A Busman’s Holiday

(A busman’s holiday is when a person goes and sees how others do his/her same job)

Having lived in Napa for 13 years and in Sonoma County for 14 years, working with vineyard and winery properties, I have received a great education of how the grapes grow. I have been exposed to how the vineyard is taken care of, how the harvest takes place and how the wine maker creates from what Mother Nature handed to him/her. I feel that it is truly an art form. Both Napa and Sonoma counties are unique unto themselves. Each has their own identity with their varied varietals. Every wine consumer has their own favorite varietal and that is what makes these beautiful areas so wonderful. We have pretty much the entire field covered when it comes to variety of wines to choose from.

Since I moved to the wine country (to Napa in 1987) I have learned a lot more about wine and the passion of the people that are involved in growing, making of, and marketing wines than I have ever known in the past. I have learned to have a great respect for these persistent professionals ever attempting to grow the best grapes possible and make the best wine that they can.

The end result of drinking the wine is the best part. Growing the grapes, making the wine, introduced to the public, and having it accepted by the majority of the consuming public is a difficult process.

The critics are hard to please. One call from the known, so-called “Expert in the Business”, can make that wine a success or cause the wine make to take a step back and try again. What an experience!


2014-09 Vineyard and Grape Values by Appellations.doc


No matter what your choice of these many wonderful varietals are to choose from, there are the good, the bad, and the ugly. For some reason, they all fall or rise to their retail price point based on the pallet of the consumer and the demand for that wine. Of course, your budget has a lot to do with your ability to take part in the process.

Having been here for over 26 years, I have had the honor of dealing with hundreds of professionals in both growing and producing wine. I have made many friends along the way. I find that every farmer and producer is different, and the same when it comes to the end result as to what they expect each harvest and introduction of the newest releases each year. We expect them to be the best.

I also have found, over the years, that everyone is on their own. Yet we in the wine industry, in one form or another, are all part of a great big family and we must work together in order that our local industry gets the support it needs to survive and exceed in the market place.


Back in 1987, vineyard values were (on average):
Napa County: $25,500 per acre
Sonoma County: $23,000 per acre

Now, just 26 years later, we are seeing in 2013 (on average):
Napa County: $225,000 per acre
Sonoma County: $85,500 per acre.

These increases in value add up to:
Napa = over 8.82 times appreciation in 26 years
Sonoma = over 3.72 times appreciation in 26 years

When will we hit the glass ceiling? Who knows? It’s remarkable to see that an average acre of Napa and Sonoma producing vineyard was worth around $1,000 per acre, in 1950. My, how times have changed!

I have been interested in knowing more about our neighbors to the North that make wine as well and decided to see and taste for myself.



As I had heard much about the Oregon wines, I decided to check things out.

My wife and I spent some time in the Willamette Valley, in Oregon last June on sort of a “Busman’s Holiday” checking out their Pinot Noir. They have established a good reputation and we found most of their wines are very good. The wines lean more towards the Burgundian, earthy, dry style wines like you would find in France, instead of fruit forward styled wines like what we, in Northern California, are familiar. I did, however, find 2exceptional wines from that area. One is called “Evening Land”, who will be opening their doors, in Healdsburg, as we speak. They also have a major winery in France and one in the Willamette Valley. They already have acquired a Pinot Noir vineyard in Occidental that they will be producing their own Estate wine. Watch for the “Evening Land” winery to become a new member to our esteemed Northern California Pinot family.


oregon-state-flower-65432_640We went back to Mc Minville in Willamette Valley, Oregon, in late July, to attend the International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC). There were Pinot Noir wines made from Willamette Valley, Australia, Austria, California, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand and Oregon. I discovered that our Russian River and Northern California Pinot Noir wines are the only ones with our unique fruit forward flavors. The rest of the world makes their wines more to the French styles. Nothing wrong with either one, but we have the edge on the fruit forward market.


While there, I did a little research of vineyard values. A producing acre of quality Pinot Noir vineyard is worth from $25,000 to $40,000 an acre. The rootstocks, clones and spacing are mostly the same. However their watering is much different as they get a lot more rain than we do, and all year long. Their hang time is longer but in the long run they produce a great wine in that beautiful valley.

We are seeing several of our Northern California wineries starting to buy large chucks of vineyard or potential vineyard land in that area and we are also seeing a great market influence of their product. I do feel that they are beginning to make a name for themselves and will grow as a premium wine making area in short order.

We enjoyed the people, the beautiful green rolling hills and Mountains, their wines, and the most delightful lodging in the Allison Inn, in Newburg, Oregon. Out of the top 10 wine country resorts in the world, it was voted number 4. The 3 higher-rated resorts were all in France. We are going back again next year and will keep an eye on their gaining ground.


However, I have to say that there isn’t a better place to live then right here in the Northern California wine country. We are very spoiled and we deserve it, and we are not moving out of this area, ever.


We are always looking for new vineyards, vineyard estates and wineries to sell, so if you may be thinking of selling, or if you may just want to get an idea of the value of your property, let me know if you would like a CONFIENTIAL evaluation of your property call and I will be happy to stop by and discuss your situation. John Bergman

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