Upvalley winery
Kelly Doren/Register

Despite the objections of neighbors concerned with their groundwater supplies, the Napa County Planning Commission signed off on a new 60,000-gallon winery on Silverado Trail north of St. Helena.

The commission voted 4-0, with Commissioner Matt Pope absent, to approve the 28,000-square-foot winery last week. The winery will be located on property northeast of the intersection of Silverado Trail and Crystal Springs Road.

The winery, identified only by the address of 3730 Silverado Trail in planning documents, initially sparked the attention of neighbors when it went before the Planning Commission in December 2013.

The project was put on hold for two months to allow its developers to meet with neighbors, and discuss traffic safety, the project’s water use, landscaping, design and replanting the current vineyard on the property, said Rob Anglin, an attorney working for the developers.

The developers also commissioned a hydrology study that reported the winery’s well and groundwater supplies will be plentiful enough that it would not impact the neighbors. Last week, some told the commissioners they were unconvinced.

Frank Dotzler, a principal in the project and owner of Outpost Wines in Angwin, said the winery will use recycled water whenever possible, and will take other steps to conserve water.

As a member of the Howell Mountain Mutual Water company’s board of directors, Dotzler said he appreciates water conservation, and Outpost Wines has used water responsibly, which he said he will replicate with the new winery.

“At Outpost you’ll never see somebody chase a grape down a crush pad with a hose,” Dotzler said. “We’re looking to put a huge investment in this place. This is something we want to do for a long time. We do want to be good neighbors.”

Neighbor Roger Cardoza said the winery would have an immediate impact on residences in the area.

“In this case it does destroy the hopes and dreams of the neighbors,” Cardoza said. “We’re left there with it, day after day.”

Ray Centanni said the winery, which will be made of metal and concrete, will look out of place in the residential area. He said groundwater has already become an issue in the area, and the situation may worsen in the drought.

“A large manufacturing complex is going into this nice, quiet area,” Centanni said. “A lot of these things look good on paper. The realities for us living in the community ... are much different.”

But the commissioners reminded Centanni that winery buildings, even large ones, are considered agricultural uses in Napa County and are appropriate for his area.

“It is the right of the individual to purchase property and apply for a winery use permit in this neighborhood,” Commissioner Mike Basayne said.

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Commission Chairman Bob Fiddaman concurred, but said he felt sympathetic to the neighbors.

“I’m very sympathetic to the concerns of the neighbors,” Fiddaman said. “Nobody likes to see things change. You can refer to this as a manufacturing facility but that’s not the way things go in Napa County. That’s the way life is in this county.”

Deputy Planning Director John McDowell said staff supported the project, and relied on the experts who produced the hydrology report that stated the winery wouldn’t impact neighboring groundwater supplies.

“The evidence suggests that there is little to no effect on neighboring wells,” McDowell said.

Anglin said the developers would rely on trucking in water if the well ran dry, but the issue would also return to the commission if that happened.

Fiddaman said he was confident in the strength of the well. “This is actually a strong well,” he said. “I suggest you read (the study) and take some heart from it.”

The commissioners approved the use permit, but also conditioned the project so that the developers would add a left-hand turn lane on Silverado Trail, and do landscaping work to mask the winery from the neighbors.

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