E14: How Mesa Park Vineyards Evolved into Mesa Park Fruit Company with Laura Black

Laura and Brandon Black were happily settling into life in Denver when they took a trip to Palisade that ended up changing their lives forever. In 2018, after that fateful trip, Laura and Brandon bought a vineyard and winery and moved to Palisade. They had never made wine or grown grapes before, but they were confident they could figure it out. And they did! Very quickly, their Mesa Park Vineyards was producing award winning-wines and attracting a loyal following.

Then, in March 2023, they announced that they were going to shut down the winery to focus on fruit farming. After a collective gasp, followed by an outpouring of support and local panic-buying, Mesa Park Vineyards shut its doors and Mesa Park Fruit Company opened this season. Why did they decide to make this big change and what are they planning to do now? I talked with Laura to find out.

Find out where Mesa Park Fruit Company’s fruit is available at mesaparkfruit.com, instagram.com/mesaparkfruit, and facebook.com/mesaparkfruit.    

Music by Romarecord1973 from Pixabay.



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Welcome to Postcards from Palisade, the podcast that brings you a snapshot of the people and places that make this slice of western Colorado wonderful. I’m Lisa McNamara.

A few years ago, Laura and Brandon Black were happily settling into their lives in Denver when they took a trip to Palisade. On that trip, a seed was planted that grew into a tree that ended up changing the path they had thought their lives would follow. Wait, is that too corny? Yeah, probably.

In 2018, after that fateful trip, Laura and Brandon bought a vineyard and winery and moved to Palisade. They had never made wine or grown grapes before, but they were confident they could figure it out. And they did! Very quickly, their Mesa Park Vineyards was producing award winning wines and attracting a loyal following. Then, in March 2023, they announced that they were going to shut down the winery to focus on fruit farming. After a collective gasp, followed by an outpouring of support and local panic-buying, Mesa Park Vineyards shut its doors and Mesa Park Fruit Company opened this season. Why did they decide to make this big change and what are they planning to do now? I talked with Laura to find out.

LB: but you’re not there’s no video right this is just like audio

LM: no I can’t I can’t do videos

LB: I don’t blame you

LM: I’m like I can’t do it

LB: I think it’s for me like we’ve done we were on KAFM or whatever

LM: yeah I listened to a couple of yours

LB: and then we’ve done we did the happy hours during covid but the video is like a whole nother like layer of like nervousness for me and then you’re like what am I doing with my hands you know

LM: I know, I don’t want to have to worry about how my face looks yeah and like when I’m editing I don’t want to have to try to edit the video smoothly so I’m just like I’m not doing it

LM: Laura and I also talked about working in real estate in the Grand Valley, how her thoughts about short term rentals changed after living in Palisade for a few years, how the farming and wine-making communities come together to support each other when times get tough, and more – on today’s Postcard From Palisade.

LM: but anyway before we get too far can you introduce yourself just your name how you introduce yourself to somebody that you’re meeting for the first time

LB: sure uh I’m Laura Black I am the owner of Mesa Park Fruit Company formerly known as Mesa Park Vineyards

LM: and who else is here with us right now

LB: Daryl our little French Bulldog who is probably uh the most popular winery dog in Palisade yeah he’s here you might hear a snort or a grunt from him in the background

LM: I think he’s sleeping right now at my feet. It’s really cute.

LB: you’ll hear some snores for sure so yeah he’s hanging out

LM: so I definitely want to talk about the winery even though it is no more so I definitely do want to talk about that and then about going forward what you’re doing going forward but before we get into all that can you just talk a little bit about how you came to Palisade and kind of your path here

LB: sure yeah so uh Brandon my husband and I um we came to Palisade like a year into our relationship I had been here several times with girlfriends and I was like hey um there’s this little gem out in western Colorado let’s go spend a weekend out there and so we came out and had a weekend full of wine tasting and we were actually sitting on the patio at Red Fox Cellars having a wine cocktail and um looking at real estate and we did that often I was a real estate agent in Denver and Brandon was a general contractor and so everywhere we traveled we we always did the like how much does it cost to live here this would be a cool place to own a second home and so on and so forth

so we were just like scrolling through listings in Palisade sitting on the patio and we came across Mesa Park Vineyards and um we were like oh well let’s just go up there we’ve never heard of that place we’ve never been there uh and so it was later in the day on Saturday so we’re like we’ll get up Sunday morning and just take a drive up and so we did and even though the hours posted said they should be open they were closed and so we I actually called the listing agent after Brandon just like wouldn’t drop it and I was like as a Realtor myself I was like totally honest with her I’m like we are lookie-loos we are not gonna buy this place but we’re here and we want to take a look and she’s like just go up the driveway they’re home Chuck’s there he’s a cowboy he’ll let you in whatever

