Landmark Palisade winery headed for auction |

Landmark Palisade winery headed for auction

Paul ShockleyGrand Junction Correspondent

They’re popping corks and possibly corking the last bottles at Grande River Vineyards.Grande River – among Colorado’s dominant wineries and a Grand Valley fixture with grape fields lining the south side of Interstate 70 – will be sold on the auction block next month.”It’s just time,” said Naomi Smith, whose husband, Stephen, has been the sole owner of the winery for more than two decades.There’s no guarantee that the lucrative 100-plus acre real estate package – including all Grande River’s 91 acres of various grape fields – will be an active winery after the deal’s done.But Smith said several prospective wine-minded buyers have expressed interest.”We’re looking at who we can pass the torch to,” Smith said.Alabama-based high-end auction firm J.P. King is coordinating the Oct. 24 sale, which kicks off at the winery at 11 a.m.Why go the auction route?Smith insists they’re simply eager to “retire.” “We felt this was better than putting it on the market, waiting around for years, have our employees worrying what’s going on,” Smith said.”Nobody’s sick, divorced or dying … we’re excited to be moving on and we’re not quite sure what we’re going to do next.”Immediate concerns are coordinating a likely multimillion dollar property sale.J.P. King officials said in a prepared statement that 11 of 12 parcels on the property will be auctioned absolute, which means each parcel will go to the highest bidder with no minimum bid or reserve.One 5-acre parcel, including the tasting room that sits at 787 Elberta Ave., will be reserved. That parcel also includes an amphitheater, which has been home to a popular summer concert series over recent years.”The reserve just means if the bid for that parcel comes in too low, they don’t have to covey the parcel,” said J.P. King spokesman Carl Carter.Grande River has fermentation and storage capacity for approximately 50,000 gallons, including a tank capacity of 26,000 gallons.The winery, which touts itself as the largest grape grower in Colorado, was among the first in the state to start production of Viognier. Its newer plantings include Cinsault and Morvedre.Other Grande River varieties include Sauvignon Blanc, Semilion, Syrah, Merot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon.Smith said the property has already attracted developer interest.”Some of these parcels have high visibility along I-70 near the very busy Exit 42, and the zoning would permit such uses as a hotel/motel restaurant or retail,” J.P. King officials said.”Obviously, that could play a factor in the auction and the future of Grande River.”Grande River is considered a major player in an industry that – according to a recent study by Colorado State University – contributed $42 million to Colorado’s economy during the 2005 growing season.Smith said Grande River produces and sells between 5,000 to 7,000 bottles of wine annually.Grande River’s existing tasting room opened in 1994, seven years after Grande River started planting its first fields.”(Stephen’s) been hard at this for 20 years, and we’re so busy that it keeps us from the things our friends get to do,” Smith said.”We’re hoping to find other people who take it over.”Reach Paul Shockley at

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