Girard Winery’s long road to a local rebirth has finally ended in success.
The county Board of Supervisors last week approved allowing a 200,000-gallon-a-year winery at 1077 Dunaweal Lane near Calistoga. Girard once had a Napa County winery and has a Yountville tasting room, but in recent years has produced wine in leased space in Sonoma County.
Planning Commission meetings scattered over a year ended in a 2-2 tie, denying the project. Girard appealed and won a unanimous Board of Supervisors overturn.
County supervisors granted tentative approval to the Girard Winery on March 8, but with a caveat. Supervisors Diane Dillon and Keith Caldwell were concerned that the well and wastewater systems on the 27-acre Girard property already serve Clos Pegase Winery across the street.
Girard and Clos Pegase would share the systems. Dillon and Caldwell didn’t want to see a situation where the two wineries overtax the systems, perhaps prompting one of them to truck in water.
“It’s not a sustainable system if they can resort to that,” Dillon said at the March 8 meeting.
But Vintage Wine Estates owns both Girard and Clos Pegase. It agreed to conditions that will keep it from importing water to the wineries without further environmental review.
Having all of this in the permits was important to Dillon. She posed the scenario that the wineries at some point might have different owners.
The Planning Commission denial of the Girard permit request was related to the shared systems. County law allows a winery on properties 10 acres or larger. Two commissioners questioned whether a parcel should be allowed to have a new winery if its resources are already serving another winery.
Cio Perez of Napa County Farm Bureau brought up the same issue to supervisors on March 8. The practice of allowing shared systems removes the limitations from a property that otherwise couldn’t be used for anything except agriculture, he said.
But the Board’s Girard approval papers said that shared wastewater pond systems allow for more land to be preserved for agriculture.
“Although a different neighboring winery is using a water system located on the Girard parcel, this does not amount to the Girard parcel being ‘occupied’ with a winery,” the approval papers said.
Patrick Roney of Vintage Wine Estates told the story of Girard at the first Planning Commission hearing for the project, which took place on Dec. 17, 2014.
Girard started in Napa County in 1974, Roney said. His partner Leslie Rudd bought the Oakville area winery in 1995 and renamed it Rudd Winery.
“We kept Girard going,” Roney said. “We were sort of orphans for awhile.”
Girard made wine at other wineries before moving to leased space in Sonoma County.
“About 95 percent of our production — 60,000 cases — is Napa fruit,” Roney said. “We’re totally committed to Napa.”
Girard is a relatively large project, the original December 2014 county report said. Still, planning officials recommended approval in part because building the Dunaweal Lane winery would return Napa County grapes to wine production in Napa County.
Girard Winery will have a 32,771-square-foot building that is up to 34 feet high, with two decorative cupolas reaching 45 feet high. The winery can have up to 75 visitors per weekday and up to 90 visitors per weekend day.