and so we’re like okay so we pulled up and met Chuck he like pulled around the barn in a golf cart and he was like come on in and this was in October so harvest was happening and so he took us into the barn and he had all this fermentations going and all this stuff and he was like dropping pH and titratable acidity numbers and all the stuff at us and we’re like it was just flying over our heads we were like this is super cool um so we we did the tour and actually we were here for probably like two to three hours with him and we didn’t even drink any wine we just sort of toured around and then we were like we gotta go because we had to get back to Denver so we hopped in the car and that’s really what started the conversation it’s like three and a half hours four hours in the car and we’re like could we do this should we do this and we actually um had a trip planned in December of that same year so that was October and we were going to South America for six weeks and we’re like we can’t buy this place and then leave for six weeks that doesn’t work so we’re like we’re just gonna table it and if it’s still around when we get back we’ll look into it further

so we went to South America did Wine Country there looked at like should we buy land here the language barrier is real um so we came back and we’re like Palisade it’s still it’s still there let’s try so we wrote up an offer and after many months of back and forth and trying to figure out financing and all that sort of stuff we put it under contract and we closed on it so that was in January of the following year so it was over a year

LM: oh so over a year, not just a few months, a year and a few months

LB: not even the following year like the following following year yeah so it was a long process and so Chuck and Patty who owned the place the sellers that we bought it from they were super patient with us we had because we had no intention of doing this we had a house under construction in Denver that we were about to move into we had we just we were getting married like we had no we weren’t ready for it right

LM: you were on a different track

LB: yeah totally so they just we were like we can’t do this unless you can give us a little bit of time to deal with all this stuff that we’ve got going in Denver and so and they did and they were so great to work with so we um Brandon actually came out here in September of the the year before we closed and helped with the tail end of harvest and just worked with Chuck in the vineyard a little bit just to try to so we could figure out a little bit about what we were doing um and then I had to stay in Denver and finish up working and uh we closed in January and then I moved out here I was kind of back and forth quite a bit and then was here in March um and then we reopened the tasting room and everything after a remodel in April of 2018.

LM: 2018 okay

LB: yes so it’s been a little over five years and it’s been awesome

LM: and so the former owners were they retiring are they still around in the area

LB: yes so they were retiring they had Mesa Park for 10 years um they bought it with their daughter and son-in-law and um their daughter and son-in-law moved back to Denver about halfway through their ownership and so Chuck and Patty were running it and they were ready to retire it’s this place is it’s endless amounts of work um and it was sort of their second career if you will so they retired into it and then they were they were really ready to retire they’re still in uh Grand Junction they’re in the Redlands and we’re still very close to them part of our contract was that Chuck would stick around for the first year and help us oh Daryl

LM: it’s like thunder rumbling

LB: so so we’ve stayed really close with them and yeah as time went on Chuck sort of transitioned you know less and less from like helping us out and more into just coming and hanging out on the customer side of the bar and chit chatting with you know our visitors and he had he had so many friends and and um people who loved him and so whenever he was here he always found somebody to have a glass of wine with and yeah and hang out so that that was a really good transition and a really it just worked out really well for everybody I always say I think as much as we needed him that first year it was like he needed that to sort of let go a little bit too you know yeah if you ask like Chuck loves this place so it’s his baby so

LM: uh that’s such a cool experience though just to have that and not because you hadn’t had experience working at a winery or a vineyard or in a farm or anything like that before

LB: no no experience at all I hadn’t had anything um Brandon is from Montana and he his family had a farm growing up and he would spend summers there so he had worked on farms before and then he actually lived in Australia before we met and he farmed out there different kind of farming broad acre farming like huge tractors and so this fruit farming is is all by hand and you know a lot of like farmers from the Midwest would come into the tasting room and and they’re like how many acres do you have and we’re like eight and they’re like 80 and it’s like no eight because you do everything by hand you know right so just totally different yeah um so that was his experience farming but it was it was super valuable even so because like he could get on the tractor and he knew how to drive it where I was like right I have no idea what to do you know that first year was such a huge learning curve for both of us we had equipment in the winery that we didn’t even know what it did until we got to harvest you know we were like yeah we have that thing and we know we need to use it but we don’t know what it does

LM: oh wow right that’s amazing I mean what a huge project to take on and so of course like everybody probably in Palisade listening to this knows that you recently decided to shut down the winery piece of things are you ready to talk about that like yeah why you decided to do that and kind of the thought that went into that decision

