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Essential considerations when buying a California winery

Owning a winery in California conjures images of rolling vineyards and clinking glasses – not to mention the satisfaction of crafting a world-class vintage. While the allure is undeniable, the reality of buying and operating a winery is a bit more complex. 

Before you take the plunge and commit to the purchase, ensure you have considered the potential pitfalls of buying a winery.

Market fluctuations 

The wine market is susceptible to trends and consumer preferences. A variety in high demand today may not be tomorrow, possibly affecting sales and profitability.

Climate worries 

California weather patterns are prone to change and could threaten grape yields and quality. Weather issues like droughts, wildfires and unexpected frosts can devastate crops.

Regulatory challenges

Winery owners must navigate a complex web of local and federal regulations governing everything from water and pesticide usage to labeling and distribution – a costly and time-consuming process.

Operating costs

Running a winery is expensive. From labor to equipment to marketing, costs add up quickly, and it may take years to turn a profit.

Water rights

Another consideration is the difficulty obtaining water rights in California’s dry climate. These rights are only granted by the State Water Resources Control Board – the stronger your application, the better your odds of securing water rights.

Tips for success

To ensure a smooth transition and avoid hidden problems, delve into the winery’s history. Examples of what to investigate include:

  • Production history and sales data going back several years
  • Land condition, including soil quality and potential water sources 
  • Existence of pending lawsuits or compliance violations
  • Profitability and debt levels for the past several years

Legal guidance may also prove invaluable. Your representative can ensure your business decisions are sound, your contracts airtight and the odds of making your winery dreams come true are positive.