Wine Country Living
PALACE Magazine|Issue 20

From lifestyle properties to fully functioning farms, a variety of options await buyers seeking a home in wine country.

ABOUT AN HOUR NORTH OF SAN FRANCISCO, the fields are draped in rows of deep green vines, the sky is a clear cobalt blue and a crisp breeze rolls in from the coast, rustling the oak and olive trees. This is Napa Valley, known predominantly as California’s leading wine region, though its enviable lifestyle and Mediterranean climate also make it an increasingly popular place to own property.

“The real estate market took off in a big way around 2010,” says Mathew Cook, a partner at MJC Development who builds turnkey vineyard homes in the area. “Prices went from USD 800 per sqft to USD 1,200 per sqft in a period of five years.” Today, Cook says prices are up to USD 1,500 per sqft. At just 30 miles long and a few miles wide, Napa has a limited supply of homes and benefits from proximity to the Bay Area’s robust job market. Since 2012, property prices in Napa have increased by 57%. Over this time, MJC Development has tapped into a demand among well-heeled buyers for luxurious, hassle-free homes and built properties designed for seamless indoor and outdoor living.

Their latest property is a 10,000 square foot barn-like structure that shimmers white against the surrounding vines. Outside in the courtyard, palm trees sway above the saltwater pool. Inside, the home comes fully furnished and has four bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms, an expansive kitchen, dining room, wine cellar and library. There is also guesthouse and a two-car garage.

The property, which is listed for USD14 million, sits on five acres of land, three of which are planted with Chardonnay. The owners currently lease the grapes to a local farmer who cultivates and produces the wine and they take a percentage of the profits, but buyers can also opt to start their own label. This has become a popular practice in the area particularly after former NBA star Yao Ming bought a vineyard in Napa in 2011 and established Yao Family Wines. The buzz he created has also brought an increasing number of Asian investors to the area—about a dozen wineries have sold to Asian investors in the last few years.

But although Napa attracts its share of oenophiles, not everyone who buys a house in wine country wants to make wine. “About 50% of our buyers care about the grapes,” Cook says. “And the other 50% want to live among the grapes and the vineyard landscapes.”

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