LB: sure yeah we’ve been I at least I think we’ve been like fairly open about our reasoning behind it so we a year and a half ago we had a baby and anyone who’s had a baby knows that that changes your life in a significant way and so it was one of those things that the the conversation started well I mean even back further than that there were things happening that at the time that they were happening we didn’t really know what you know what they were leading us to but looking back it was like sort of these like sequence of events that led us to this decision

the first one being that we had that really hard freeze in October of 2020 and so we did not have a crop in 2021 at all so we didn’t make any wine and a lot of people brought grapes in or brought juice in from elsewhere and and made wine anyway that year but Maya our little one was born in October of 2021 and so that would have been right in the middle of harvest and wine making and so we just decided we’ll figure it out afterwards

so we had the baby didn’t make any wine that year and then we got to this past year harvest so like September October of 22 and we were really low on wine and we’re like okay we are gonna have to make a significant investment and bring some wine in from elsewhere make as much wine as we possibly can or do we shift our focus to one of the I would say the winery has like three businesses there’s the retail side which is you’re selling the wine there’s a manufacturing side you’re making the wine and then there’s the farming right so do we shift our focus to like one or two of those three things instead of trying to do them all raise this little one I do real estate we just had a lot of balls in the air right

and Brandon is our farmer and was our wine maker too and so his season just it never ended because he was like rushing to get the wine done so he could get back into the field and then rushing to get harvested so we could get to the wine making and it just never stopped for him and so that was another thing that led us to this decision it was like you have to pick right and then the other thing is is that we’re sitting here you can see that’s our tasting room right there it’s right across it’s basically in our backyard and so as much as it was tons of fun most of the time to have friends and family and things like that here there were days where we were like we just wish we could have our house or our backyard to ourselves you know

and so um it was just sort of like like all big decisions it wasn’t one thing in particular it was just like a lot of things you know got to a point where we’re like we need to make this decision and we went as far as to say like should we buy a piece of land and build another building and grow our production and then we can afford to hire a full-time wine maker and do and then we’re like do we want to do that we’re trying to get stuff off of our plate instead of add more stuff to our plate and so it was just like I mean it was months and months of conversation and back and forth and it it came as a shock to people when we announced this spring but we had sort of decided at harvest last year right because we didn’t make any wine again so we were like if we sell our grapes that’s it like we’re done and so while it was a shock for a lot of people this spring it was like sort of we had time to process it all so so that’s just sort of like a long answer to your short question

LM: no it’s but it’s really interesting and just I think a lot of people you know are like why you know wouldn’t you think of this what do you think of that but when you think about all those pieces and then the fact that you don’t ever have down time I mean like people would be here in your yard

LB: right now

LM: even when you’re not working right when you’re not working quote unquote you would never have any down time so I can see how it would be a challenge

LB: yeah the summer season is it wears on you when it’s it’s because it’s seven days a week right and it was just like if if we even had that’s why we were like well maybe we could move the tasting room you know and then it wouldn’t be um but it’s just one of those things that we were like we’re really good at adding stuff we are that’s what we do and so we’re like let’s stop that for a second and think about this logically and honestly Brandon needed needed this too like he couldn’t keep going how he was it was just he was gonna totally burn out

LM: oh yeah

LB: so yeah it was but it was a tough decision because it was there were so many parts of it that were so much fun and like creating this product and we could share it with friends and family and we had we had like some of our customers have become really good friends and the amount of support that people showed us it was it made it tough to make the decision like those were the reasons it was hard you know

LM: yeah I’m sure I saw on when you did announce it on social media there was a huge outpouring of support and

LB: yeah

LM: I mean sadness but also understanding and I’m sure people stopping by to say goodbye I mean you had months of that people coming in

LB: yeah

LM: giving you their stories and I’m sure that was really hard but

LB: yeah it was it was a lot but it was it’s funny because I was when we made the decision decision I was like almost worried that we were letting people down or something like that and the amount of support like you just said that we got instead of like oh that sucks they’re up you know yeah it was I was like oh and people were like I understand

LM: right

LB: I’m like huh you know I was like a huge weight off my shoulders yeah

LM: yeah well what are some of the stories that are going to stick with you that people told you or anything stick in your mind

LB: I think it’s more the people right that we met along the way um and then we I mean we have some incredible views of the Grand Mesa out there and we had some wine club pickup parties that were just super special that like we had a couple weddings where we had just amazing sunsets for these these couples just and then like the people that we met along the way a lot of which hopefully will will be friends in the future the support that we were shown from people near and far was unbelievable

so before we started recording we were talking about our covid happy hours and this this woman named Deb Deb the pirate was her Instagram handle and she and her husband Norm lived in Puerto Rico and they would tune in we never had met them and they would tune in every Friday to these covid happy hours that we did and then she came here and so and she’s like I’m Deb the pirate and we’re like oh my God so just like stuff like that is so crazy right um so that was really cool yeah we just we the outpouring of of like support that we received uh was was amazing yeah so that’s yeah that’s like the part that makes me that’s like the the you know you say it’s bittersweet and that’s like the sweet part that you’re like it’s it’s yeah yeah I guess the bitter part right but yeah

LM: both

LB: yeah yeah

LM: and you were able to go out with a bang at sip in the spring and just sell out the rest of the wine and how did it feel when you were done with that event

