“How to Own a Vineyard”

by Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines (Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, Red Côte)

jeff-smAt least that’s the title of the article by former Citigroup Chairman Richard Parsons. I found it on Blomberg business week. You can find it there too at http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-04-11/how-to-own-a-vineyard-by-former-citigroup-chairman-richard-parsons

I think a better title for the article would be “How to own a Vineyard if you happen to be the former chairman of Citigroup and are worth hundreds of millions of dollars”.  And if you happen to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, whether or not you are the former chairman of Citigroup, this article may give you some insight on how to go about establishing a vineyard.  Because if you start with a few hundred million dollars in your bank account, then some of the more annoying little things about owning a vineyard, such as selling what you produce, really aren’t that big a deal.

Parsons starts his article by dealing with what comes first and foremost: “the first thing to consider is where you want to be.” Excellent advice, again, if you’re crawling in loot.

For those of us who don’t have a few hundred million dollars lying around, though, the first thing to consider is, “How the hell am I going to sell the stuff?” The “stuff” may be grapes, or it may be wine, or it may be some combination of the two. But either way, you have some “stuff”, which damn well better get itself “sold”.

Apparently, it’s not all fun and games, though. There’s some hard work to be done. “I’m here in early October when the grapes are harvested. We pick grapes. It’s fun. That’s how you know what you have. I get involved in the blending, the aging.”  I’m glad that he knows what he has at the time of harvest, because I sure as hell don’t. No one really knows what they have at harvest, although they can make some, perhaps pretty good, educated guesses.  But I’ve certainly been wrong before, and will be again.

But Parsons continues:  “I get involved in the blending, the aging.”  Not sure what he means about getting involved in the “aging”. The only “aging” that I get involved with is my own personal aging. And I don’t seem to be much more than an involuntary observer of that. As far as I can tell, my wines seem to age pretty much on their own without too much help from me.

But I guess, bottom line, grape growing is a pretty different experience if you’re looking at it to make a reasonable return on your investment. I doubt very much that that was too much of a concern for Parsons.

So, at any rate, I wish Mr. Parsons the best of luck with his venture.  Though I’m sure he doesn’t need it.

I am sure that putting down big bucks to buy a Brunello vineyard isn’t a bad way to start. I would guess that he’ll make this small return on his investment, but even if he doesn’t, I’m sure he doesn’t really care all that much.

I just hope that nobody that reads his article comes away with the impression that it is remotely related to how life is in the real wine business.

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2 Responses to ““How to Own a Vineyard””

  1. Always nice to see commentary on the blogosphere from another grower who can actually speak to a REAL day in the life of a vineyard owner. I’m having so much “fun” going after wineries for $33,062.50 still owed to me on the “stuff” from 2012 and 2009 harvests while nervously chewing my nails and running the numbers on my 2013 operations budget - and at the same time working towards retrieving the $7,560 owed to me by my “neighbor” for the pressurized 6 inch mainline they broke and replaced with a cotter coupling only to be asked by my attorney for a retainer to fight the 6 inches my three olive trees extend over my “neighbors” property line, never you mind the 6 feet of french drain they’ve illegally run across the very same property line and into my drain tile. And then there’s the paperwork involved with the insurance claim(s) on the Ag theft that occurred two months ago and the 65 vines I lost 1 year ago to a lunatic who launched his truck into my reservoir because he was “having a bad day”. I am having so much “fun” I can barely stand it. Happy Tax Day Mr. Parsons. Jeff, tip of the hat to you this 2013 growing season.

  2. Well said Jeff, and well commented Thomsons! I’ve been intending to write a similar reality check on how to start a winery / wine label. This cracked me up and I will share widely with all my wide eyed winery dreaming friends, who don’t share the weight of the $100m burden.

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