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Commission approves winery expansion

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The Planning Commission voted 4-1 Tuesday to approve the expansion of the Davies Family Winery production facility, and to allow tours and tastings in a new building.

Commissioners generally agreed that the project, the first phase of which was approved in 2012, made good use of the old Epps Chevrolet property.

“As a production facility, this was seen at the time as a little bit of a head-scratcher, but it worked,” said Commission Chair Matthew Heil. “This is a completion of that adaptive reuse.”

The winery will expand production from 20,000 gallons per year to 75,000. Tastings and other marketing events will be offered in a two-story building along Grayson Avenue, behind A&W and roughly across the street from the future site of the St. Helena High School auditorium.

Commissioner Bobbie Monnette voted against the project, citing concerns about the safety of students.

She said she’d support the winery expansion under certain conditions, but was worried about traffic, with cars pulling out of the tasting room onto Grayson Avenue and potentially colliding with teen drivers heading to or from the high school.

The rest of the commission agreed that traffic was a concern, but said the traffic signal planned for Main/Grayson will make the area much safer for cars and pedestrians. The applicants will have to contribute to the cost of the light, and have pledged not to schedule winery events that would coincide with school events like Homecoming.

Commissioners also stressed the need to conserve water. The winery will use city water for domestic use and groundwater for wine production.

Water studies concluded that the winery will use a maximum of 442 gallons of city water per day, less than the 455 gallons per day that Epps used. The use of groundwater from an existing well is expected to peak at 2,980 gallons per day.

Commissioners praised the applicants, led by Hugh Davies, for contacting neighboring property owners and getting their support. They said that with the Davies family’s history of philanthropy and resource stewardship, the project will “enhance the life of St. Helena,” as Commissioner Grace Kistner said.

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St. Helena Editor

Jesse has been a reporter for the St. Helena Star since 2006. He became editor in 2021.

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