LB: that was crazy because I really as as odd as it sounds throughout the whole process like when we announced and I I had like crazy amounts of emails and I was trying to respond to everyone and then we went to sip into spring and we brought all the wine that we had left I’m like we’re just gonna bring it all and if we sell it great and if we don’t then we’ll figure out what to do with the rest of it and we got it was in the second session and we got to the last bottle and I like it hit me right I’m like this is it oh my gosh you know and it was like excitement but it was also like I was just like a little bit sad I’m like it’s over you know um

and our good friends who we met um through some other friends at the winery uh Kelly and JT came up and they bought the last bottle of wine and we have like documentation of that so that was cool but it was like it was it was just again it’s just like so bittersweet right like so much excitement but also you’re like that is a chapter in our lives that was like very significant one and one that we will never forget for so many reasons like highs and lows and goods and bads and it’s over you know and there’s clean up stuff to do you know like bookkeeping and record keeping and all that sort of stuff but like that’s it we sold our last bottle of wine so so yeah that was kind of crazy I was like I didn’t I didn’t expect to like have the feeling that I did you know but it was a it was the perfect way to like end it because it was a beautiful day that festival is so amazing and so it was just like a good we got to see so many friends and wine club members and things like that at the festival so it was a good way to call it

LM: but so obviously you both are amazing winemakers because your wine

LB: not me

LM: oh okay Brandon is an amazing winemaker um you know y’all won in the most recent Governor’s Cup 2022 a double gold which is huge I mean one of only seven wines to win that and I think you had seven wines that won different honors that’s huge

LB: yeah yeah we medalled in everything we submitted so that was really exciting

LM: right so clearly are awesome at it do you think you would ever get back into it or is it or do you need time to even entertain that idea

LB: so it’s a question that we’ve we’ve been asked a lot

LM: I’m sure

LB: and Brandon so Brandon is our winemaker I don’t take credit for any of our wine I you know I like dump the grapes in the crusher but when it comes to actually making it taste good and and the like late nights doing pump overs and punch downs and all that I don’t that’s not me so it’s all Brandon and um he as of right now he says no I don’t know if that will change in the future but yeah as of right now he he he’s very he’s shifted his focus to like solely farming he’s very focused on that at this point so maybe once he gets sort of all of that under control in a few years or something maybe he does like a couple batches as hobbies as a hobby wine maker I don’t know

LM: yeah

LB: I would love for him to experiment with sparkling wine just because it would be something fun and different um but he says no right now

LM: yeah that makes sense and that’s a good point to transition and just you know no more looking back looking forward so looking forward what are you focusing on

LB: so we that was so that’s when we made the decision it was to shift our focus to farming solely and then and then like all things you can farm as much fruit as you want but you have to sell it too right so so we shifted gears and um Mesa Park Vineyards is slowly transitioning to Mesa Park Fruit Company and we still have our vineyards so we’ll still grow wine grapes here and then sell them to the other wineries um Maison and Corey Norsworthy the winemaker there they’ve been buying our grapes for a couple years Qutori down in Paonia has bought some of our grapes in the past so we will keep people informed on where they go because people have asked that too like hey where are your grapes gonna go

LM: right still keeping a little piece of connection

LB: yeah so and we’re hoping that we can get some sort of like vineyard designation on the bottle or something like that so we’ll see we’ll see how that goes and then in addition to our vineyard our neighbor above us to the south of us her name is Laurie and she purchased I should know this I think it’s 19 acres total in 2020. and it was a dilapidated vineyard and we at leased it from her with the intent to just sort of rehab it and then we were going to keep the grapes and she had Syrah and Cab Franc and Merlot up there I think or Cab Sauv

anyway that freeze happened in October and her vines were in such bad shape that they did not rebound like most of the vines in the valley and so when that happened we sat down with her had a big conversation and she was like I don’t want to grow grapes I want to grow peaches and cherries and we had a lease on the place so Brandon’s like okay I’m gonna learn how to grow peaches and cherries so like another thing that happened at the time we didn’t think anything of it but it like led us to this decision right so um she put in four acres of cherries and then we just planted six acres of peaches on her property she’s doing her cherries on a trellis system so it looks it almost looks like a hops field with like the big posts and then there’s a wire running across the post and these cherries when you buy them they’re like made for this trellis system so they’re these long spurs and you basically plant them and then you bend the trunk along the wire and then the shoots come up vertical so you’re basically when it’s mature it’ll look like a wall of cherries and so you can plant more trees per acre and the labor per acre is supposed to be lower because you’re not on ladders in each tree picking you can literally just like stand on a flatbed trailer and drive along and pick off the the wall of cherries so we’ll see um this is she’s got four acres of it and it’s one of the larger systems in this valley as far as the trellising cherries goes and so we’ll see how it goes

