There's no question that North Coast vineyards and wineries have been changing hands at a record pace. But buyers, beware: Not everything that's up for sale makes a good buy, experts say.
A panel of some of the industry's most active winery and vineyard buyers on Thursday revealed the things that can turn them off to a deal. The discussion was part of the Wine Industry Conference hosted by the North Bay Business Journal, which drew more than 450 wine executives on Thursday.
One deal-breaker panelists agreed on: There are too many vineyards with pesky mansions on the property.
"One of the biggest impediments I've seen to local vineyard deals . . . is that inevitably, someone's built a $3 or $4 million house on it," said Jeff Wesselkamper, president of Jackson Family Investments.
"If you want to take an attractive asset and make it hard to sell, that's a good plan. That's almost a liability for us," he said. "We have multimillion-dollar houses coming out of our ears."
Bill Foley, owner of Foley Family Wines -- an executive who's more likely to buy hard assets than most -- agreed.
"Every time I look at a vineyard it has a house on it, which really screws it up," Foley said.
Another turn-off for Foley: vineyards or brands that are heavily damaged and need too much work.
"I'm trying to avoid a distressed vineyard that needs to be completely replanted, because it's all about timing. . . . Three years later you finally get a crop," Foley said.
That doesn't trouble all buyers.