Cave B Winery Sale Deferred

Cool reception for Northwest winery auctions coincided with real estate downturn of 2008

by Peter Mitham
cave b
The March 15 auction of Cave B Estate Winery has been deferred.
Quincy, Wash.—The auction of the Cave B Estate Winery and resort property in Washington state’s Columbia Gorge has been deferred.

The property was set to go under the gavel at the Hilton Seattle Airport and Conference Center on March 15 in a sale managed by the auction services division of CBRE Inc. Offered on an as-is, where-is basis, the properties were headlined by the Cave B Inn & Spa and 25 adjacent yurts on 31.5 acres of land, as well as the 10-acre Cave B Winery and 269 acres slated for a master-planned resort community.

The minimum bid was set at $3.5 million.

Representatives of CBRE were unable to respond to requests for comment about the auction process by deadline. However, Amy Meyer, marketing designer for Cave B Inn and Estate Winery, confirmed that the auction had been deferred. “There is no news to report. We are in a quiet period,” she told Wines & Vines.

The history
Cave B owners Vince and Carol Bryan originally bought the 300-acre property overlooking the Columbia River in 1980. Development of the resort began in 2000, with Cave B following on Champs de Brionne Winery, a previous venture the Bryans established on the site in the 1980s. Champs de Brionne was eventually shuttered and an adjacent amphitheater sold, but the latest venture won kudos from Conde Nast Traveler and other tourism industry tastemakers.

While auctions typically aim to open properties to the widest range of bidders, in turn garnering the best possible interest and price for vendors, planned auctions of Northwest winery and development sites have met a cool reception since the real estate-fueled financial crisis of 2008.

Cave B is just the latest example.

Woodinville and beyond
Wines & Vines reported on last fall’s scheduled auctions of the Woodinville Wine Village site and the massive Daybreak property on Lake Chelan, but a sale did not occur in either case.

A trustee sale (a non-judicial foreclosure sale) of the Woodinville property is now scheduled for April 27 at 10 a.m. outside the King County administration building in Seattle.

Brian Carter Cellars was one of four wineries that bought a site in the village. The winery operates from leased premises adjacent to the village site, and winemaker Brian Carter told Wines & Vines this week that whatever happens with the property there is no indication of when the village itself will materialize.

Other wineries that planned to locate in the village included DeLille Cellars, DiStefano Winery and Washington Wine & Beverage Co. All continue to operate from space elsewhere in Woodinville.

Meanwhile, the Lake Chelan property, which has yet to be developed despite plans for a winery and other amenities to complement upwards of 800 residences, attracted interest from potential buyers in 16 states and even Canada. On auction day, however, offers weren’t enough to get the vendor to sell.

Tom Hoban, representative for Sperry Van Ness in Everett, Wash., told Wines & Vines that one of the parties that expressed interest during the fall returned in February with a stronger offer. It still failed to meet the vendor’s requirements, however, so the property remains for sale.

“The market for this type of property seems to be firming up, so we are hopeful we can help transact this beautiful and rare piece of property sooner than later,” Hoban said.

Sperry Van Ness CEO Louis B. Fisher III was blunt about the challenges of such properties when he spoke with Wines & Vines in fall 2011.

“(They’re) hoping to get somebody that’s willing to take a run at it, and are serious enough and have the wherewithal to meet the terms we’ve got for it,” he said. “The struggle, of course, from an investor’s or a developer’s perspective, is how long can I hold this before I can go vertical with it?”

‘Few and far between’
While the national housing market has shown signs of improvement in recent months, the second-home market continues to struggle.

The annual forecast for real estate markets published by the Urban Land Institute last fall didn’t mince words. Quoting respondents to its annual survey of industry professionals, the report observed: “A boatload of unsold inventory exists without a market,” prompting lenders to keep a tight rein on financing for new development sites.

“If you want to find an underserved market, try North Dakota,” the institute’s report concluded in its outlook for resort development in 2012. “The opportunities are that few and far between.”

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