LM: yeah first year

LB: and then we planted an acre of peaches behind the barn behind our tasting room that was Cab Sauv that also didn’t really come back all that well after that freeze and then a few months ago my dad and stepmom were in town and I thought they were playing lookie-loo and they ended up buying an orchard right next to Palisade Pies

LM: oh wow

LB: and so we have peaches plums and pluots in that orchard and so Brandon’s farming that too yeah so um so there you go so he’s busy

LM: a lot of fruit

LB: yeah a lot of fruit so we had I did the social media post a couple weeks ago we had this semi-truck pull-up with 4,000 trees in it and I’m like here we go oh you know

LM: yeah how does that go what was it like to plant that many trees how long did it take

LB: so it they go they plant them really quickly actually so Kenny Sal he’s a big um peach farmer and he’s across the road from us so him and his guys helped us plant we don’t have the appropriate equipment to plant peach trees like that but it was amazing there were I don’t know 10 or 12 guys out there and they just drive the tractor along and like plop a tree in and then a guy throws water in and then a guy throws dirt on top and then a guy comes and stomps around the tree and then our guys were following with the irrigation systems they were like pulling the hoses and putting the sprinkler heads in and so it’s really like it’s tons of manual labor but it goes pretty quickly like I think they planted the six or seven acres of peaches in a day

LM: wow

LB: yeah

LM: that’s amazing

LB: and then they did the other two acres of cherries that was another day yeah they’re long days

LM: yeah but still that’s wow one day that’s amazing

LB: yeah so um so yeah so now the trees won’t produce for a few years so you’re just growing them and then I think that the cherry trees that we planted last year will flower they’ll they’ll have fruit next year but we’ll pull it all off because we want the energy to grow go towards getting the tree strong versus growing cherries when they’re so young so and even like all the peach trees and you just pull off all the blossoms and let the energy go back to the tree it’s just to establish a good foundation for the tree so that it can withstand these crazy weather events that we have here in Colorado

LM: sometimes yeah so you’re still a couple years out from producing fruit that you’re selling

LB: well my parents orchard is fifth year so we’ll have fruit

LM: okay that’s good yeah

LB: yeah exactly

LM: so so are you planning to sell it at farmers markets or wholesale or

LB: so we are in the process of figuring all of that out right now we will probably we will have peaches and then the plums and pluots that freeze got them pretty good so we won’t have a ton of those but I you know we’re talking to some people around town about just doing like pop-ups and so we’ll obviously post about those and then we are going to Laurie our neighbor so she’s a she’s a partner in Mesa Park Fruit Company and she sort of splits time between her house here and then she’s in Louisville or Superior on the Front Range and so she’s working with um Sweet Cow and Lucky Pie and in Louisville downtown Louisville and we’ll have a tent there with peaches on Friday evenings they have their big like market down there and so we’ll be in their parking lot with Palisade peaches once it’s peach season so

LM: awesome

LB: yeah so that’s what we know so far we uh we’re still working through the detail it feels like we’re in our first year of of the winery ownership again where we’re like we don’t know we you know we’re just sort of figuring it out as we go but without Chuck this time so but we’ll figure it out

LM: yeah

LB: we will be direct to consumer with some of our fruit this summer we just need to figure out where and how that looks

LM: sure yeah so like a pop-up at a winery or something like that

LB: yeah exactly yeah Jeff and Jody don’t know this yet but I’m gonna ask them if we can pop up at the Spoke and Vine

LM: that would be awesome

LB: or over at Restoration

LM: Monday

LB: yeah yeah exactly it would be a great time today so um so yeah you’ll see us around town um and we’ll get once we have details we’ll we’ll get them out there yeah it’ll be fun to to not have to do it seven days a week right and we can just pop up and see some people and it’s cool it’s one of it’s like sharing our wine was where you’re like we worked so hard at this and here it is and we hope you like it it’s like it’s sort of the same thing with the fruit right um so it’s cool

LM: absolutely

LB: it’s fun

LM: you spent a whole season growing this yeah well I can’t wait um

LB: thanks yeah

LM: so on the real estate side of things I think most visibly you are are in the process of selling Debeque Canyon Winery and that is seems like such a great fusion of your skills in both wine you know winery operation and real estate and things like that so that’s a cool opportunity

LB: yeah it’s been it’s been good the real estate so when we when we came from Denver I had been in real estate for I don’t know 12 or 15 years something like that and I was like I’m gonna table real estate I’m just gonna focus on the winery and I did for a couple years but real estate’s just sort of in my blood I love it it’s it’s fun and I’ve been doing it for so long I just I really enjoy it and so I ended up transferring my license over to Fruit and Wine Real Estate in in Palisade and Tammy Craig is the managing broker over there and she was super welcoming and like come on board because I was a little nervous you know I’m like from Denver and and I don’t know it’s it’s just it’s smaller over here and yeah so but she was super welcoming and she’s been she’s been awesome so yeah so it’s been really fun because I had done real estate in Denver for so long and then I came here and it was like learning the the business all over again water rights and just crop

