The closing of the 56-year-old property in 2016 raised concerns that it would be developed, but it was then bought by Jade Work, a former golf professional who made his fortune building U.S. courses, and his wife. They have embarked on a $12 million project to create a winery that would eventually include a 56,000-sq. ft. facility with a restaurant, commercial kitchen and two event centers. As vines have been planted on the property, tens of thousands of old golf balls have been found in the dirt.
The 56-year-old Fallbrook (Calif.) Golf Club closed for good in early 2016, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported, becoming another golf course in Southern California that succumbed after struggling financially for years due to high water costs and a diminishing pool of golfers.
A Beverly Hills, Calif. speculator with ties to companies that specialize in buying distressed golf courses and then building houses on them had purchased the liens on the land, creating concern among those who lived near Fallbrook that it would be subject to development that would diminish views and values for existing properties, The Union-Tribune reported.
But then Julie and Jade Work bought the golf course at the end of 2016 for $4.1 million. (http://clubandresortbusiness.com/2016/11/shuttered-fallbrook-calif-gc-sold/) A former professional golfer who made his fortune building golf courses across the United States, Jade Work knew that golf would not return to the valley, The Union-Tribune reported. Instead, his vision was, and still is, to create a top-line winery operation with vineyards filled with varying types of Italian grape vines.
And already, The Union-Tribune reported, more than a dozen variety of grapes are growing on 15 of the former course’s 18 holes, plus the driving range—90 acres of wine grapes in all.
During the planting of the vines, The Union-Tribune reported, tens of thousands of old golf balls were found in the dirt. “How many golf balls can fit into a gunny sack?” Work asked. “We had 40 or 50 gunny sacks of balls.”
But not any longer. About nine months ago, three youthful thieves were caught on video one night stealing all the old balls, The Union-Tribune reported.
“They took them out by wheelbarrows,” Work said. But he didn’t report the crime. “I was glad they took them,” he explained.
Later this October, Work told The Union-Tribune, after having already had more than 50 meetings with county planners and various county departments, he will be submitting an application for a major use permit that seeks permission to build a 56,000-sq. ft. facility on the property that will house a restaurant, a commercial kitchen, a wine-making operation, a barrel room and two event centers for weddings and other gatherings.
If successfully developed, the new business—Monserate Winery, named after a nearby mountain—and its facilities will represent quite a change from the dilapidated, 10,000-sq.-ft. Fallbrook clubhouse that was razed in 2017, The Union-Tribune reported.
Once built, hopefully by the end of 2020, the Works have committed to seeking conservation easements on the property, which will give them a tax break and guarantee the land will never be developed, The Union-Tribune reported.
At a recent gathering of hundreds in Fallbrook who were there mainly to heatedly discuss some upcoming election issues, Jade Work gave a short presentation about his plans and was applauded like a hero, The Union-Tribune reported.
“It wasn’t my goal to be a hero, but I’m super-happy that the neighborhood is excited and that their values are being preserved,” he said.
It’s been a long haul, requiring costly study after study, getting to the point of submitting the application, The Union-Tribune reported. Work has been told it could take anywhere from four months to two years to win approval.
“I’m very optimistic,” he said. “I believe the county wants this to go forward and I believe we’ve cleared all the high hurdles to make sure it will.
“Ultimately I hope it’s profitable, but this is far and away the slowest way to get to profitability,” he added.
The total project, Work has estimated, will cost about $12 million, The Union-Tribune reported.
The front nine of the former golf course was the first to be planted, The Union-Tribune reported, and it takes new vines three years to mature to a point where their fruit can be turned into wine. Because Work won’t apply to get an alcohol license from the state until after the county issues a permit, the first harvest of usable grapes next year from the 45 acres growing on what once served as those front nine holes will be sold to a different winery.
“We’ll then contract with them to make the wine in the style that we want,” Work said. “Then we’re hoping to buy the wine back under our issued license and sell it.”
Teresa Platt, whose home overlooks what was at the time the second and third fairways of the course which, by the end of that year, had gone brown and overgrown, told The Union-Tribune she and others in what is known as the Gird Valley community were grateful for how the Works have stepped forward with their plans.
“[This area is] incredibly special and Jade and Julie have committed to saving and preserving this open space forever,” Platt said.
“It’s a big undertaking and a huge risk for them,” she added. “Getting through the county process is daunting. We’re really happy to support them. It’s the right thing for the neighborhood. We will never fight that development battle again. When George Jetson is flying around in the sky, this place will be preserved.”
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