Bremer Family Winery’s vineyard creation project that has seen Napa Valley soil hauled by the truckload to a rocky mountainside at Deer Park near Angwin is on hold under county orders.
Napa County red-tagged the project on Sept. 8 to halt construction. Planning, Building and Environmental Services Director David Morrison said what’s been built on the ground so far doesn’t match the county-approved plans.
For example, the plans allow building five-foot rock retaining walls to hold dirt for the vineyard. Morrison said county inspectors have seen some walls about 12 feet tall.
In addition, Morrison said, the vineyard configuration is different than what the plans show.
In addition to the red tag to stop work, the county has issued the project a code enforcement notice of violation. But it’s possible the 30-acre vineyard creation could go forward at some point.
“That’s something we are in the process of working with the Bremers on,” Morrison said.
For one thing, the Bremers have submitted modified plans to the county. Some of the changes on the ground could become legal if they win county approval, Morrison said. Otherwise, what’s been built may have to be reconfigured.
However, Morrison said, the Bremers must move forward with one part of the project despite the red tag – getting the site ready for the winter so rains don’t erode sediment into streams.
The project application on file with the county calls for hauling as much as 45,000 cubic yards of dirt to the rocky vineyard site. Tom Trzesniewski, the winery general manager, said a few weeks ago that some of the dirt already hauled came from the Napa River restoration project.
That restoration project involves returning the Napa River channel in the Rutherford and Oak Knoll areas to a more natural state. Vineyard owners near the river have voluntarily given up some of their valuable land to make way for a wider river with flood terraces. But that has left excess dirt.
An average commercial dump truck holds 10 to 14 cubic yards of dirt. Hauling 45,000 cubic yards in trucks that size would take more than 3,000 trips.
Morrison said the Bremer vineyard creation effort is an unusual project for Napa County. Generally, vineyards are planted in areas where the soil is already present in sufficient amounts, he said.
Perhaps it’s an only-in-Napa project.
“I think it is fairly unique in the sense that Napa is probably one of the areas where agricultural land would be so valuable to justify the expenses associated with something like this,” Morrison said.
Trzesniewski couldn’t be reached for a comment on Thursday or Friday. However, he commented last month on some of the earlier give-and-take between the county and the Bremers.
“The only thing the Bremers want to do is follow what the county wants – if they can understand what it wants – and have the best possible project ever,” Trzesniewski said.
Bremer Family Winery is located at 975 Deer Park Road just outside of the Howell Mountain wine appellation. It is operated by John and Laura Bremer.
The Bremers bought the winery at 975 Deer Park Road in 2002. John Bremer is listed by the Wall Street Journal as being a senior executive with U.S. Mine Corp., a director at Purebase Corp. and CEO of GroWest, Inc.
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