LM: oh my gosh mill tailings reports

LB: mill tailings reports yeah all this stuff right that Denver doesn’t have

LM: uranium

LB: there was a house in downtown Palisade that I sold and during the inspection report the inspector found a 500 gallon oil tank in the front yard buried and like that wouldn’t that doesn’t happen I never had anything like that happen in Denver and so it was just there it’s just this whole different ball game here but it’s been really fun and I think I add a lot of value when it’s farmland or winery type of stuff because I I own operate you know I I just can speak to it because I’ve lived it and so um so selling to back Bennett and Davey who owned Debeque Canyon everybody knows Bennett and Davey if you’ve been around Palisade at all and so it’s it’s definitely kind of sad to see them go but I think it’s time you know

LM: also bittersweet

LB: I think they’re ready yeah yeah and so um when they called me I was like yes you know of course I’d be honored and we have it under contract and it closes at the end of July and I don’t know exactly what’s going to go in there yet but it’s gonna be cool

LM: yes something cool

LB: yeah and it is it’s a great I mean that space is just the house is so cute and then you’ve got the warehouse for production or whatever you want to use it for I’ve heard brewery and then wine bar in the house tossed around which would be super cool anything that brings more food into Palisade would be great

LM: I know that’s what we’re looking forward to

LB: yeah exactly so so that part of it’s been really fun and the real estate yeah it’s just there’s so many different facets to it out here and there I was actually on the phone with an appraiser the other day on another property and we were we were just sort of talking about like pricing and then appraising property in Palisade because it in a subdivision it’s easy like well that house sold for that and that one sold for that so this is worth this and in Palisade you’re like okay well that’s peaches and this is grapes and that one has water and this one has a micro jet sprinkler and this one has a fan and this one has a house and you know this one has an outbuilding that could be migrant house I mean it’s just like it’s all crazy

LM: right what’s comparable it’s unique

LB: yeah yeah so it’s um it’s fun it’s interesting it like has expanded my skill set a lot which I like I said at the beginning we’re good at like piling stuff on but I like to learn and like do new things it keeps life interesting you know and so selling real estate out here has been something that I’ve really enjoyed more so than I thought and I was like like I said I was trying to stay away but here I am so yeah

LM: since you started and kind of looking forward the next few years like how have things changed and how do you see them changing in the future like just in terms of real estate in Palisade

LB: wow well I mean even going back to when we purchased to now it’s gone crazy right Palisade is on the map now there’s no like oh what’s this little hidden gem anymore it is it is out there and people are aware of it which brings good and bad things the town needs the the tourism in order for the businesses to thrive and um and for the town to thrive in general you know and so but along with that comes you know some expensive real estate prices especially when you’re it’s all a matter of perspective when you’re coming to look at Palisade real estate you get people from the west coast and they come in here and they’re like this is cheap or people from the mountain towns you know but people who have been here for a long time they’re like hey these are these prices are out of control you know we’re gonna lose what made Palisade the reason people love it

and so that is a really it’s a balance and it’s a fine line that we’re walking and so the you know I have I can’t I can’t even tell you how many people have called me since I started doing real estate here and they’re like I want to buy a house in downtown Palisade and I want to do a short-term rental and you can’t right there’s a there’s a moratorium or not a moratorium but there’s a wait list for it

LM: there’s a limit a cap

LB: and when I first got there’s a cap and so when I first got here the wait list was like 12 names or something like that I think and it’s over 60 now and so obviously that has become a very popular thing to do and I used to I used to think like oh the town needs to increase the number that they’ll allow and now I am so glad that whoever put that into place did

LM: me too

LB: right and because otherwise if you think about it downtown like the housing stock would be a motel all summer long right and you need motels you need places for people to stay but you also need full-time residents that support the restaurants in the winter and

LM: yeah it would empty out in the winter in that case

LB: it would and so and Palisade gets very quiet in the winter as it is so I’m just I’m so glad that that’s in place and I think a lot of people from the outside myself included when I got here don’t understand it and like why would you do that you know you’re you’re losing revenue and this and that but you’re also like there has to be some sort of way to keep the town a community

LM: right

LB: right and that helps a lot yeah so as far as where I see real estate going I I mean I just it’s going to continue to get more expensive here it just is there’s so much demand and there’s so little inventory it’s supply and demand

LM: absolutely

LB: you know that’s all that it is so um but I do think it’s great up on East Orchard Mesa the agricultural zoning is in place it’s subdividing you know you can take 20 acres and go down to two 10 acre parcels or or whatever um and that’s no issue but I highly doubt you’re going to see a subdivision up here like of homes you know on quarter acre lots it’s just not going to happen and I think that’s great

