Nathan Coombs

Nathan Coombs, founder of the city of Napa for whom the Coombsville neighborhood is named. Now a Coombsville winery will bear his name.

Napa County Historical Society

Sonoma County vintner Paul Hobbs received Napa County approval to build the Nathan Coombs Winery amid concerns from several neighbors, including Skyline Wilderness Park.

Hobbs proposed to build a 60,000-gallon-a-year winery, named for the founder of the city of Napa, on 90 acres at 2184 Imola Ave. in southeast Napa. The Napa County Planning Commission on Wednesday approved the project by a 4-0 vote.

“What we’d like to do is build a small jewell winery on this special site … We want to build something discreet and very high end,” Hobbs said.

Hobbs said he grew up on a New York apple farm, then came to California and became involved in the wine business at his father’s urging. He worked for Robert Mondavi Winery and at Opus One Winery in Napa County. He established the Paul Hobbs Winery in Sonoma County, but also wants a Napa County winery.

“This is sort of the culmination of a dream for me and my family,” Hobbs said.

Hobbs representative Steve Martin said the winery will be located at the site of a barn and should be the same height. That barn cannot be seen from public roads, though it can be seen from two neighboring properties.

“The design is going to be an agrarian design, so it’s (like) a barn and has a rustic feel to it, so it fits in with the setting and surroundings,” Martin said.

Neighbors addressed the commission during public comments. Dorothy Glaros spoke on behalf of the Skyline Park Citizens Association, which runs the 850-acre park. She said park officials had just found out about the proposed winery and asked for a hearing postponement.

“The project could severely, negatively impact the park and its users,” Glaros said. “We’ve had no time to review it whatsoever.”

Martin said the winery site is 2,000 feet away from the park—about four-tenths of a mile—and he doesn’t see any conflicts.

Some neighbors, such as Penny Lane resident Kathy Felch, had concerns about such issues as groundwater use and noise and called for more environmental study.

Felch had a retort for Hobbs’ comment that the winery would bring the creme de la creme to the area.

“The creme de la creme slam their car doors, just like the normal Joes on Penny Lane,” she said.

Nathan Coombs Winery is to be built in the Coombsville area that has experienced declining groundwater levels in recent decades. Several neighbors said the proposed winery could hurt their well water supplies. They asked that the winery irrigate its existing vineyards with recycled water from Napa Sanitation District, given a recycled water line runs along Imola Avenue.

Hobbs said he’s willing to consider using recycled water for irrigation.

“At this point, we do not have assurances of the quality,” Hobbs said. “Given the nature of the product that we make, the sensitivity of the plant and so forth, until we have better assurances—because there are questions about the sulfur content and sodium, and some other issues, a number of unknowns…”

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A county report said the site has sufficient groundwater for the winery.

Neighbor Paul Frank spoke in favor of the Nathan Coombs Winery. The winery is appropriate for the community, appropriate for the area and appropriate in size, he said.

Several neighbors said nighttime harvests in the existing Nathan Coombs vineyards brings lights and noise. They also said they wanted notification of agricultural spraying.

Commission Chairwoman Jeri Gill responded by reading from the county’s right-to-farm ordinance designed to make certain agriculture isn’t threatened by neighbor complaints. Still, she and other commissioners urged Hobbs to communicate with the neighbors.

“We are in a valley where the economic engine is primarily the wine industry, and hence, we’ve embraced it here,” Commissioner Michael Basayne said.

The site has 67 acres of vineyards. About 1.4 acres would be removed to make room for the winery. Napa County requires preserving an acre of farmland for each acre lost to non-agricultural uses, but that doesn’t apply in this case, as a winery is considered by the county as agriculture, a county report said.

The winery is to be built in two phases. The first phase would produce 12,000 gallons of wine annually and the second phase would increase production to 60,000 gallons annually. Visitation is to be up to 30 people daily. The winery will be able to hold two marketing events annually for up to 50 guests each and two events for up to 100 guests each.

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Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He was worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield. He is a graduate of UC Sa