Skip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
Napa County needs more time with a winery proposal at the end of a mile-long narrow road
Wine Industry

Napa County needs more time with a winery proposal at the end of a mile-long narrow road

From the Napa Valley Wine Insider Digest: June 12, 2021 series

Kelly Fleming's winery near Calistoga wants more visitors and, in an increasingly familiar story for off-the-beaten-path Napa County wineries, rural neighbors are concerned.

The winery under the name of Pickett Road Wine Co. asked the county Planning Commission last week to, among other things, raise the visitation cap. Commissioners told Fleming and the neighbors to try to work out their differences.

“I would much prefer to have the applicant and neighbors come together,” Commissioner Dave Whitmer said.

Commissioners agreed that the matter should return to them at a date-to-be-determined.

The winery is located in Simmons Canyon near the end of mile-long Pickett Road. Pickett Road is narrow and runs past vineyards, some rural homes, and a few wineries before reaching a dead end.

Fleming secured county approval for her winery in 2006 and opened it in 2010. Her request to the Planning Commission included increasing annual visitation from a maximum of 3,618 to 7,372.

Some Pickett Road residents expressed concerns about the potential for more traffic, more noise and more water use.

Pickett Road resident Robert Levenstein supported Fleming’s interest in increasing her business.

“But we’re not supportive — just as county code is not supportive — of loud parties and amplified music which disturbs the peaceful enjoyment of local property,” he said.

Pickett Road resident Christopher Kostow is the chef at The Restaurant at Meadowood. He said winery events involve not only guests arriving in shuttles, but also florists, planners, musicians, and others.

“That is a lot of traffic, a lot of cars, hurtling down that road,” Kostow said.

Pickett Road at some points is no wider than 11 feet, he said. There is a crumbling ditch to the north side. He fears regularly for his children’s lives. A local dog was recently killed by a speeding motorist.

Whitmer said he understood.

“You come down from the very top of Pickett Road and it’s a straightaway,” Whitmer said. “A lot of folks are probably going, ‘Oh boy, this is like a race track.’ Well, that’s a problem on a small, narrow road like that.”

When he drove on the road, he saw no posted speed limit, though perhaps he just missed it, Whitmer said.

Kostow and others in letters talked about the aquifer that provides drinking water to residents. Supplies have become increasingly spotty, they said.

“Water trucks can be seen every day on Pickett Road,” Levenstein said. “They tell us the water problem is a big one.”

Consultant Jon Webb on behalf of the winery said the water increase would be minimal, about 26,000 gallons a year. That’s about the use of a residence for one month.

Webb said the winery could be put up directional signs to make certain guests find the winery easily. It could reduce the number of additional marketing events, switch some from nighttime to daytime and notify immediate neighbors of nighttime events.

Commissioners also addressed the possibility of canceling events and visitation when severe weather makes wildfires a particular danger. The winery during the 2020 fires lost four acres of vineyards, a pump house, a detached garage, various tanks, and buried lines.

“I think because of the location of this winery, being conservative is the right move here,” Commissioner Megan Dameron said.

Such issues will return to the commission as it grapples with another growth decision involving a winery that is not along a major roadway. The county approaches "remote" wineries on a case-by-case basis, looking at what is unique to each request.

County officials in 2018 said unincorporated Napa County has 484 wineries, and 57 percent are located in hillside areas and the Carneros region. Thirty-eight percent are located on the valley floor. The rest are in such places as the airport industrial area.

A new study has found that puppies are wired to communicate with humans from birth. Dogs are born with “human-like” social skills that give them an advantage when it comes to bonding with people. Researchers found that puppies are able to understand some human gestures. However, they aren’t able to communicate back until they are a little older. 375 eight-week-old puppies took part in the study. The dogs had little previous one-on-one interaction with humans. In one test, the puppies were able to find a hidden treat by following human pointing gestures. These findings suggest that dogs are biologically prepared for communication with humans, Dr. Emily Bray, University of Arizona

Catch up on Napa County's top news stories

In case you missed it, here is a look at the most-read stories on

Get unlimited digital access to the Napa Valley Register for just $3 for your first 3 months! Enjoy every article without restrictions and find tons of subscriber-only perks, such as access to our daily eEdition. Click here for details!

You can reach Barry Eberling at 256-2253 or

Get local news delivered to your inbox!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

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.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News