Does it sound like crazy advice to say, “BUY A VINEYARD”? Where are vineyard for sale? If so, I hope you’ll think again after I tell you what happened to me and my husband when we landed in Argentina for the first time.
A few years ago, we began our venture to retire overseas, and like many Americans who are searching for more, we had compiled our short list of potential countries. Mexico was number one because of its close proximity to the US, and as much as we smiled and said to each other, “Honey, this is it!” in our hearts, we silently knew it wasn’t Mexico, so we moved on.
We cast our net a little further south to Central America and visited Belize, Panama and Roatán (Honduras). They all were wonderful places to visit, but not to live. We were starting to wonder if all our efforts were an exercise in futility until . . .
Fate happened! Tom was invited to Buenos Aires to be a guest speaker at an Uruguay Real Estate conference and we said, “Why not?” Argentina was on our list anyway, and we had planned to visit, one day.
Talk about love at first sight! There was something about Buenos Aires that just reached out and grabbed our souls the minute we landed. The teeming excitement of the city, the lure of the tango and the incredible warmth and resilience of the people were just too much for us mortal retirees to resist. We had found our new home.
This epiphany paled to what was to come next. Beyond our wildest imagination we suddenly realized we hadn’t just found a new home, we had discovered paradise, a dream come true.
Coming from California, Tom and I had fantasized of owning a vineyard in Napa Valley in our younger years, but as we all know, life has a way of dimming dreams, and time has a way of stealing the details, so our dreams of owning a vineyard faded with the passing years, that is, until we landed in Mendoza, the capital of the Mendoza Province. And oh what a first impression, as far as the eyes could see, vineyards stretched into the distant horizons. We both felt we had died and gone to heaven.
Mendoza Province, the heart of Argentina’s wine country, has over a 1,000 vineyards and wineries that produce 70% of all Argentinean wines and 40% of all South American wines, so we knew we had our homework cut out for us. We hit the ground running, and with unbridled excitement ventured to the nearest real estate office announcing to a not-so-understanding real estate agent that we had to have one; we had to own our very own vineyard.
The search for our special “terrior” began. Off we hustled, scurrying over the beautiful countryside inspecting vineyard after vineyard. Quickly, we came to the conclusion that vineyards are like snowflakes and that no two are alike, i.e. location, price, size, grape type, producing, non-producing, all were integral components of the vineyard puzzle.
We took a deep breath to decide what mattered most to us. After much deliberation, we found the ideal property and purchased 108 acres of undeveloped land in San Rafael, a quaint city of 100,000 residents and a pleasant 2½ hour drive through the wine country south of Mendoza. The bucolic sentiment and pastoral landscape truly took us back in time to California’s Napa Valley, as it was 40 years ago. And I might add, the cost of our acreage was also the price of Napa Valley land 40 years ago.
Our task of planting a vineyard was intimidating, but we knew we had excellent neighbors. On one side, our neighbors had 100 acres of Plum trees. There were 100 acres of Peach trees on the other side, and across from our vineyard entrance were 200 acres of various premium grapevines including Chardonnay. Not many cars pass by our property, just chatting children walking or riding bicycles home from school or an occasional worker in his old pickup truck filled with his vineyard tools and faithful dog. From our perspective, the setting was perfect.
If you are ‘city folks’ like us, then looking down one mile of raw land is . . . well, scary. We selected this particular piece of land for its country location, yet it’s close proximity to town, only eight miles away, and especially because the soil had received an excellent report from our Agronomist (Soil Engineer). For many years, the 108 acres had been a thriving Apricot orchard and still, on five acres of the land still rested fifty weathered apricot trees that always seemed eager to welcome us back each time we returned.
As word spread regarding our purchase, we were asked by friends and associates if we could carve out a little piece of our heaven and sell them a boutique vineyard. And unlike those of us who lived in Argentina, these interested fellow vineyard and wine lovers asked if we could also manage their vineyards and asked if they could stay with us when visiting.
