Saturday November 28th, 2015 9:49AM

Montaluce vineyard in Lumpkin Co. to be auctioned

By The Associated Press
DAHLONEGA, Ga. (AP) A 400-acre winery and residential development near Dahlonega is scheduled for auction next month.

Montaluce Winery & Estates was started last decade during the economic boom and stalled as the recession wiped out the second home market. The Tuscan-themed vineyard, restaurant and residential development was initially envisioned as a $300 million-plus project with about 300 homes, cottages and vacation rentals.

The opening bid is expected to be $1.5 million, or about $3,750 per acre, according to CBRE Auction Services, the firm handling the June 26 online auction.

The winery and its restaurant are operating and the property will be sold under condition that scheduled events such as weddings are honored, said Douglas Johnson, a managing director of CBRE Auction Services.

The property has about 20 completed homes and about 60 lots were sold, the firm said. Montaluce is ripe for a hotel and additional conference facilities and has land ready for new home development, Johnson said.

CBRE is marketing the property globally, he said, and potential bidders include developers, real estate investors, vineyard operators, entrepreneurs and hoteliers.

"It's really just a spectacular area," Johnson said.

The project was initially developed by Beecham Builders, and construction started about six years ago, said Larry Reiter, Lumpkin County director of planning and public works. But an investor group acquired the loan on the property and took control after the market dried up.

That investor group now plans to sell.

"If (Beecham) would have started this thing three years earlier they probably would have been built out, and they would have had all their lots sold out and they'd be one of the top developments in North Georgia," Reiter said. "Unfortunately the economy killed them."

The project, which even received some coverage in The New York Times, targeted wealthy Atlanta residents and others seeking mountain vacation homes, Reiter said.
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