LM: right

LB: you know there’s only so much of this land that you can grow peaches and cherries and grapes on and it needs to be available for people to do that so yeah I mean I used to say it with the winery all the time because the winery life seems so glamorous and wineries just seem like these like it’s like a dream to own one and and whether that’s true or not at the root of all of it you’re farming grapes right and if you can’t farm grapes you can’t make wine and so I just think it’s important and I think I think there’s a lot of people around here and you know the the Land Conservancy and all that sort of stuff is just so important to keep the root of what makes Palisade so special here

LM: right

LB: so so yeah well I think well I think we’re going to continue to see the influx of people from out of state and from the mountain towns like our their mud season it’s it’s like you couldn’t pick a better time in Palisade right in the spring in the fall yeah people come here and they’re like I want to move here and then it and then it’s August 10th and it’s 105 and it’s a little hot you know um we’re all like longing for late September when it cools down to like 95 and we’re like oh this is so nice but um it’s hard to beat it’s hard to beat it out here you know yeah and so um so yeah I do think that we’ll just continue to see that influx of people but hopefully it drives more businesses to the town and the town can continue to grow and flourish in a responsible way you know it’s it’s really a tough balance because we get such a huge influx of people during tourist season and then in the winter they all go away and these businesses have to pay rent year round

LM: right

LB: you know so it’s um but it’s like all the farms and everything else you you make all your money during tourist season and then you have to sort of like ration it so you can get through the winter so so yeah it’s just an interesting um I’ve never lived in a tourist town until now and I would I would say Palisade is a tourist town you know whether some of the people that have been here for a while want to hear that or not it is so so anyway

LM: yeah no that’s interesting yeah yeah I definitely think that the the Planning Commission and just kind of zoning in general they’ve done a lot of really uh it’s a tough balance to strike but they’ve made a lot of really good forward-looking decisions that not everybody is happy about I don’t think any I mean sometimes nobody’s happy about that but it’s at least thoughtfully done you know

LB: I think so and I think them trying to when they when they put that moratorium in place for new subdivisions to decide you know basically redo the zoning for the town I think the reason that went into place that it was a little like oh hindsight’s 2020 we should have done this a while ago but here we are but hopefully it it like you said it is like a thoughtful process and they’re looking at what Palisade is right now and where it’s going and and I think it probably was an appropriate time to do it right so yeah yeah

LM: makes sense well so just with you and Brandon what’s your favorite part about the Palisade community

LB: the community yeah yeah um you’ve probably heard that a lot right but it’s special it really is

LM: it is special

LB: one of the things that we were I don’t want to say we were surprised but we were it was just sort of like a welcome thing that happened when we got here the wine community just like they were like hey we’re here to help you you know whatever you need we’re here for you and we had so many wineries that were just so supportive and again just like when I was talking about joining Fruit and Wine Real Estate I thought the wine community might be like oh there’s these two young kids from Denver they don’t know what they’re doing and and it was quite the opposite and so by by joining Palisade kind of through the wine community we met a lot of people really quickly and it’s and and it’s just grown and the community here I mean it’s the reason you’re here right

LM: yeah

LB: it’s it’s just um it’s special and there’s like a camaraderie of with the local residents that is it’s just something cool and and I think when you’re farming I read this quote a while ago and it was something to the effect of like like a small town a small farming town like rides these these waves together right the highs and the lows because it’s very rare that like we’ll freeze and our neighbor doesn’t right so like we we’re all in this together to some extent it was actually it was really crazy earlier this year it was April end of April 25th 26 27th something like that when we had those freezes and and we have a wind machine over at my um dad’s property and so Brandon was up like running that and then the sprinklers were going in the cherry orchard and and I promise you C Road right there was busier at 3am and then it is during the day and it was even though no one was happy about being up doing what they were doing it was sort of like Brandon was like it was like this cool thing like we are all in this together we’re all out here like trying to do everything that we can to save our crop this year and that’s like cool I don’t know so I’m like

LM: no it is really special it’s like not competitive and yeah it’s really unique

LB: yeah so that’s that’s what I think our favorite thing about Palisade for sure is the community and we found a great group of friends like that was another thing that I was like oh we’re moving to this town and we’re not going to meet anyone our own age and it’s been totally the opposite so um

LM: yeah people are so friendly and that was something that right like you heard I mean we didn’t even I thought oh it’s a small town like how many people are there even gonna be and then how many of those people can be your friends and it’s like I have more friends here than I’ve ever had in my life

LB: I know it’s crazy and everyone’s so welcoming right

LM: yeah never would have thought that would happen

LB: yeah we just found I thought it would be hard to meet people and we found it to be the complete opposite yeah you know

LM: everyone’s socially starved yeah they just want to hang out

LB: yeah totally so and like yeah they’re Spoke and Vine on Monday night you go on the bike rides right

