Thomas Kenefick and his family have won Napa County approval to add a 20,000-gallon-a-year winery to their Calistoga-area ranch tucked amid the volcanic foothills near the Palisades.

“I’m a third-generation physician,” Kenefick told the county Planning Commission. “All of our family has been farmers at the same time. It started with my grandfather in Iowa...”

Kenefick first visited Napa Valley in 1970 while working in San Francisco as a neurosurgeon and bought his 250-acre ranch in the late 1970s, according to the Kenefick Ranch website. Kenefick Ranch wine is made offsite.

The Planning Commission on March 6 approved the proposed, 3,840-square-foot Kenefick Ranch winery at 2200 Pickett Road.

Kenefick Ranch winery can have up to 12 by-appointment visitors daily. It can have 11 marketing events annually. Between the tasting and events, it can have up to 4,730 guests annually.

“We’re a family-owned farm and winery with no intention of becoming big or becoming corporate like many others in the area,” Kenefick told commissioners.

The winery will be built at the site of a barn that will be removed, about a half-mile from Silverado Trail. The project includes improving a driveway to meet county road standards.

Up to seven oaks could be removed. Fourteen oaks will be planted onsite as mitigation. Tree removal and building removal must be done in such a way as to not disturb nesting birds or kill roosting bats.

Lester Hardy on behalf of the winery said the winery will be located in an area with ranch buildings. That will minimize its impact.

“This has been the center of activity for this ranch for a least 100 years, I suspect longer,” Hardy said.

Commissioners had several questions on the winery proposal, but made few comments. They took up the issue after spending five hours tackling the county's controversial, proposed Water Quality and Tree Protection Ordinance.

The approval marked the commission’s first winery-related decision in 2019, either for a proposed winery or proposed major modifications to an existing one.

The Planning Commission on March 6 was also to discuss the proposed Darms Lane winery. The commission continued the matter until March 20.

Darms Lane winery is to be a new winery between Napa and Yountville that produces 30,000 gallons of wine annually. Between daily tastings and marketing events, it is asking to have a total of 9,214 visitors annually.

Reception from neighbors who wrote in letters on the project is mixed, with several expressing concern about traffic increases on Darms Lane and other possible impacts.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.