ELKO — The historic Winecup Gamble Ranch in northeastern Elko County is on the market for $77 million, which buys nearly 1 million acres.
“That’s turnkey,” said Clay Nannini, who has the listing for Coldwell Banker Algerio/Q Team Realty in Elko. “That’s the rolling stock, all the water, all the deeded land and federal grazing permits and over 9,000 cows of all shapes and sizes.”
The land package includes 247,500 deeded acres, 558,080 acres of grazing rights on federal land and 142,800 ares of deeded land owned by others available for use, according to the real estate packet.
“The ranch’s nearly one-million-acre expanse places it on a singular pedestal — we know of no other contiguous, blocked-up operation of this size that is available in all of North America,” stated marketing broker Bates Land Consortium Inc. of Salt Lake City.
The ranch also features a 4,000-square-foot main house, guest houses, employee housing, corrals, arenas and a shop.
Nannini said the ranch facilities “look brand new. Everything is in great repair, which is rare to find with the big outfits. It’s a smooth place.”
The Winecup Gamble Ranch is indeed a big outfit with a long history. The California Trail went for 28 miles through the ranch, and James Armstrong began using the Winecup brand in 1868.
John Sparks was an owner from 1881 to 1901, when he sold the ranch and later became governor of Nevada.
Owners also included the late actor Jimmy Stewart and years later Sierra Pacific Power Co., which planned the Thousand Springs power project on the land. The power project fell through in 1991.
Jimmy Stewart and partners bought the Winecup side of the ranch in 1953, at a time when the ranch was split into the Winecup and Gamble sides. Stewart owned the ranch for four years.
The Thousand Springs Trading Post 25 miles north of Wells in Wilkins was part of the ranch. The town had a post office from 1948 to 1963, according to a Northeastern Nevada Museum quarterly publication.
Stewart wrote a letter to the trading post manager, John Moschetti, in 1957 congratulating him on his good work.
Northeastern Nevada Museum’s quarterly magazine editor, Claudia Wines, provided a copy of the letter, which in part says: “We appreciate the job you are doing and I hope that our association can go on for a long time.”
A museum quarterly also mentioned a snowstorm in 1949 that closed U.S. 93 and trapped people in Wilkins for four days. They slept on the trading post floor or in their cars. Snowplows took 20 hours to plow from Wilkins to Wells, and the stranded motorists followed the plows out. The highway then drifted closed again and was blocked for 17 days, according to the museum publication. The storm made the national news.
The Winecup and Gamble Ranch was put back together after the split in 1957, according to ranch history. Owners Russell Wilkins and Martin Wunderlich had divided the ranch in 1945. They bought the ranch from Utah Construction Co., which owned the ranch when it grew to 3 million acres.
Current owner Paul Fireman, who bought the ranch in 1993, was among the top 40 largest landowners in 2015, according to The Land Report. He had purchased North American rights to Reebok in 1979 and later bought out the company. He sold Reebok to Adidas in 2001 and founded Fireman Capital Partners, an investment firm.
Fireman started updating and rejuvenating the ranch in 2009 and listed the property for sale for $50 million in 2010. According to the brochure, he later withdrew the listing and decided to focus on building up the ranch.
The renovation work cost $19 million, according to the brochure.
Fireman hired Clay Worden, a partner of RSM US LLP, to start the ball rolling on the renovations, and he in turned hired Dykes Everett and Company. James Rogers was hired in 2010 to manage the huge ranch.
Nannini said Rogers “is just a top-notch operator, a really forward thinker. I’d match him with any Wall Street suit.”
The ranch runs as a business, with “team meetings consistently and zero turnover. It’s impressive,” said Nannini, who also owns the Westerra Real Estate Group in Twin Falls, Idaho.
Thousand Springs Creek is a major feature of the ranch, with more than 70 miles of creek providing irrigation water for Winecup Gamble’s sole use, the sale booklet states. The Ruby natural gas pipeline goes across the ranch, and the brochure states that there are commitments for up to four potential taps into the line.
This is a good time to sell the ranch, even though cattle prices are down this year because “it’s making money.” Nannini said. The ranch is a safe investment, with returns of 3.5 to 5 percent in recent years when interest rates have been down, he said.
The ranch also offers potential tax breaks and the potential to gain in value over the years. Nannini said that after the economic downturn of 2008, land “became more of an attraction to folks.” Land and water resources are nearly tapped out in much of the West because of urban sprawl so there won’t be that many chances to buy ranches in the future, he said. “The population is growing and the land base is shrinking.”
Realtor Paul Bottari of Wells said buyers for the Winecup Gamble would likely be investors with an eye to the growing need for food and growing land prices.
“Historically, this land will go up in value over time,” he said, adding that the ranch’s elk tags also are a valuable asset.
Another large ranch that is partly in Elko County is for also for sale. Clark Company of Pasco Robles, Calif., lists the 26 Ranch for $40 million. This ranch is often called the 25 Ranch and includes 126,018 deeded acres and straddles four counties, with the Stampede, St. John’s and Rock Creek ranches in Elko County.
“It is one of the largest working cattle ranches in the state of Nevada and has a lot of history,” said broker Pete Clark.
He said the ranch is owned by 26 Ranch LLC, but it used to be owned by the Marvel family. According to the brochure on the ranch, many of the properties were settled in the 1870s and later owned by Russell Land and Cattle Co. and W.J. Jenkins Co. Jenkins merged all the holdings into the 26 Ranch in the 1940s. His daughter Louise Marvel assumed the leading management role at age 18 and expanded the ranch. The ranch was sold in 1964. The current owner bought the ranch is 1989.
Although investors are the more likely buyers for the largest ranches, family ranches are expanding by buying neighboring ranches, said Allie Bear, whose real estate business specializes in farms and ranches.
“Ranch sales have been good the last few years,” she said.
Bear said there is a little tightening of money for ranch purchases, however, now that hay and cattle prices are lower.
“In Elko County, there are not a lot of active ranches on the market at any one point of time,” Bottari said.