2015 was a banner year for Napa County land values, with the price of a prime acre of Napa Valley vineyard rising 14.8 percent, according to a report by the California Chapter of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers.
To own a piece of the choicest land on the valley floor, a buyer will have to pay an average of $310,000 per acre, compared to $270,000 in 2014.
“The wine grape vineyard market continues to operate in a universe of its own,” wrote Janie Gatzman, ARA, co-chairwoman of the report. “The reigning darlings of the industry — nut crops and premium wine grapes — posted record prices.”
“We definitely have a unique combination of microclimate and soils that produces world-class wine grapes,” said David Ashcraft, broker and founder with Vintroux real estate.
Ashcraft said the Napa County averages are just an indicator of vineyard values.
“Actual sales can go even higher,” said Ashcraft. “There’s a lot of nuance in the process of valuing those types of properties,” such as soils, water, age of the vineyard, root stock, accessibility and the pedigree of the parcel.
Ashcraft said buyers of premium properties come from a variety of places including Napa Valley, the Bay Area, Silicon Valley and “we’re seeing a lot of interest from the Chinese and other parts of the world.”
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“There is super-high demand for high-end premium cabernet acreage,” Ashcraft said. “High net worth individuals and wineries are on the hunt. Cab is king in Napa County.”
According to the report, 2015 saw strong performance in the premium wine segments, with wines priced above $20 per bottle selling well.
Napa’s proximity to Bay Area employment centers and its idyllic rural atmosphere increases market interest from wineries and growers, as well as financial and lifestyle investors.
In 2015, Napa wineries generally saw good profitability, with many able to increase their bottle prices, the report said.
The report noted that a major concern today is that Napa is effectively planted out, which is reflected in increasing land and vineyard prices. Today, most of the valley floor and readily developable hillside parcels are already planted, with little additional land available to develop. Also, there is increasing governmental regulations limiting vineyard developments in the hills surrounding the Napa Valley.
This is having an impact on supply and demand for existing properties, and is driving prices higher, according to the report’s authors.
The primary buyers have been local growers and investors looking to control more Napa fruit, as well as Chinese investors looking to ship wine back home.