Planting over a hundred acres of vineyards is a million dollar endeavor, even in Argentina, and the concept of selling boutique vineyards caught our attention as the best way to financially approach the task. And as far as offering a place for our visiting vineyard owners to stay while they walked between their rows of grapevines, well, we had an answer. We had spent a few days at an incredible Estancia outside of Buenos Aires, and it so captured the ambiance we wanted that we decided we would build a large five bedroom, five bath replica of it on our property nestled among the five acres of apricot trees. Included, would be a swimming pool and communal garden. Visitors and vineyard owners would always be welcomed as guests in our Argentine home.
Our first pioneer vineyard owner was a Canadian who lives in Ecuador; he purchased 8.5 acres instructing us to plant 4.25 acres of Malbec and 4.25 acres of Chardonnay. Next, came a young filmmaker from Holland who purchased a 5 acre Malbec vineyard, followed by a family from the US, the wife is Peruvian, the husband a Californian, who also bought a 5 acre Malbec vineyard, and then another American from Maryland who purchased a 5 acre Malbec vineyard.
From the beginning, we were encouraged by a friend and international real estate expert who visited our project to reserve acreage for a Wine Club vineyard. So, we set aside 14 acres for our Wine Club vineyard and planted Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Chardonnay. Today, we have an international membership.
Because the size of our project requires a 24/7 onsite worker, a worker’s house was necessary, so we began construction in July 2009, and the following September, Segundo our vineyard worker and his family, moved into their new residence.
To insure that all aspects of maintaining and nurturing a vineyard were handled properly, we hired a top notch staff; vineyard workers, vineyard manager, Agronomist, Enologist (winemaker) and Argentine CPA to make sure all our paperwork was properly processed.
With much anticipation, in mid August 2009, we planted our first 32 acres.
As we stood there and watched our vineyard come to life, we cannot tell you what an experience it was to gaze upon a half a mile of land where dozens of men labored in the sun and huge tractors raked and leveled the land. Then, thousands of posts and miles of wire arrived and were installed. Water is the source of all life and seeing it course back and forth, filling the hundreds of irrigation furrows, you must pay homage to nature and all its bounty. Finally, tens of thousands baby grapevines were delivered and tenderly planted and immediately began their path of life up the trellis wires. By March 2010, many of the grapevines were three to five feet in height and carefully tethered to the trellis wire.
It doesn’t get better than that . . . until this approaching August 2010, when we will repeat the age-old process again, and plant the second half of our development with additional 2½ and 5 acre boutique vineyards.
At the end of our project, there will be a mile of vineyards for all to enjoy, and in the near future, there will also be great wine to share with our friends and loved ones.
So, maybe I’m not crazy, rather, grateful that I had a chance to fulfill my dream in my retirement years. If my story rekindles your dream of wanting to have your own vineyard, I can only implore you, ‘don’t just think about it, but take action-do something now!’
As the renowned wine critic Robert Parker, Jr., (who rated many Argentine Malbec wines in the mid to high 90s) stated, “The stage is set for Argentina to become a major force in the wine industry . . ..”
There is also strong economic support present with Argentinean wine exports to the US increasing 43% in 2007, 41% in 2008 and 39% in 2009.
People are coming from all over the world to Mendoza Province to put their hands in the dirt and create their own wines. That is why we are building our own La Vida Buena Bodega (winery) right on the vineyard property, to insure the quality of the wine and the affordability of producing it.
Mendoza rests squarely on the world wine map and is bursting at the seams with new wine- making enthusiasts. Don’t let the vineyard train pass you by. If this has been a lifelong dream of yours, as it was for us, then I encourage you, get aboard and contact us for more information. You’ll definitely like the ride . . . but, you’ll LOVE the destiny.
We would love to share our experience with you and we look forward to having you as a future guest at our estancia where we can sit around the parilla, enjoying a traditional “asado” and drink our very own wine, and if you’re lucky, there may be tango dancing and you can get out there and kick up your heels!
Tom and Yvonne Phelan
For more information about owning your very own boutique vineyard, pictures, Plat Map with Pricing and Pro-forma please look at the listings for Vineyards for Sale on Escapeartist.com.