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Sarah Ward

Buying a Winery: 10 Ideas to Know Before Buying a Winery

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Of all the steps you’ll take towards starting a winery, buying a winery location is one of the most substantial. Without a space for your winery, your vines, and everything else, you don’t have a winery. Of course, all those other aspects are important, but they all feed into the main goal of buying winery property. From learning about working at a winery to purchasing and growing grape vines to learning how to sell wine by the glass, there’s plenty you’ll need to do beyond buying land. 

However, without the land, you won’t have a place to put those vines and employ those workers. Finding your location is one of the first things you’ll need to do after you’ve written up your winery business plan. The decision isn't one you should take lightly. There’s a lot of work and planning involved in finding your winery location, and we’ll help you make the best decision.

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How Much Does It Cost to Buy a Winery?

The cost to buy a winery can range from $600,000 to $3 million. If you’re opening up a backyard winery, your costs may remain under the $600,000 mark. You'd think the cost of how to open a bar is high, but not until you see the winery costs.

Whatever size winery you’re opening, you need to be prepared for a lot of expenses. From paying for the land and buying equipment to purchasing the best vines and paying your employees, the costs are high. 

Startup costs are important to get right for the long-term success of your winery. Investing in good vines, the best equipment, and workers who will grow with your winery pay the biggest dividends in the long run.

Opening a winery is a costly expense. The benefits down the road will outweigh the cost if you put the time and effort into your winery from the beginning.

10 Best Places to Buy a Winery

When it comes to choosing a location to buy a winery, the variables to consider include:

  • The climate and soil of a location
  • The current winery scene in that location

You want a good spot with the best climate for growing wine grapes and the right soil quality. However, similar to looking at starting one of the best bars, you also need to consider whether you’ll be starting something profitable, or fitting into a space that doesn’t need more wineries.

You’ll find Napa Valley on the latter list, but it’s a tough nut to crack. That's because there are so many wineries already flourishing there.

Our list of the 10 best places to buy a winery includes some spots you’ll expect. It also has some less likely options, since part of buying a winery revolves around creating a new space for wine lovers. 

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10. Monterey, CA

Monterey, CA, is more well-known for a product with a different bouquet than wine. Cannery Row remains a tourist staple of Monterey, but this little coastal town has been growing within the wine industry. If you’re looking for a spot with great potential and room to grow, Monterey is worth a look for your winery. 

9. Walla Walla Valley, OR

Walla Walla Valley, OR–on the border of Oregon and Washington–is no secret in the eyes of the wine world. Some of the best wines from the region come from Walla Walla. If you set your sights on this spot, you may find yourself with some competition, but it’s worth the work. 

8. Finger Lakes, NY

The Finger Lakes region in New York is another well-known, but somewhat underutilized winery location. There are plenty of wineries spread throughout the region, with some older, well-established names in the business settled in the area. However, there is room for new wineries to come make a name for themselves. You could even find yourself selling wine to The NoMad in New York.

7. Napa Valley, CA

This wouldn’t be a list of the best places to buy land for a winery without Napa. That said, Napa has been the center of US wineries for decades, and there’s only so much space in the valley. If you can find a spot, Napa is a great choice, but as this list shows, it’s not the only California option. 

6. Wallingford, CT

What springs to mind when you think of Connecticut? It could be any number of things. Would wine be on that list? It should be, with Wallingford, CT, being one of the most underrepresented spots in the wine industry. If you’re in Connecticut or close by, and you want to set up shop in a place with huge potential, check out Wallingford. 

5. Umpqua Valley, OR

Umpqua Valley, OR, is already on the map of great wine spots in Oregon. Some of the best wines you’ll find on the shelf have the Umpqua name somewhere on their labels. If you want to open an Oregon winery in a spot with great wine potential, Umpqua is one of the best. 

4. Sonoma County, CA

If you want the distinct flavor of California wine, Sonoma County could be the spot for you. Sonoma has the distinction of Napa, without the same amount of wineries already crowding the space. It’s still a popular location, so you might struggle to find the right land, but it’s worth a look. 

