Caldwell Vineyard & Winery will have its day before the Napa County Board of Supervisors on Feb. 26 as the latest entry in the winery visitation debate.
The Coombsville-area winery wants to increase daily visitation from a maximum of eight guests to 35 guests and modify its marketing events plan. It wants to increase annual wine production from 25,000 gallons to 35,000 gallons.
Neighbors formed the Kreuzer Lane Protection Committee. They objected to the proposed level of winery-generated traffic on their narrow, dead-end rural road, which is the access to the winery at 270 Kreuzer Lane.
On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors set the appeal hearing date. Supervisors will settle yet another dispute concerning how much visitation should be allowed at wineries located away from major wine country roads.
The Planning Commission delayed making a decision twice last year. At the third hearing on Oct. 17, it wanted to allow still more time to digest new proposals and for the winery and neighbors to work out their differences.
“I think we’d just prefer a vote,” attorney Thomas Adams said on behalf of Caldwell Vineyard, even though that vote looked certain to be negative.
The commission obliged and denied the Caldwell Vineyard growth request by a 4-0 vote. The winery then appealed the decision to the Board of Supervisors.
Adams in the appeal packet addressed his request for a Planning Commission vote, as opposed to heeding the request from the commission to take more time and to work further with the neighbors.
“This was not an easy decision, especially since the viability of the winery is at stake,” Adams wrote.
A group of vocal neighbors appears to be strategically blocking the winery’s ability to craft an application acceptable to all, he wrote. In another part of the appeal, he wrote that the Caldwells are trying to be good neighbors and address concerns, but their efforts “never will be enough.”
Adams cited the costs and delays associated with another Planning Commission postponement.
The appeal said the traffic impact from the proposed visitor increase would be unnoticeable to neighbors. It also brought up the county’s right-to-farm law.
“Put simply, in Napa County, agriculture includes the right to produce, market and sell wine – even if it conflicts with ‘urban’ uses,” Adams wrote.
The Kreuzer Lane group saw things differently. One neighbor told the Planning Commission on Oct. 17 that a 500-percent visitor increase would be out of line for the agricultural watershed in a fire-prone area.
Attorney Denis Shanagher, who represents Kreuzer Lane Protection Committee, said on Monday that the group and winery haven’t reached any agreements since the Planning Commission hearing.
“I’ve had no communication with anybody on behalf of Caldwell,” Shanagher said. “I haven’t heard from anybody from the winery.”
Joseph Sabella told commissioners at the Oct. 17 meeting that he’d lived on Kreuzer Lane for 28 years. He liked the peaceful, bucolic atmosphere and the agricultural activity.
“Many years after I settled here came the Caldwell winery, which brought traffic, speeders and noise, all of which profoundly changed our peaceful hill,” he said.
These type of issues are arising more frequently as wineries say they are forced to turn more to direct-to-consumer wine sales. The Board of Supervisors last year began a discussion on how to address “remote” wineries away from such major thoroughfares as Highway 29 and Silverado Trail.