Santa Rosa, California - The wine country of California is big business, and getting bigger. This year, more than 1,200 California wineries will gross over $24 billion. The wine region is the second biggest visitor draw in the state after Disneyland.
Mayacama is a private club located about one hour north of San Francisco, eight miles from the tony town of Healdsburg, and in the heart of Pinot Noir country.
The wine region is notorious for antigrowth policies. The approval process for Mayacama's development was no exception. It took 15 years and countless city council meetings to receive the go-ahead. "It was a grueling experience," groused Jonathan Wilhelm, managing partner at Mayacama. "It is safe to say there will never be another club of our kind in Sonoma's wine country. Mayacama can't be recreated. The barriers of entry are too great. I consider it an irreplaceable asset."
DID YOU KNOW? "Mountain vineyards typically produce smaller yields and are slightly more acidic. Valley vineyards tend to produce higher alcohol content wines with a more fruit forward flavor. The more grapes on the vine, the more nutrients are shared, creating a less intense flavor. There is a misnomer of what type of wine to pair during dinner. Most sommeliers do not automatically default to a red with beef and a white with fish. Do not look exclusively at the protein served. Pay more attention to sauce and side dishes. The wine must be in balance with the whole plate." - JEFF MCCARTHY, DIRECTOR OF WINE, MAYACAMA"
Mayacama's pastoral setting, Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, and extensive wine programming have established the club as one of America's best.
"All private clubs have a director of food and beverage," said Wilhelm. "We go one step further by employing a wine director. The investment is justified. Last year, we sold $1.2 million in wine to our membership which is quite high for a private club. We offer a special membership category called Vintner Membership exclusively to area vintners or winery owners. We currently have 35 vintners as members. The direct connection to wineries allows us to create special member events with access to highly prized, and hard to get selections."
CALIFORNIA'S VITICULTURAL HISTORY dates back to the 18th century when Spanish missionaries planted the first vineyards to produce wine for Mass. An acre of land at an established vineyard has appreciated from $20,000 to $100,000 within the past decade.
AHEAD OF THE CURVE
The Mayacama business model includes a fractional real estate offering. "The fractional model has had its challenges since the recession," continued Wilhelm. "It doesn't work everywhere. At Mayacama, it works both functionally and financially for our members. A key advantage is Mayacama is truly a year round resort with a 12-month season.
"Our region offers one of the finest lifestyles available anywhere. The downside, surrounding zip codes are also among the most expensive in the nation.
"As a Mayacama Private Residence member, you enjoy the benefits of a club and four weeks usage in one of our one- or three-bedroom villas. It is like having your own guest house in the wine country without the significant cost or maintenance hassles. In addition, members enjoy reciprocity with more than 70 luxury properties around the world via Elite Alliance," said Wilhelm.
CHARLES SCHULTZ, legendary creator of the Peanuts comic strip, originally owned the land that became Mayacama. The club is named after the Mayacama Mountains that separate Napa from Sonoma.
The Mayacama wine lockers, located in a wine cave underneath the clubhouse, store wine at a temperature between 58-62 degrees.
"Our wine storage conditions mimic wine caves prevalent in France," described Jeff McCarthy, director of wine at Mayacama. "The lockers are an incredible member benefit. They don't have to haul their own wine to the club and their collection is aged in ideal conditions.
"When a red is pulled from storage, it is served near cave temperature to allow the flavor and aroma of the wine to be fully expressed."
Almost all wine poured at Mayacama is locally produced. "We do have a foreign 'intruder' every so often, but we like to focus on our backyard," said McCarthy. "There are so many great wines to choose from."
Vintner Members provide one barrel of wine (300 bottles) to the club each year. "We are able to purchase, at a very reasonable price, wines that are sometimes never found anywhere else. Then, in turn, we are able to offer the wine to our membership at special pricing," promised McCarthy. "Our Vintner Members are the backbone of our wine program."