Owners of the Bailey winery that was demolished this year by a semi-truck are not giving up.
On the night of Sept. 12, the driver of a tractor-trailer failed to negotiate a 90-degree curve on southbound U.S. 285. Coming toward the turn down a 7 percent grade, the truck crossed the northbound lanes and slammed into the structure that housed Aspen Peak Cellar’s tasting room and production facility, which sat just south of the northbound lanes.
No one was in the building when the crash occurred, but the damage was considered a total loss.
Marcel and Julie Flukiger are moving Aspen Peak Cellars to a temporary production-only facility in Pine Junction. They are still tied to their lease at 60750 U.S. 285. in Bailey, and together with the landlord, they will rebuild a steel structure similar to the one they had before and hope to reopen there by early summer.
“We are optimistic people will come back and drink our wine,” Marcel said.
While the Flukigers are hopeful about their ability to rebuild their business, they have lasting concerns about the safety of the curve where the wreck happened. It is not the first time a driver has crashed there, Marcel said, but he has heard it is not enough to make it a priority with the Colorado Department of Transportation.
“It’s pretty far out to get any type of funding on that crazy corner,” he said.
Michelle Peulen, CDOT’s communications manager for that region, said in an e-mail that her agency is investigating the incident and reviewing if a course of remediation is needed, but right now there are no plans for that portion of the highway.
Marcel is a member and past president of the Platte Canyon Area Chamber of Commerce, and a member of 285 Tourism, a combined effort with the Conifer Area Chamber of Commerce to promote businesses between Conifer and Bailey.
He said the 285 Tourism committee was already discussing how to make the highway safer and less congested; now, they will look further into ways to raise some local funds that could be matched by CDOT and other agencies.
“We can at least raise some funds that can be leveraged for signs and traffic flow,” Marcel said.
Aspen Peak Cellars lost about 75 percent of its inventory in the accident, Marcel said, and it will take a couple of years for Aspen Peak’s own wine to be processed, aged and ready to bottle. In the meantime, their license allows them to bottle and sell wine made by other Colorado vintners, who have been generous in offering wholesale prices, Marcel said.
And friends at North Fork Ranch, a fly-fishing destination in nearby Shawnee, also offered its facilities for the popular snowshoe-and-fondue events Aspen Peak hosts throughout the winter.
The community also pitched in during the days after the crash, raising more than $10,000 through GoFundMe and another $12,000 at a silent auction hosted by area chambers of commerce.
On Nov. 18, the Flukigers hosted a wine-tasting event at Grow Your Own in Conifer, a hydroponic supply store with a bar that hosts community events, where Aspen Peak Cellars wine is sold.
The space was full of community members eager to hear the winery’s plans, testifying to its place in the 285 corridor community.
“They had the right idea and they sized it right for the community,” said Don Freeman, a Conifer-area resident who was there with his wife, Joan Freeman. “We love (Marcel’s) involvement in the community.”
Last summer, the Bailey community raised funds and donated time to build a patio, pergola and band shell at Aspen Peak Cellars, part of an effort to beautify the riverfront of the North Fork South Platte as it flows through town.
The band shell survived the accident and will be moved further from the highway, along with the rebuilt winery.
“We will reposition it for a safer spot and also take some precautions of putting up our own safety features — a steel wall or concrete,” Marcel said.