Napa County Superior Court will weigh in on whether the county Board of Supervisors made a correct decision when it approved Mountain Peak Winery above Soda Canyon east of the city of Napa.
Opponents under the name Soda Canyon Group filed a lawsuit on Wednesday. They claimed the county should have required an environmental impact report for the yet-to-be-built winery and asked that the approvals be placed on hold while such a report is prepared.
The Mountain Peak Winery proposal sparked a discussion on how big a winery should be in a remote location. Supervisors wrestled with the issue on May 23 and decided against overturning a Planning Commission approval for the project. They took a final vote on Aug. 22.
Mountain Peak Winery is to produce up to 100,000 gallons of wine annually, have up to 14,300 tasting room visitors annually and have up to 275 visitors annually at three marketing events.
The Soda Canyon Group in its lawsuit said members include Kosta Arger, Cynthia Grupp, William Hocker and Glenn Schreuder, all Soda Canyon area residents. County reports list the Mountain Peak Winery applicant as Steven Rea.
Opponents have repeatedly said narrow, dead-end Soda Canyon Road cannot safely handle winery traffic. Yeoryios Apallas at the Aug. 22 Board meeting said the winery is to be located seven miles up a “winding, serpentine, potholed” road.
The opponents have hammered at other supposed failings of the Mountain Peak proposal, such as siltation and runoff they say could end up in Rector Reservoir, a water source for Yountville. They said dirt excavated to create winery caves will be piled on land near seasonal streams.
For these and other reasons, opponents in the lawsuit said the county was required under state law to prepare an environmental impact report for the project.
Napa County instead relied on a less-detailed negative declaration document. This study said the project would have “less than significant” or “no impacts” in a variety of areas ranging from transportation to water quality to biological resources.
The lawsuit called Mountain Peak Winery the largest winery ever approved in the county for such a remote location.
For supervisors, a selling point was a last-minute offer by Mountain Peak Winery to make at least 75 percent of its wine from grapes grown in nearby vineyards. They saw this as cutting down on trucks hauling grapes elsewhere.
“It honors that the grapes are going to come from exactly where they’re going to be crushed, where the wine is going to be produced,” Board Chairwoman Belia Ramos said. “I value that very much.”
Rea spoke on behalf of the winery owners at the May 23 Board meeting. He said many of the Soda Canyon Road issues seem to be based on existing condition with trucks and other traffic related to agriculture.
“I came here to farm, to make wine, to run a winery business,” Rea told supervisors. “Everything I’ve understood about Napa County is this is wine country and the general plan supports agriculture.”
He also said that Mountain Peak keeps sprayers, tractors and other equipment at the existing vineyards so it doesn’t have to truck them in.
The debate will now move from the Board chambers to the courtroom. No hearing dates have yet been set and the county has yet to file a response to the Soda Canyon Group lawsuit.