this First…” series.
The Financialist story reads:
Owning a vineyard is a common fantasy for 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 typically not one of them.
According to a study conducted by UCD, owning a vineyard in Napa 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 profits will be around $3,700 per acre each year. With 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.
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.
I’ve heard a lot of wine drinkers tell me that they want to get into the “winery game,” but I usually just have to switch-off and stop listening. The reason being is that I’ve been in the restaurant industry my whole life, and have had to put up with people saying the same thing about opening their own restaurant, i.e.: “I can cook! I LOVE cooking for my friends! I’ll open a restaurant! How hard can it be!?!?” is akin to winemakers having to hear: “I have an exquisite palate for wine! I love drinking wine with my friends! I’ll open my own winery! How hard can it be!?!?” People very quickly forget that self-contained wineries are farms, and that owning one requires you to get your hands a little dirty.
I think you’d be surprised at how hard both the aforementioned industry’s are. I’ve worked for a couple of different independent restaurant owners who seriously thought that all they would be doing is sitting at the end of the bar, drinking wine and schmoozing all night. So many people “have a go” at their own restaurant, mainly because the barriers to entry are so low (they’re cheap to startup), and I guess the one saving grace with vineyards is that they are so expensive to buy and maintain, otherwise I have no doubt that we would see a lot more people giving their own winery a shot.