Caldwell Vineyard winery will have to rethink its visitor growth ideas in the latest dispute over proposed winery tourism expansion in an off-the-beaten-path area.
The Napa County Planning Commission on Wednesday heard both from the winery and from concerned neighbors on Kreuzer Lane east of the city of Napa. Commissioners postponed the matter indefinitely as they look for a revised proposal.
“The fact that it’s a small lane in an area with not so many neighbors, but it seems all of them are here with the same concerns – that tells me something,” Commissioner Jeri Hansen said.
Caldwell winery is located at 270 Kreuzer Lane near the Coombsville area. It is allowed to have eight visitors daily and 13 annual marketing events with a total of 270 guests.
“We simply can’t survive with those low numbers,” attorney Tom Adams said on behalf of Caldwell Vineyard.
The winery wants to increase daily tasting visitation to 60 people and annual marketing events to 19 with a total of 1,040 guests. That would go along with annual production increase from 25,000 gallons to 35,000 gallons.
Several neighbors said an increase of more than 700 percent in visitation on a narrow, dead-end road is too much. They said winery visitors drive on the road after drinking alcohol, posing safety concerns.
“We’re not threatening the agricultural land use of Napa County,” neighbor Faith D’Aluisio said. “We’re questioning the propriety of letting the spiraling marketing aspects of agriculture overwhelm us and our valley.”
Neighbor Joseph Sabella said he saw a bus going down the Kreuzer Lane hill blaring music with people dancing inside.
“I do not object to reasonable increases to the winery permit,” he said. “I do strongly object to turning our neighborhood into a three-ring Disneyland circus.”
Don’t turn Kreuzer Lane into Cruiser Lane, neighbor Matt Sabella said.
Attorney Denis Shanagher represents the Kreuzer Lane Protection Committee. He wanted more time to analyze and respond to a new traffic study.
Adams questioned whether Kreuzer Lane really is a dead-end road, give there is fire emergency access to Green Valley Road. The traffic increase on Kreuzer Lane would be only 15 percent on a lightly traveled road, he said.
He saw the 700-percent-plus visitor increase in a different light. What that really shows is how low the existing visitation is, he said.
Caldwell Vineyard has complied with county procedures. This project shouldn’t bear the brunt of people’s disagreements with county policies to support the wine industry, Adams said.
Vintner Tim Porter of nearby Porter Family Vineyards spoke in favor of the Caldwell Vineyard proposal. He questioned why wineries are limited to a physical count of visitors per day, while other businesses such as restaurants are limited by occupancy.
“It’s hopeful supervisors will change some of these regulations and stop counting visitors,” Porter said. “It’s a waste of everybody’s time.”
Commissioner Joelle Gallagher later addressed these comments. The county limits visitors at a winery because visitation is to be incidental to the agricultural uses of growing and processing grapes, she said.
Caldwell winery submitted copies of its visitor logs to the county for the past three years, a county report said. The county found that the winery exceeded its allowed eight daily visitors on four days in 2015, 18 days in 2016 and no days in 2017. It never exceeded its weekly cap of 40 visitors.
Neighbors disputed that the logs are accurate. D’Aluisio said a time-lapse camera set up for five months in 2017 revealed more tasting visitors going to the winery.
The Planning Commission first heard the Caldwell Vineyard issue on Jan. 17. At that time, commissioners hoped neighbors and winery officials could reach a compromise on their own.
“While there have been initial efforts on the part of the applicant to work with neighbors, that clearly hasn’t risen to the level of any type of success at this point,” Planning Commission Chair Anne Cottrell said.
Planning commissioners were concerned about the proposed visitation numbers, with some commissioner suggesting a phased approach with monitoring. But they didn’t get down to specifics.
“We really don’t like to horse trade on the spot,” Commissioner Mike Basayne said.
Commissioners also want to see improvements of some type made to the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Kreuzer Lane. They want traffic calming or other safety measures on a portion of Kreuzer Lane.