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In a down housing market where real estate bargains abound, a Sonoma County winery?s offer to give away a remodeled farmhouse amounts to a steal.

But the new owner faces the expense of moving the house from a rural lot on Highway 128 outside Healdsburg, and also needs a vacant lot to land it. And time is running out.

If Medlock Ames Winery can?t find a taker in the next month, it plans to demolish the residence and salvage materials for its project to convert the Alexander Valley Store into a tasting room and produce market, while fixing up the neighboring bar. It hopes to complete the project this fall.

?The reason we purchased this site was to upgrade the businesses and it wasn?t to have a single-family residence. We?re giving it away. That would be preferable to demolishing it,? said Kenneth Rochford, the winery?s general manager.

Originally built in 1920, the 1,200-square-foot home is cozy and modern after a $150,000 remodel nine years ago.

Highlights include new hardwood maple flooring throughout, tiled kitchen and bathroom, maple cabinets, bay windows, stainless steel appliances, large Jacuzzi tub, new roof and seismic upgrades. It has one bedroom and one bath.

The residence sits on the one-acre commercial lot Medlock Ames purchased from Jan Marsiglia four years ago for about $1.4 million.

?A lot of blood and sweat went into it and I know they really want it saved and moved,? said Marsiglia, now living in Windsor. ?If I had a piece of property to put it on, I?d try to get it. This is a total steal.?

Winery owners Christopher Medlock James and Ames Morison<NO1>(cq)<NO> didn?t plan on giving away the house when they purchased the Alexander Valley Store and Bar property.

Initially, they considered converting the house into a tasting room and selling homegrown produce from their vineyard and other local foods from the store. But the site isn?t large enough for the parking and septic system needed for the number of patrons at the three businesses, Rochford said.

Keeping the house as a residence also doesn?t work. Even after the owners improve the septic system it still couldn?t handle the wastewater generated by the tasting room, bar and the house, said Sigrid Swedenborg, the county planner overseeing the project.

The winery then planned to move the house to the Medlock Ames vineyard down a lane off Chalk Hill Road.

?We wanted to be able to use the building as a guest house at the ranch, maybe farmworker housing,? Rochford said. ?Sadly, we?d need a couple of Chinook helicopters to move it.?

The problem was a bridge on Chalk Hill Road is too narrow to tow the 27-foot-wide house across, said Tony Medeiros, with Wacker & Sons, a Penngrove house moving company.

Moving the house anywhere will be difficult. The house likely can?t leave the county because it is too tall to take under freeway overpasses, as well as too wide for some county roads, he said.

Moving it in one piece a couple of miles would cost about $40,000. Taking the house a longer distance could require cutting it in half and taking off the roof, which add $10,000 to the cost, Medeiros said.

?It would be great if they could save it, but it?s got to be practical,? he said.

Eight people have shown interest and four seem serious about taking the house, Rochford said.

?I would have liked to have made that call already, but nobody?s raised their hand and said ?I want it,?<TH>? he said. ?We?re not going to pay for the move. We?re generous enough to give away the house.?

While recognizing the winery?s limitations in preserving the house, Marsiglia said a tear down would be devastating.

?I?m hoping it?s going to someone who can really appreciate the design,?she said. ?It?s a great little house.?

You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or mike.coit@pressdemocrat.com.