Deal another 'lifestyle' purchase of a North Coast wine-related asset

[caption id="attachment_34289" align="alignright" width="300" caption="The 5,000-square-foot historic winery barn on the Saviez Vineyards property, seen here when the winery was operating. (click to enlarge; Bergman Euro-National photo)"][/caption]

NAPA VALLEY -- A couple who run a Southern California computer systems company purchased a small Napa Valley winery with a history going back to the early 20th century for $4.7 million in cash.

The Monday purchase of Saviez Vineyards by Frostfire Vineyards LLC, led by Michael and Sandra Davis, owners and top executives of Huntington Beach-based Applied Computer Solutions, was more about the "deluxe" potential for the 114-acre property than what was operational, according to deal broker John Bergman of Bergman Euro-National. Before the property was taken back by the lender a couple of years ago, a tasting room had been operating since 2007 in a converted home and a 5,000-square-foot historic barn needed significant upgrades for continued use of the 20,000-gallon winery permit.

"Lifestyle" buyers, or property purchasers interested in winery and vineyard properties more as a hobby than a business, have been not a major factor since the financial market meltdown in 2008, according to local deal brokers. Some have emerged in the past several months, such as the purchase of Moon Mountain Vineyard from Diageo Chateau & Estate.

"Wine sales are up. Grape sales are up. Buyers are coming out of the woodwork," said Mr. Bergman. "By the end of this year, you won't believe what will happen."

He represented the Davises and the property owner, Investor's Warranty of America Inc., an affiliate of Aegon USA Realty Advisors LLC that foreclosed on the property a couple of years ago. When the property was offered for sale this month, it received six bids -- each with a $1 million nonrefundable deposits and promise for a 10-day close of escrow with no contingencies.

The Davises purchased Allan and Nancy Mueller's "Villa de Provence" vineyard estate in Rutherford in December and we're looking for a winery presence to compliment that purchase, Mr. Bergman said.

The Davises have big plans for the Saviez property, located on the east side of Silverado at the intersection of Larkmead Lane.

"They want to make it a deluxe property," Mr. Bergman said.

The couple hired a local planning consultant to pursue permission from the county of Napa for additions to the property, including a new winery, a hospitality center shielded from Silverado Trail and wine caves.

Francois Saviez purchased 250 acres of land at the location in 1900. The winery and barn were completed in 1916, but the winery burned in a forest fire in 1946. The family started a vineyard management company in 1988 and started making wine again in 1997. A conditional winery permit was secured in 2002 and renewed in January of this year.