Schoolhouse tasting room for sale near Avila

Salisbury Vineyards property is on the market at an asking price of $2.75 million

jhickey@thetribunenews.comJune 26, 2012 

Correction: In an earlier version of this story, Maridel Salisbury's name was misspelled.

The Salisbury Vineyard’s Schoolhouse tasting room, visible from Highway 101 near Avila Beach, is for sale for $2.75 million. The Salisbury family chose to put it on the market this month to take advantage of demand, pay down debts and simplify life, owner John Salisbury said.

He and his wife, Maridel, both turn 70 this year.

Prospective buyers are making offers for more than just the schoolhouse, and Salisbury is considering selling the “whole package.” That would include the Salisbury Brand, its wine club and a 10,000-case inventory, and a transfer of its long-term lease of 15 acres of vineyards.

After two short growing years, the wine surplus has vanished and distributors are scrounging for wine, so demand is up and it’s a good time for him to sell, Salisbury explained.

“There are booms and busts, and we (farmers) take advantage of them,” Salisbury said.

This sale will not be the first calculated move for John Salisbury, a sixth-generation California farmer who still owns 40 acres of land in the Sacramento Delta, where he started off farming pears, asparagus and tomatoes. He came to the Central Coast in the mid-1990s and started a custom harvesting company — purchasing, developing and then reselling grape-growing properties.

Salisbury purchased the schoolhouse in 2000, and in the same year started planting wine grapes at a 40-acre property he bought off San Luis Bay Drive in Avila Beach.

The winery saw much success, but in 2009, Salisbury Vineyards LLC, one of several companies owned by John Salisbury and his family, entered bankruptcy protection after attempting to purchase a 113-acre property the family had been leasing in Avila Valley.

Obtaining long-term financing took longer than expected, and Salisbury Vineyards couldn’t meet its short-term loan obligations. Ownership of the land reverted to the seller, Rob Rossi, in 2011.

Salisbury Vineyards produces about 3,000 to 5,000 cases per year. If the family only sells the schoolhouse, where 95 percent of its wine sales are made, then the next step will be to focus on marketing its wines to other outlets.

The winery recently agreed on a contract with Vons, and is in negotiations with another grocer.

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