Monday, November 23, 2009

The most expensive vineyard in the world?

What would you say was the most expensive vineyard in the world? It's difficult to tell, as the most valuable land is rarely - if ever - sold and prices tend not to be discussed openly. In the Napa Valley, where land can go for $200,000 or more per acre, the Screaming Eagle estate was recently sold for a rumoured price of $30 million. This included 60 acres, plus the brand and inventory. The wine sells for $750 a bottle on release, rising to thousands on the open market.

Surely the first growths of Bordeaux must be among the top contenders. Perhaps Lafite or Yquem, who respectively hold the titles for the most expensive bottles of red and white wine ever sold.

In Burgundy the arcane legal system means that land is even harder to get and surely no vineyard can be more expensive than Romanée Conti. Less than 5 acres in size, it hasn't changed hands in over 140 years. Individual bottles of the wine costs thousands of dollars on release and are snapped up almost instantly.

And then of course there's the Atherton vineyard.

Atherton's 94027 ZIP code is one of the most expensive in the nation. Though prices have declined by almost a quarter and it gave up the top spot to 07620 (Alpine, NJ), the median home sale price is still a massive $3.85 million according to a recent article on So the idea of a vineyard in Atherton may seem ridiculous, but to Ann Ramsay - whose family have owned the property since the 1920s - the land is part of the family. In 1994 she planted 2.5 acres with Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is made in small quantities yet is surprisingly inexpensive; it retails for up to $20, rising to $35-$40 in restaurants. The vineyard is north of the Santa Clara Valley AVA boundary and below the elevation of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, so falls under the San Francisco Bay appellation.

2007 Orchard Hills Atherton Vineyard Pinot Noir, San Francisco Bay AVA
Light garnet colour. Some initial burnt match funk soon blew off, revealing light cherry and cranberry. With time caramel notes emerged. Light bodied with good cherry fruit and bright acidity, and a good medium-length finish. Developed nicely in the glass. 89 Value. $20 at Vino Locale in Palo Alto.