LM: yeah

LB: we used to before we had the baby but it’s just fun to go down there and I’ve I’ve taken Maya down there like by myself and I have no idea if anyone’s and you always run into somebody and you can sit and chat and so it’s awesome

LM: cool well as soon as she’s big enough to be in a carrier or something you should join again

LB: we have one yeah we should put her out we should just go down and do it yeah

LM: yeah you should

LB: yeah she’s not a fan of the helmet oh gotta wear it yeah

LM: she’ll get used to it awesome well um is there anything else that you wanted to just share with people that I didn’t touch on or maybe like any links to your social or anything like that

LB: um yeah so well I’ll just talk right now you’re probably gonna have to like edit this back into the farming part but I just want to mention that the h2a visa program that we use for our migrant workers that come up from Mexico so we started doing that last year and we go through a process with the Department of Labor Kim Noland over at Noland Orchards actually is our h2a agent and she does a lot of the farms here in the valley um but we we decided that after covid it was like so hard to find labor in the vineyards and people would show up and work for two hours and then say oh this is too hard or it’s too hot or one guy was like I forgot my inhaler at home I’ll be right back and never came back and so we were just like all right we gotta we gotta figure something else out right and so a lot of the larger farmers use these h2a guys that come up um and so we’re like we’re gonna go through the process and so we did that last year and we partnered with Richard and Carol at Z’s Orchard and so we bought a manufactured home and put it on their land and we share our workers with them and these guys we have most of them three of them we had three last year and we have five this year and three of the five our three last year are back this year with two additional guys and these guys I I didn’t know what to expect but these guys come up and they well there is a language barrier for sure but they just want to work they want to work so hard and they will work as many hours as you will let them

and it’s really cool because at the end of the year last year we learned that one of the guys while he was here his wife had a baby and he was able to send money back to her to get her into a hospital that she wanted to have the baby at versus where she had to go I know it’s it’s life-changing for these guys um and then and then he told us when he was leaving that the rest of the money that he made he used to buy a piece of land for his family and he wants to come back this year so he can save up that money and build a house for his family and so it was it was crazy because he had the baby and she was four months old before he even got to meet her because he was here

but these guys when you think about the sacrifice that they make so that they can take care of their family I mean they’re here from March until October so yeah it’s just it’s super cool right and so it’s been a really good experience and it’s great to have for Brandon it’s incredible to have these guys they’re young and they’re full of energy and they are just like ready to get to work so so that’s been a a really cool experience and our hope is that they continue to come back and then they sort of know the program and hopefully the language barrier becomes less and less

we have made a pact that this winter we’re gonna learn some Spanish because we like they know enough and then Google translate

LM: right oh my gosh it’s so useful

LB: you literally like lose stuff in translation but you can get by you know

LM: right you get the basics

LB: exactly um and then we have another a lady that helps us in the vineyard and she is bilingual she um she’s from Mexico and just got her citizenship a few years ago but she’s been working at our vineyard since even the owners before Chuck and Patty she worked for so like 15 years probably 18 years I don’t know but anyway she she translates a lot for us but she helps us with everything she’s great her name is Maria and I don’t know that Brandon would have survived the last five years without Maria so yeah so just a plug for La Plaza because

LM: it’s amazing

LB: yeah yeah we this valley wouldn’t exist without these guys that come up and work so it’s awesome

LM: absolutely and it’s super cool to be able to provide that opportunity for people too to be able to do something that changes their lives

LB: yeah it’s it’s amazing like when you hear what what they’re doing with the money you’re like wow you know so

LM: that’s really cool

LB: so yeah and then back to your questions social media tag so um Instagram is at Mesa park fruit and then on Facebook we’re Mesa park fruit company and we’ll keep those pages up to date like I said with where you can find us this summer once we have fruit to sell and where our grapes are going and just sort of like what’s happening on the farm yeah that’s that’s the gist of it I think yeah

LM: thank you so much for your time

LB: yeah thank you for having me and I appreciate it yeah it’s it’s good to get the story out and hopefully this will answer a lot of people’s questions about like what’s happening next you know I like put that new logo up on social media and everyone’s like cool where can we find your fruit I’m like I don’t know yet we’re gonna figure it out

LM: this is where you can find out

LB: right exactly exactly awesome

LM: well thank you so much

LB: yeah thank you again for having me

LM: If you’re one of those lucky people with a bottle or two of Mesa Park Vineyards wine in storage, savor it! But you know, if Laura and Brandon were that great at growing grapes and making wine – the rest of their fruit is going to be amazing.

If you’d like to be on the podcast or you have an idea for an upcoming episode, I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me at lisa(at)postcardsfrompalisade.com.

The Postcards from Palisade podcast is available on all major podcast distribution platforms. Find it and subscribe so you never miss an episode. Episodes and links to more information are also posted on the website postcardsfrompalisade.com.

Thanks for listening. With love, from Palisade.

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