Winemaking couple unable to afford Napa Valley instead buys French chateau

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The professionals who’ve dedicated their lives to the wine industry are increasingly unable to become winery owners in Napa’s expensive Wine Country.

Veterans of the wine industry have been forced to relocate, one couple going all the way to France.

After Diana Lucz and Steve Lawrence, who had careers in wine sales, realized that they couldn’t afford their own local winery, they impulse bought a French chateau instead, according to SFGate.

The 7-acre property with 5 acres of healthy, 63-year-old grapevines, a home, a working winery and a guest house, on the outskirts of Bordeaux, France cost them less than $500,000 in 2016.

In comparison, the same property in Napa Valley would cost about $8 million, according to St. Helena real estate broker Cyd Greer.

“We live a better life than most billionaires,” Lawrence told SFGate. “We’re living the lifestyle we always talked about living in Napa Valley.”

The low cost of real estate allows Lucz and Lawrence to sell their wine, which they export directly to the U.S., at a premium price. Their wine, which sells for about $17, is comparable to Napa Valley cabernet that sells for more than $50.

Part of the reason winery ownership is cheaper in Bordeaux, France than in Napa is that there is more than six times as much vineyard space. Napa also has minimum vineyard size requirements, which means small properties are rarely for sale.

The cost of owning a local vineyard is often too much for many of the managers, sales directors and winemakers of Napa Valley. Instead, these valuable properties are commonly owned by big wine corporations, private equity firms or wealthy out-of-area owners, according to SFGate.

“We would have stayed in California,” Lucz, who says she misses Napa, told SFGate. “It really was just a money thing.”

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