So you want to start a vineyard, eh?

Even after our thoughts started to centre around vineyard as our retirement dream, all sorts of other confusing choices start to surface. Things like Location, size, “build or buy”, affordability all start to play into the mix.

We started with location. This was the easiest decision, and was heavily influenced by Liz and John Lawrence who had already moved to the Naramata Bench in the Okanagan Valley, and we had spent a fair bit of time there already. After looking at a number of available places (in the context of what you can afford) you kind of have to make a decision whether you are going to build or buy. We decided we did not want the stresses of building. This in itself limits the choices considerably, because most of the established vineyards either have “tear-down” houses with lots of land or new houses which were far too expensive. Even if the houses are derelict, you have a hard time convincing a seller that it actually has a negative value.

We ended up with two possibilities with renovated houses on them. One was on a 5-acre lot with established vines, and the other on a 2-acre plot which had previously had an orchard on it, but the orchard had been removed. The prices were not that far apart, and the larger property would have been the logical choice, but the more thought we gave it, the more we came to believe that the smaller place would be more manageable for us in our old age. There was space for up to 2000 vines which we could expect to produce approximately 5-tons from, and this in turn should produce enough revenue to qualify for “farm-status” and associated tax breaks. Costs would wipe out most of the profit, but it should be break-even at worst.

The only problem with how we went about all this is that by narrowing down your choices to fit your objectives, you end up with one option and zero bargaining power. No doubt we paid too much for it as a result, but that is the way it goes.