A new winery called Sleeping Giant is coming to the Carneros wine region in south Napa County, despite a few concerns over water and visitation facility size.
“When I moved here over 30 years ago, the Carneros region was really a patchwork quilt of distressed properties,” county Planning Commissioner Michael Basayne said. “There were a few diamonds in the rough, so to speak.”
The area since that time has seen a renaissance, he said, adding the Dearden family and their Sleeping Giant Winery is part of the “wave for change.”
The Planning Commission approved the project on Wednesday by unanimous vote.
Sleeping Giant is to be a 30,000-gallon-a-year winery located on 11.4 acres at 2258 Las Amigas Road. A 1,138-square-foot barn will be demolished to make room for a two-story, 12,745-square-foot winery building that has a “modern barn aesthetic,” a county report said.
The winery will have a maximum of 85 tasting room visitors weekly and six marketing events annually with up to 50 people apiece.
It will entertain visitors in a 1,500-square-foot main tasting room, a 500-square-foot private tasting room and 1,196-square-foot covered outdoor tasting terrace.
County staff expressed concern that the overall size of the tasting areas appears to be out of scale for the number of visitors. But applicant Chris Dearden had an explanation that satisfied commissioners.
“It gets pretty windy in the afternoon in Carneros and in the morning it’s often very foggy,” Dearden said.
The proposed layout will give him flexibility to move around the guests, depending on the weather, he said. Also, he can move guests inside if neighbors have noise complaints.
Dearden said he came to the Napa Valley in the 1970s and decided then that he wanted to be a winemaker. A 1985 internship sealed the deal and in 1986, after graduating from the University of California, Davis, he went to work in a wine cellar.
“Being a ‘cellar rat’ in Napa was far superior to being an assistant wine maker in any other part of the state or in Oregon or Washington,” Dearden said.
In subsequent years he helped several wineries make wine and do business, he said.
In 2005, the Deardens produced the first vintage of Sleeping Giant wine and now sell in six states. The next step is to make their wine in their own winery. Dearden called Sleeping Giant Winery “a long-term dream of ours.”
Neighbor Kurt Reaume didn’t oppose the Deardens’ dream. But he’s concerned that Sleeping Giant’s water use will further sap his own well that he uses to irrigate a vineyard.
The key to solving this issue could lie with a new recycled water pipeline that brings treated Napa Sanitation District water to the Carneros area. The Deardens can hook up to the line, though the Reaumes cannot because they are farther away.
Napa Sanitation District has already agreed to provide Sleeping Giant with 1.24 acre feet annually of reclaimed water. That, combined with the loss of some vineyard, will decrease groundwater use from existing conditions.
Jeffrey Redding on behalf of Sleeping Giant said that reclaimed water and treated winery wastewater will provide 43 percent of the property’s irrigation water needs. The Deardens would like to use still more Napa Sanitation District reclaimed water and agreed to seek a higher allotment.
“We’re willing to do it,” Redding said. “It’s up to the NSD to provide us that opportunity.”
That satisfied the commission.
“The water issue is one the applicants have addressed to the extent they can at this point,” Commissioner Terry Scott said.
One issue not touched on at the Planning Commission meeting is how Sleeping Giant got its name. The Deardens on their website say the Mayacamas Mountains near their home are known as Sleeping Giant because the contour of the hilltops look like a giant repose.