Newcomers juice wine land values  

April 30, 2006 Democrat & Chronicle

Amy Wu
Staff writer

(April 30, 2006) Husband-and-wife team Michael Schnelle and Nancy Irelan looked at land in California and Washington state to start Red Tail Ridge Winery and Rogue Vineyard. The West Coast couple ended up a bit farther away: on a 34-acre plot that overlooks Seneca Lake.

They loved the beauty of the Finger Lakes and the lifestyle of area vintners, and sensed the promise of the local industry. It was the price, though, that sealed the deal. At roughly $2,500 an acre for the land, plus the house, the final price tag was only $147,000.

"We wanted to do this on our own, really, and if we had wanted to do it with investors, we would have considered other options," said Irelan, 45, a former vice president at E&J Gallo.

Although undeveloped land in the Finger Lakes is still plentiful, it's sometimes hard to find. Property specialists say that prime land is often unlisted.

Brian Hawley, co-owner of Keuka Appraisal Services Inc., said as soon as property is available, "that probably goes through the (wine) community pretty quickly."

John Martini of Anthony Road Wine Co. in Penn Yan, Yates County, said finding good land means being a part of the wine buzz. "When I look for land, I call the people in the area. I know most of the people in the area," said Martini, who doesn't rely on real estate agents.

It is a seller's market. Marcia Wagner, a real estate agent, hopes to sell her 17.3-acre property near Seneca Lake with a sprawling house for $899,000. "I've been getting calls from all over, including two from California, one from Italy," said Wagner, who is downsizing to a condo. "Someone could easily plant 14 acres of grapes out there."

Across from Anthony Road, 20 acres, at $10,000 an acre, received a half-dozen inquiries in its first six days on the market. "Within the next five years, there will be grapes and a winery on it," said Jim Moon, an agent with Century 21. "It's probably at the higher end, but it's still very much fair market value. ... Ten years from now, we will look back, and say, 'I can't believe in 2006 someone was able to buy something on this wine trail route, and they only had to pay $10,000 an acre.'"  


Wine land menu (Costs per acre)

$4,500 to $10,000
Bare land to vineyard land in the Finger Lakes region.

$55,000 to $200,000
For vineyard land in Napa County, Calif., and from $65,000 to $85,000 in nearby Sonoma County.

$20,000 to $40,000
For vineyard land along California's central coast.

$4,000 to $20,000
For bare land in Washington and much of the Pacific Northwest, and an average of $10,000 an acre for land with water rights.

$55,000 to $60,000
For bare land in Long Island's wine region, also home of the Hamptons, the popular vacation destination.

$20,000 to $30,000
For bare land in the Hudson Valley (boosted by development of homes there).  

What's growing?

Here's a comparison of how much acreage is devoted to what crop in the state, based on those acres planted in 2005, the latest year in which a full comparison can be done, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service:

Apples: 45,000 acres of bearing trees.

Grapes: 31,000 acres of bearing vines.

Sweet corn (processed): 19,400 acres.

Sweet corn (fresh market): 30,000 acres.

Potatoes: 20,500 acres.

Onions: 13,800 acres.


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