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Brothers Lance and Neil Ellman have won county permission to build a winery along Silverado Trail northeast of the city of Napa.

They already make wine from their Ellman Family Vineyards at 3286 Silverado Trail near Soda Canyon Road. Now they want to build their own, 30,000-gallon-a-year winery.

“We’re excited to slowly grow our little family brand,” Lance Ellman said. “We’ve just fallen in love with the area and we are excited to be here.”

The Napa County Planning Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved the winery.

“This project to me feels very much like what the Napa Valley is about,” Planning Commissioner Dave Whitmer said. “It’s family owned, it’s small, it’s modest in its approach. It’s along Silverado Trail, which is where we would expect we would have some entrances to wineries.”

Commissioner Jeri Hansen said the winery will be nestled off of Silverado Trail so it won’t be visually intrusive.

“It is also nestled within a cadre of other small family-owned wineries .... That’s really what we are about. Supporting something like this is really supporting the Napa Valley in a broader way,” Hansen said.

Neil Ellman said the family has made wine in and from Napa Valley since 2007. They found the Silverado Trail property in 2015.

“We knew it was a special property,” he said. “But we didn’t know how special it was until we started farming it to a very high level. The next natural step to make the wines we want to make is to build this winery, control our own production, control our own quality ...”

Ellman Family Winery is to be a 6,104-square-foot building on a 13.5-acre property. It can have up to 4,305 visitors annually, counting tasting room and marketing event visitors.

The winery-to-be is within the Northeast Napa Management Area, which is an area near Petra Drive that faces groundwater challenges. The county determined the winery can be served by the existing well on the property.

To make room for the winery operation, 2.86 acres of the 9-acre vineyard will be removed. As a result, the property will use less water once the winery is in place, a county report said.

The Planning Commission this year has approved three new wineries and three changes to existing wineries, for a total of six winery-related decisions. By comparison, it made 12 winery-related decisions in 2018 and 29 in 2017.

But the slower pace isn’t because applications have dried up. Planning Manager Brian Bordona told the commission in August that the county has 98 pending use permits, as well as 37 pending erosion control plans. The county has 50 applications from wineries and businesses that applied under the code compliance program to clear up possible violations.

Attorneys, engineers and design professionals shifted energy from existing applications to the code compliance applications, which had a March 29 deadline. The struggle has been to get completed applications to bring to the Planning Commission.

“That’s changing,” he said.

The Planning Commission canceled a few meetings last summer. More recently, county officials have talked about full agendas in coming months.

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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.