Caymus Vineyards has settled an ongoing dispute with Napa County for $1 million and resolved a use-permit violation from 2008, when it exceeded its production limits by 1.9 million gallons of wine.
The county Planning Department audited Caymus’ production in 2008, revealing the excess production. But owner Chuck Wagner said the winery disputed whether its bottling was considered production.
Wagner said Caymus, which owns vineyards in several California counties, crushes and ferments its white wines at a facility in Monterey County, and trucks the liquid up to its facility in Napa County for bottling.
He said the company will move its bottling to a new facility near Fairfield to avoid future complications with its use permit, and will seek a use-permit modification from Napa County. Its use permit was first issued in 1988, before the adoption of the county’s Winery Definition Ordinance in 1990.
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The county filed suit against Caymus on Friday, but that was only a formality, as the company immediately settled the case, Wagner said.
“We just simply had a dispute and we solved it and we’re moving on,” Wagner said. “I think we’re dedicated to the environment and the economic well-being of the valley. We’re looking forward to making more great wine.”
County Planning Director Hillary Gitelman said it’s unusual for the county to see problems like Caymus’, and doesn’t think it would see the issue cropping up in future winery audits.
The county conducts a random, anonymous audit every year, and the results of the 2012 audit — issued in July — showed almost all the wineries audited had complied with their production limits.
“I think it is unusual,” Gitelman said. “I’m actually really happy that the audit this year confirmed what I believe, which is that most wineries are really good about complying with their use permits.”
Wagner said his company would see some benefits from moving bottling to Fairfield, which will entail some winemaking. It will reduce truck-traffic on Napa County roads, and affords some efficiencies in the bottling process. It’s also closer to Interstate 80, he noted. But he doesn’t believe it will be cheaper, as it will have to staff a new facility.
Wagner said Caymus has increased production every year, but acknowledged he hadn’t paid close attention to the limits and stipulations of the WDO and the company’s use permit.
“We probably went about our business with our heads in the sand,” Wagner said. “We didn’t think that that was an important part of our business.”