Napa Valley Insider Newsfeed | 2018 Recap


Thank you to everyone who wrote to tell me how much you have been missing my newsletters. After a five month break I am back and happy to share with you that after eleven wonderful years in the Sotheby’s International Realty network, traveling and building relationships with luxury property specialists across the globe, I have joined Compass. I will continue to maintain the fabulous relationships I have built with Sotheby’s agents across the globe to assist my clients wanting to acquire and sell their international assets.

Compass was founded in 2012 by Robert Reffkin and Ori Allon. They have raised 1.2 billion dollars in investment capital from Softbank, Fidelity, Wellington Management, Goldman Sachs, IVP, Advance Publications, Founders Fund, Kenneth Chenault, Chairman and CEO of American Express, Marc Benioff, Chairman and CEO of Salesforce and LeFrak.

The real estate industry is going through an extraordinary period of disruption, not unlike what occurred with the arrival of Uber, Lyft and AirBNB. There a lot of new, big, fresh ideas coming out of Silicon Valley, and venture capitalists are liking what they see, as agents and their buyers and sellers embrace the changes and technology.

In 2018 Compass went from 2,100 agents to 8,000, 477 employees to 1,500, 37 markets to 122, 62 offices to 238, from 370 million dollars in revenue to 900 million, from 15 billion in sales volume to 35 billion. It is the country’s fastest-growing luxury real estate technology brokerage firm and is dominating the luxury market in 80 cities around the country. In August 2018, Pacific Union International, a leading luxury brokerage firm in California merged with Compass.

Our CEO Robert Reffkin is an impressive and inspiring leader. He is a Columbia graduate and was Gary Cohen’s Chief of Staff at Goldman Sachs. Prior to Goldman Sachs, he worked at Lazard and McKinsey & Company. In 2005, he was appointed as a White House Fellow to serve as special assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury.

I’m excited to be a Founding Agent in Napa Valley and am looking forward to mixing it up and learning from the employees who come from companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, Pinterest and Nasa.

I know you want to hear how the luxury market is performing. The ultra-high end moved in strides from St. Helena to North Napa in 2018. Calistoga consistently broke sale price records throughout the year, closing out with a 8.3 million dollar sale, the highest priced residential sale in its history. I am happy to report that buyers in the high end were still making offers and buying properties all the way through the end of the year which is unusual. Inventory remains low, demand is high, there is still lots of money out there, but the market has begun to soften. There are some great properties ready to come on the market in March and I suspect the current buyer pool will still be there for at least the first half of the year. It’s hard to forecast in a twenty four/seven news cycle environment. Enjoy the rest of the newsletter.

Napa Valley Hotel Report

The Napa Valley hotel market continues to be one of the hottest markets in California, and several projects made significant progress in 2018. Hotel revenue for 2018 reached about 274 million dollars in Napa County in the first eight months, up 3.2 percent from the year before. The average room rate in 2018 was about $310 per night. In October alone, Napa County hotel revenue reached 49.3 million dollars - a healthy rebound from October of 2017, when revenue reached only 29.9 million due to the wildfires.

Aetna Springs, a historic but rundown resort in the remote area of Pope Valley was purchased by Alchemy Resorts, which plans to transform the property into a luxury wine country destination, restoring 28 historic craftsman-style structures and building a 12,000-square-foot lodge. The historic Aetna Springs resort dates back to the 1870s, after the discovery of nearby warm mineral springs.

Stanly Ranch, a proposed 150-room resort, gained a new investor who contributed 45 million dollars to the south Napa development. Plans include hotel rooms spread across dozens of small, single-story structures made from metal, wood, and stone to create a farm-like atmosphere. Six larger buildings would house a restaurant, cafe, spa, banquet hall, and conference center. Cycling and pedestrian paths will crisscross through the resort property. For more color on the development you can watch or listen to my interview with Mark Harmon, Founder of Auberge Resorts Collection.

