A 19th-century manor at Stags’ Leap Winery will be converted from a bed-and-breakfast to a wine tasting and visitation space as part of a $2 million investment Treasury Wine Estates is putting into the property.
The winery, located to the east of Silverado Trail south of Yountville Cross Road, will increase its daily visitation by 30 people, and needs the shift in the commercial use of the manor to cover the costs of its improvements, Alicia Cronbach of Treasury Wine Estates told the Napa County Planning Commission last week.
Stags’ Leap will increase from 10 appointments per day to 40, and add food and wine pairings.
The Planning Commission approved the changes to the winery’s use permit last Wednesday, despite the objections of Carl Doumani at neighboring Quixote Winery, who said the added visitation will make the narrow road leading to both wineries more dangerous. The vote to approve was 4-0; Commissioner Heather Phillips was absent.
Doumani expressed concern about a section of the road where it splits off, with one portion leading to Quixote and the other leading over a stone bridge to Stags’ Leap. He said trees shroud drivers’ views of traffic moving in and out, causing him concern that it could lead to more collisions. The road is only wide enough for one car.
“I believe that the safety of the public is not being protected,” Doumani said. “It is not safe. You don’t see cars.”
Kirsty Shelton of the Napa County Planning Department said a pullout will be constructed in that area as part of the project, and turnouts along the road are also planned to be improved. The road can’t be widened unless trees lining it on both sides are removed, she said.
Mark Crane, a consultant with Crane Transportation Group, said he analyzed the potential changes in traffic due to the bed-and-breakfast converting to a tasting and visitation space.
He said the change won’t be noticeable in terms of a daily volume — both uses will have very similar amounts of traffic — but the tasting and visitation space will have higher hourly volumes of traffic during peak travel times.
Doumani said he didn’t believe that analysis, and requested the commissioners delay approving the project for another month to give time for another traffic report to be done, and to answer his safety concerns.
“I strongly disagree with the statement that there will be no more traffic,” Doumani said.
The commissioners disagreed.
Commissioner Bob Fiddaman said he didn’t believe another report would find any differences in traffic volumes, and agreed with Crane’s analysis.
“I understand Mr. Doumani might have some concerns,” Fiddaman said. “There’s not going to be a significant change in traffic.”
He praised Treasury’s willingness to invest in restoring and improving the manor.
“They’re spending a lot of money to change this facility,” Fiddaman said. “As I look at it, good for them. This is a beautiful old house. I’m all for it.”
Commissioner Mike Basayne said he also saw benefits in the investment.
“I don’t see a net increase in activity,” Basayne said of the traffic impacts. “The investment is enhancing the property for the long term.”
Commissioner Matt Pope said he believed the project is continuing a trend in the wine industry of emphasizing direct-to-consumer sales through positive experiences visitors have at wineries. Visiting a historic site like the manor will accomplish that, he said. He also said the tasting and visitation space is a use that’s better suited to the Ag Preserve.
“I think it’s a benefit to the county to reclaim a B&B permit that’s out there,” Pope said.
Commission Chairman Terry Scott said he wanted to see improved signage on the road directing traffic to the properties, and warning people of potential dangers. He said there are already numerous speed-limit signs stating that the road is a 15 mph zone. The out-of-the-way location of the winery will make it exclusive, he said.
“This is going to be an exclusive site,” Scott said. “I see this building, this manor house, as a historic treasure.”