3. Newport County, RI

Newport County, RI, is another hidden gem in the East Coast wine scene. Rhode Island is known for a lot of wonderful attractions in a small space. The wine that comes out of Newport certainly fits that description. If you’ve dreamed of having a space to call your own in Rhode Island, a winery in Newport could be a perfect choice. 

2. Willamette Valley, OR

Oregon wine wouldn’t be the same without the wines that come out of Willamette Valley. This is another wine spot where you might struggle to find a space for your own winery (your wine storage might even be limited due to space). If you can, it’s well worth it. Some of the best wines in Oregon come out of Willamette Valley. 

1. Santa Barbara, CA

When you think of Santa Barbara, CA, wine isn’t necessarily the first topic on your mind. Some wineries have been changing that in recent years.

The potential for great wine in the Santa Barbara area has grown, and it’s no wonder why. Santa Barbara is situated in the perfect climate in California. It’s still developing with wineries, so you can get in now while the industry grows. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Buying a Winery

The process of buying a winery is nuanced. For first-time winery owners, there are a lot of moving parts, and questions that will come up along the way. For folks who are acquiring more winery space and people who work in the wine industry with winery owners, there are always more questions. These frequently asked questions are some common queries you’ll come across. 

Is a Winery a Good Investment?

Yes, a winery is a good investment. It may take several years for a winery to turn a profit (similar to bars and restaurants). However, once the profits take off, the sky's the limit. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: millions of people love drinking wine. It’s hard to imagine a world where wineries aren’t a good business investment. Winery owner profits (similar to bar owner profits) have huge potential.

How Much Does It Cost to Own a Winery?

The cost of owning a winery and operating it–per year–can range anywhere from around $300,000 to $3 million. The low millions side of the range is typically for huge wineries with a high production count and a large number of employees (perhaps including a sommelier). These numbers make sense when you consider the startup cost of a winery business, which ranges from $600,000 to the millions. 

What Should I Know Before Buying a Winery?

Before you commit to buying a winery you need to know the costs, how you’ll plan everything, and where you want to be located. However, aside from all those tangible needs, you should also know your reason for buying a winery.

In businesses, the need to know your drive, or your why, has been preached for ages. There’s a reason for that: knowing your motivation will keep you going when things get tough. Knowing your reason for buying a winery will help you through all the costs, wine marketing, wine pricing, planning, customer service work, wine inventory, and seasons of growing grapes. 

How Much Land Do You Need for a Winery?

The minimum size you need for a good-sized winery is five acres. In general, that’ll give you a space that fits 5,500 vines. Given the average count of one vine producing 10 bottles of wine, that will come out to around 55,000 bottles of wine per harvest. Of course, this can change if you have any issues with vines, or you produce different wine bottle sizes. 

Even though those numbers seem huge, five acres is the recommended land size for a smaller winery. If you’re looking to get into wholesale sales and expand your production (with online wine sales too), a minimum of 10 acres is recommended. 

Are Small Vineyards Profitable?

Small vineyards are profitable if you know what you’re doing with marketing and wine sales. When you’re producing less, you have to reach the right crowds, and do everything you can to get your bottles in the right hands. If you find the right buyers, you’ll have lifelong customers. 

Of course, if you market your small vineyard just right (bar promotions can be helpful ideas), you may find yourself in the position to expand in future years. You don’t have to expand, but the benefit of a small vineyard and winery is that you have lots of room to grow. You can go from selling wine directly off your wine rack to the shelves of Costco.

Can I Sell My Grapes to a Winery?

In short, the answer is yes, you can sell grapes to a winery. The long answer gets a bit more complicated.

A lot of wineries have their own vineyards, and you won’t necessarily find advertisements from wineries looking to buy grapes. However, plenty of wineries purchase grapes from folks who own medium to large vineyards. It’s all about finding the right buyer. You should also dive into wine shipping if you're planning to sell your grapes to a winery.

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Buying a Winery: The Cost of Good Wine

Finding your winery location will take time, effort, and a great deal of care. However, once you've found the right spot, everything else on your winery opening to-do list will be that much easier. Come back to the BinWise blog as you move through the list; we’ve got all your winery business needs. Whether you need to learn more about tannins in wine for tasting events, the best wine decanter to stock in your gift shop, or how many glasses are in a bottle of wine to promote your best wines, we've got you covered.

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