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Steep Price Might Be a Record for Napa Cabernet Land

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Feb 6, 2008 3:42pm ET

This might be one for the record books.

There have been bigger land deals in Napa Valley, both in terms of acreage and total value.

But depending on how you massage the figures, Jayson Woodbridge’s purchase of the Pickett Road Vineyard in California's Napa Valley this week goes down as one of the most expensive per-acre vineyard acquisitions in Napa history.

Woodbridge, the maverick owner and winemaker of Hundred Acre winery in Napa, said he paid $6 million for the Pickett Road Vineyard in Calistoga, which is next to Araujo’s Eisele Vineyard.

While the property is 115-acres, only 5 are currently in vine, Woodbridge said, which would make his per-acre price for vineyard land $1.2 million. He estimates he might be able to plant another 2 acres to vines and it’s possible he could also build a home or winery on the site, although he already owns one winery.

Woodbridge said he considered the property a “once in a lifetime” opportunity.

“It may sound a little crazy, but I have a lot of vintages of the Eisele [Cabernet] in my cellar and it’s [a great wine].” Pickett Road “is one of those things you come across once in a lifetime,” he told me today. Vineyards of this caliber are “few and far between,” he said, adding that he had looked at hundreds of vineyard sites in Napa in recent years and this had the greatest appeal, surpassing his interest in the prestigious J.J. Cohn Ranch, in Rutherford, which sold for an estimated $330,000 an acre in 2002.

“I just had to have it,” Woodbridge said. “I really bought it because I don’t get a chance to buy a piece of property like that very often. I’ve looked at hundreds of vineyards. Will this be a property that people will be talking about when my grandchildren are my age? And my answer is definitely yes.”

“I just don’t think I can go wrong with this vineyard.”

Hundred Acre “is a collection of very small, unique vineyards. I want Hundred Acre to be among the best, these little jewels that you work on your [entire] life and hand it off to your children.” The acquisition “doesn’t make short-term sense, but it makes long-term sense. I don’t view [this business] as short-term”

The vineyard was sold by Vine Cliff which, with its 2004 Cabernet Pickett Road earned a 94-point rating and sold for $150 a bottle.

Woodbridge also owns the 10-acre Kayli Morgan Cabernet vineyard in St. Helena, which is bottled under the Hundred Acre label, and the 16-acre Ark Vineyard, also planted to Cabernet, and located on Glass Mountain, site of his underground winery, which is called The Ring, due to its circular design.

He also owns vineyards and makes wine in Australia’s Barossa Valley, along with owning a label called Layer Cake, which produces value-oriented wine in Napa, Italy, Australia and Argentina.

With Pickett Road, Woodbridge said it’s too early to know exactly where it will fit in with his other Napa endeavors, though he expected it would be a single-vineyard estate. With 5 acres, and perhaps 10 to 12 tons of Cabernet, the vineyard could yield 600 to 800 cases.

Next: Woodbridge's Layer Cake wines.

Jordan Horoschak
Houston, TX —  February 7, 2008 9:39am ET
Wow, $6 million... well, I guess we now know where all our $200-per-bottle purchases at Hundred Acre went! But I think Jayson Woodbridge is skillfull enough to replicate an Araujo at Pickett Road. James, based on your barrel tasting of his 2005s (especially The ARK), do you agree that Jayson is developing into that kind of talent? And how is it that someone buys a 115-acre property, but only 5 are in vine (with possibly only 2 more to come)? Is this because the other 108 acres are totally unsuitable for planting?
James Laube
Napa, CA —  February 7, 2008 11:26am ET
Jordan, Woodbridge is making some excellent wines, though he, like others, is pushing ripeness to the edge, which has many risks. Most of the land is on unplantable terrain; as I recall it's quite steep and rocky. Many vineyard deals are cut on total land and plantable land, which is why there are fewer sites available not only in Napa but areas such as Sonoma Coast. Unless you're willing to pay for the long haul -- as Jayson indicates he is -- it's a passion play, not a "smart" business deal.

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