The Planning Commission voted Tuesday to expand public access to the historic David Fulton Winery, which has been growing grapes for more than 150 years.

The Fulton Lane winery’s 11-year-old use permit prohibited “tour buses” and limited tours and tastings to two hours a day, two days a week, with a maximum of 10 people per day.

The commission granted a request by Fulton Mather, the great-grandson of winery founder David Fulton, to allow tours and retail sales between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on any day of the week, and to increase the number of guests allowed to 60 per week, with no more than 15 guests per visit.

Since the term “tour buses” wasn’t defined by city ordinance, the commission clarified that only vehicles that hold more than 15 people are prohibited.

Mather said that since the recession, retailers have turned to low-priced wines, forcing small wineries like his — which offers wine at about $45 a bottle — to rely more heavily on direct sales.

Commissioners supported the changes and congratulated Mather for staying in business so long.

“This is one of the most iconic and historic buildings and vineyards that we have here in St. Helena,” said Planning Commission Chair Matthew Heil.

The winery bills itself as the “oldest continuously owned and operated family vineyard in California.” David Fulton established the vineyard in 1860, and the winery was built a year later. In 2006, Fulton Mather restored the original winery building, along with a house and a tank house on the property.

Mather’s request was the latest in a series of requests from small local wineries to expand their activities.

In January the commission increased the number of visitors allowed at Spottswoode from 20 per week to 60. Much more controversial was Steve and Linda Goldfarb’s request to expand production and allow more visitors at Anomaly Vineyards, located off Vallejo Street. The plan sparked heated public hearings, but the Planning Commission granted the Goldfarbs’ request in July, and the City Council upheld the decision.

No members of the public objected to the changes proposed for David Fulton Winery, and commissioners praised Mather for reaching out to his neighbors.

Hospice plans second store

In other action, the commission cleared the way for the nonprofit Napa Valley Hospice & Adult Day Services, which operates the secondhand shop La Boheme on Main Street, to open a second business at 345-A La Fata St.

“Act II” would be open only two days a week. It would store and sell donated clothes and other items that aren’t suited for the higher-end La Boheme. All proceeds would benefit NVHADS.

Interim Planning Director Greg Desmond had originally ruled that the retail shop wasn’t allowed under the La Fata space’s “Industrial” zoning designation, which allows property to be used for warehouse purposes but not primarily for retail.

However, the site is already being used to store merchandise for La Boheme, so commissioners ruled that the retail component, with its very limited hours, would only be secondary to the warehouse use.


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