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Putting Down Roots at a Vineyard

By September 21, 2016 February 26th, 2018 No Comments
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North Fork Real Estate, Sheri Winter Clarry representing Big E Farm Jeremy Garretson Photo

Putting Down Roots at a Vineyard

Wine operations for sale on Long Island could be good deals, llamas included

READ THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE- CLICK HERE
By LETTIE TEAGUE for the Wall Street Journal
Updated Sept. 20, 2016 8:58 p.m. ET

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Long Island’s North Fork has a healthy residential real-estate market right now: Demand is strong, fewer homes are for sale and prices are rising, according to reports from real-estate firms.

And yet prices for North Fork wineries and vineyards have been reduced. Would buyers be better off putting their money into the wine business instead?

The largest and priciest offering is the 200-plus-acre Big E Farm in Riverhead, N.Y., that includes multiple homes, a former Thoroughbred breeding farm, a large wedding venue and more than 100 acres of vineyards as well as the Martha Clara winery. The property went on the market just over two years ago for $25 million; today, the asking price is $20 million.

“We are selling a lifestyle and it’s a bonus that the winery is included in the sale,” said Sheri Winter Clarry of North Fork Real Estate, a broker with the Corcoran Group and the estate’s listing agent.

The day that Ms. Winter Clarry gave me a tour of the farm was the same day that owner Robert Entenmann, the former chairman of Entenmann baked goods and the founder of Martha Clara winery, had passed away. “I’m feeling a little emotional,” Ms. Winter Clarry said.

But Ms. Winter Clarry was upbeat about the farm’s many possibilities. “There are so many different options,” she said, with a sweep of her hand that took in the farm’s extensive vineyards and pastures where horses grazed.

The purchase price included the horses, Ms. Winter Clarry noted, offering to send me a “full inventory” of the animals that included Thoroughbreds, miniature donkeys and llamas.

Ms. Winter Clarry has toured the farm with many potential buyers, “from New England to Europe,” but the right one hasn’t come along yet.

The same holds true of Palmer Vineyards in Aquebogue, N.Y., which has been on the market since 2009, the year its founder, Robert Palmer, passed away. “We’re looking for someone with the passion to keep this going,” said Kathy LeMorzellec, Mr. Palmer’s daughter and the winery’s president.

Potential buyers from China, India and Japan have all visited the property but are perhaps scared off by the high cost of production and “the labor market in Long Island is a little scary,” said Ms. LeMorzellec.

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The size of the winery (around 11,000 cases) was probably a bit daunting as well. As Ms. LeMorzellec said, “We’re not a boutique.”

When Palmer Vineyards went up for sale, the price was $6.9 million for the winery, main house and 45 planted acres and $4.1 million for 48 planted vineyard acres and 3½ buildable acres in Cutchogue; today, it is $5.6 million and $1.5 million, respectively.

A third winery is for sale as well: Osprey’s Dominion in Peconic, N.Y., quietly went on the market in September 2014 for $20 million. The price has been reduced to $15 million. The package includes the winery, tasting room, 90 acres of vineyards and other buildings. (The winery’s founder, Bud Koehler, told me he preferred not to talk about the sale when I reached him by phone.)

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There are two vineyard options. The first is Southold Farm + Cellar in Southold, N.Y. Owned by Regan and Carey Meador, the restored farm house on 23.5 acres with nine acres of grapes is priced at $1.795 million, down from $1.899 million. The second is a 5,000-square-foot house in Cutchogue with a few acres of Pinot Blanc grapes owned by the principals of the Premium Wine Group; the price is just under $3 million, said the listing agent, Thomas McCloskey, of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, in Mattituck, N.Y.

Mr. McCloskey said the house itself is nice, but the vineyard acreage is what has generated the greatest interest. In fact, “buyers have inquired about acquiring additional acreage,” he said. The purchase, though, wouldn’t be a business but a “vanity project,” Mr. McCloskey said, adding that “none of the people looking at this property are going to pick their own grapes.”

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Perhaps business-minded buyers should look to Big E Farms and Martha Clara, where a thriving wedding business is booked all the way into next year.

“We will sell with the weddings in place,” said Ms. Winter Clarry. “So the brides don’t have to worry.” Not to mention all those horses, donkeys and llamas.

Write to Lettie Teague at lettie.teague@wsj.com[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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