A little more than two years ago, Raymond Vineyards set off public argument about winery development when it went before the Napa County Planning Commission asking to double in size and increase its marketing plans.

The request was never granted in light of the criticism levied at the winery, including pointed remarks from longtime Napa Valley grapegrower — and neighbor — Andy Beckstoffer.

Beckstoffer argued the owner, Jean-Charles Boisset, wouldn’t be able to get enough Napa Valley grapes to produce 1.5 million gallons of wine, an increase from 750,000 gallons, while complying with the county’s 75 percent rule. The proposal was pulled for retooling.

On Wednesday, the project will return before the Planning Commission, but without its most controversial element — the production increase. The new plans only ask to increase the daily maximum visitation from 400 to 500 people, and to shift its marketing plan to allow 50 total events per year, including two 500-person events, four for 250 people, six with 150 people, 12 for 100 people, and 26 for 50 people.

Whether the project will still face public opposition is going to be a litmus test to gauge how far public criticism of winery projects has shifted in the last two years. Some neighbors have written letters to county planning staff raising questions and concerns about the revised project.

Neighbor Pat Friday wrote to planning staff in May, asking the county to consider the Raymond application in conjunction with the recently approved Castellucci Winery, which is going to be on the corner of Zinfandel Lane and Silverado Trail, down the road from Raymond.

“The combination of these two wineries’ visitors, employees and production trucks is way too much traffic for our road and residential neighborhood,” Friday wrote. “I would like to encourage you to consider the impact of the combination of these projects, traffic snarls at the corner of Zinfandel and Highway 29, increased noisy trucks on Zinfandel, as well as any additional winery applications that increases traffic on Zinfandel Lane.”

Tom Blackwood, a representative for Raymond, did not return a phone call seeking comment on the project’s revision Friday afternoon. Napa County planning staff members are recommending approval of the project’s use permit modifications.

When the Raymond project initially went before the Planning Commission in June 2012, few winery projects such as new use permits or expansions of existing use permits were seeing much opposition.

In March of that year, members of the wine industry spoke out in opposition to a proposal by Reata Winery, now Jamieson Ranch Vineyards, which asked to expand from 200,000 gallons of production to 1.1 million with an extra 2.4 million gallons of bulk wine bottling. That would have made it the fifth-largest winery in Napa Valley, but raised questions about how it could comply with the 75 percent rule when consuming an estimated 7 to 11 percent of the county’s grape harvest.

The Planning Commission gave them 800,000 gallons plus 350,000 gallons of bulk wine bottling as a compromise. Three months later, Raymond’s request brought up a similar debate.

It also set off months of discussions within the wine industry and among its trade groups about whether the county was growing enough grapes to satisfy the 75 percent rule in light of increased winery development.

That process culminated in a Planning Commission meeting in early 2013 about whether any changes needed to be made to the Winery Definition Ordinance, which contains the requirement that Napa Valley wines contain at least 75 percent Napa Valley grapes. Staff and the commissioners, at the time, agreed that it did not need changing.

(8) comments

Bike To Work
Bike To Work

Sounds like more jobs, more visitors more traffic. If not there it will be at the multitude of other wineries on Highway 29 and Zinfandel. Time for the Vine Trail.

maldetesta
maldetesta

Read the county staff report - Raymond was in gross violation of its use permit. So the county is allowing them to amend the use permit to fit the violations. Nice.
All of the changes they want are to increase visitation - way past what they should have if anyone really cares about the Ag Preserve anymore.

mjb310
mjb310

Yes, traffic is a major issue, especially at the crossroad intersections on Silverado Tr and 29. I don't think adding traffic signals is the best solution, though. Signals create long queues during red phases and negatively impact traffic flow. Just look at how far the backup from Pope Street goes northbound or from American Canyon Rd southbound. Roundabouts at the crossroad intersections would much better manage left-turning traffic while still keeping traffic moving. They'd also preserve the agricultural feel of the landscape whereas traffic signals would not.

Adding stops for the wine train would reduce and better manage traffic by bringing people to wineries other than by vehicle. The wine train concept should be expanded to include transportation in addition to what is offered now.

RJ
RJ

Andy B. and all the neighbors should be worked. Boisset wants to do all kinds of very unusual marketing activities unrelated to wine at Raymond. After he bought it in 2009, he brought in a promoter to try and do a boxing exhibition. Fortunately some employees talked him out of it due to it not being an allowed activity. He even wants the Wine Train to build a stop on Hey 29 so he can get people off for tours at Raymond. (Raymond supplies the wine to the Wine Train BTW) Raymond began exceeding its production permit in 2010 when it moved over bottling and crushing from its fellow Boisset company winery DeLoach, in Sonoma County. The Lyeth, Amber Hill, most of DeLoach and several other brands were added to production at Raymond and Boisset increased Raymond's production. The County should ask for Raymond's crush and bottling records for the last four years. There is NO way Raymond is bottling 75% of its grapes from Napa County....nor crushing.

Have you tried to get onto 29 or the Trail from one of the crossroads in the afternoon? It is very difficult, especially if there is a truck in front of you trying to do the same. It is almost impossible if you want to make a left turn. It's a wonder there aren't more accidents [yet]. With so many more visitors and workers, Zinfandel Lane, and all of the other crossroads will need traffic lights. Now won't that look like an agricultural preserve?

Abouttime
Abouttime

The same old argument from people like Butler. I've got mine and I don't want anyone else to be here. Raymond contributes profoundly to the industry and to the community. People sitting and clipping coupons, who have created nothing and contribute nothing to the Valley have forfeited the right to complain.

napablogger
napablogger

People blame Beckstoffer for being self interested, but think about it. He sells grapes. If we allow Raymond or Reata to buy tons more Napa grapes, what will happen to the price of Andy's grapes? They will go up, up, up.

And so will mine. Grapegrowers who argue for limits on growth are arguing against their own economic interest. What they are arguing for is preserving the quality of life and of business in Napa Valley.

There is only so much capacity here, we have to face that reality.

Michael Butler
Michael Butler

Perhaps the planners need to get on Hwy 29 or Silverado trail at 4:30 on any WEEKDAY, and sit in stop and go traffic for 30-45 minutes. They're workers not tourists in the other vehicles. The additional wineries being approved, along with the expansion of those already in existence, will make events like the ones Raymond is asking for a mute point. Who wants to come to Napa Valley and sit in bumper to bumper traffic?

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