Developer James Keller continues to move forward with plans for a boutique hotel at the former Franklin Station Post Office on Second Street in downtown Napa. In October, the city’s Planning Commission endorsed the development agreement and re-zoning needed for the 163-room hotel. The original Art Deco-themed post office first opened in 1933 but was facing demolition after the South Napa earthquake severely damaged the building in 2014.

SENZA hotel at Howard Lane in north Napa plans to add 12 more hotel rooms bringing its total number to 53. SENZA is owned by Craig and Kathryn Hall of St. Helena’s Hall winery. The plan is to expand two existing hotel buildings and add a new building with eight rooms over two stories. The proposed project would add more than 9,500 square feet.

Westin Verasa Hotel owners recently acquired a parcel of land south of the property near the Oxbow Public Market. The 180-room hotel near downtown Napa plans to expand with a new three-story structure housing a 15,000-square-foot spa, 30 additional guest rooms, two more suites and a top-floor 30-seat restaurant overlooking the Oxbow district.

Other Oxbow neighborhood hotel proposals include the multistory Black Elk hotel (already endorsed by the Planning Commission), plans from the Napa Valley Wine Train for a 148-room resort hotel on McKinstry Street to replace the main station house, and a proposed 66-room four-story hotel called the Foxbow. For more information on the Napa Valley Wine Train’s plans, you can watch or listen to my interview with co-owner Scott Goldie who is involved in many fabulous developments throughout Napa Valley.

Four Seasons Resort in Calistoga is moving rapidly toward completion.

Vista Collina, part of The Meritage Collection added 145 rooms and nine tasting rooms in south Napa.

The historic Francis House opened as a boutique inn in Calistoga.

Vintage Estates in Yountville, known as Hotel Villagio and Vintage House were renovated.

The Ink House in St. Helena was completely remodeled and has reopened.

The Wine Country Inn in St. Helena completed its remodel.

The Archer Hotel’s Sky & Vine Rooftop Bar opened and is a new hotspot with panoramic views, cozy seating, and crackling stone fire pits. Nearly a dozen new stores opened in the commercial space known collectively as First Street Napa which adjoins the Archer Hotel.

State of the Wine Industry Report 2019

Rob McMillian, Founder and Executive Vice President of Silicon Valley Bank has released his 2019 annual report on the State of the Wine Industry. It’s always a fascinating and educational read. In the executive summary, Rob talks about the change in winery owner confidence and how it is reflected in what he highlights as the seven headwinds. He points to seven tailwinds that tell us why the trends we have become used to are coming to an end. Overall, the message is that the US wine industry needs a new direction and changed focus to continue its growth in the years ahead. More...

Wine Industry Mergers & Acquisitions

Wine industry merger and acquisition activity was moderate to strong and similar to 2017 which had slowed down quite a bit from previous years. There was continued interest in the Pacific Northwest, growth in private equity participation and ongoing interest in premium brands and assets in Napa Valley. Some of the more notable transactions were the sale of Heitz Cellars, Outpost Wines, Stony Hill and Swanson. More...

NapaLife Weekly Newsletter

NapaLife is a fantastic newsletter written by Paul Franson. Everything you will ever need to know about Napa Valley lifestyle from events, restaurants, the latest news, significant sales and even rumors on the grapevine is reported in his weekly publication. I can assure you it will be one of your favorite subscriptions. More...

Napa Valley Inside Out

It didn’t take long for some of the major insurance carriers to announce they were no longer willing to insure high end properties, along with properties in certain zip codes. In 2018 many owners learned that their carriers would no longer insure them and buyers exhausted all avenues trying to find a company to cover their acquisitions. It was indeed a rude awakening and a real challenge to close escrows. In light of this, I interviewed a veteran insurance broker who represents high net worth individuals throughout the Bay Area and wine country. Click on the image above to watch or listen to the interview with Bernard Lauper CEO of McCorkle Insurance.


2110 Diamond Mountain Road | Calistoga

3145 State Highway 128 | Calistoga

1871 Cabernet Lane | St. Helena

Latife Hayson
Lic.# 01341252