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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, November 7, 2011, 7:00 am

Commercial brokerages focus on wine

New Cornish & Carey group; Keegan & Coppin, others expanding efforts

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    Cornish & Carey Newmark Knight Frank's new Wine Services Group includes (from left) Brian Gleason, Kevin Foster and Preston Smith.

    Cornish & Carey Commercial Newmark Knight Frank agents Kevin Foster and Preston Smith in the Santa Rosa office and Brian Gleason in the Larkspur office were recently sanctioned by the worldwide network of brokerages as a specialty practice, called the Wine Services Group.

    The London-based Knight Frank part of the network already has such a group working with wine-related properties in Europe.

    “Its a transition time in the wine industry right now, so there are great opportunities,” Mr. Smith said.

    Because of the tough economy and a number of generational and ownership transitions, a number of vineyards and wineries are changing hands, mostly away from public notice.

    What makes wine industry deals more challenging than many other commercial properties are often complex analyses of brand value, inventory, distribution, storage and quality-related production, not to mention growing importance of environmental aspects, according to Mr. Smith.

    Currently, the team has about $15 million in listings, mostly in Napa and Sonoma counties, and is negotiating to market properties throughout the state. These contracts include lots in Carneros Business Park in Sonoma, subleasing Constellation Wines U.S.’s giant wine warehouse in Windsor and investors looking for wine-storage facilities, particularly in Napa.

    “Napa and Sonoma counties have a high concentration of sophisticated warehousing facilities that are night air-cooled and temperature-controlled — almost 20 million square feet of industrial space,” Mr. Gleason said.

    Mr. Foster brings knowledge of the lending industry from his previous work in mortgage financing and land development. Mr. Smith has been involved in industrial real estate for three decades. Mr. Gleason managed national real estate portfolios before joining Cornish & Carey.

    Other commercial real estate brokerages have been formalizing their approach to wine industry. Keegan & Coppin/ONCOR International has had a ranch and vineyard brokerage side of the business since 1976. An expanded wine team started coming together two years ago and now includes Kenneth O’Farrell, Bill Faherty and Dino D’Argenzio, all in Santa Rosa.

    Mr. O’Farrell, a close adviser to Jess Jackson’s wine ventures from 1990 to 2000, joined Keegan & Coppin in 2009 to take over for Mr. Mattern. Mr. Faherty, was in top local management of Wine Services Co-Op, Sonoma Wine Services and Western Wine Services from 1978 to 1990 and then entered commercial real estate, joining Keegan & Coppin in 1999. Mr. D’Argenzio has been with the brokerage since 1985 and has been involved with the wine industry through his brother Ray D’Argenzio’s winery.

    Last month, Sonoma-based Michael Crain Properties, Vineyard Advisors and Brokers became an affiliate of Wine Country Group by Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate last month.

    Though it doesn’t have a distinct wine group, Cushman & Wakefield of California’s North Bay team brokers many of the large wine-warehousing deals in Napa County.

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