A new winery proposed by the famed Mondavi family for the mountain area of Angwin is garnering both praise and criticism, with its fate yet to be decided.
Marc and Janice Mondavi propose building the 50,000-gallon-a-year Aloft winery at 430 Cold Springs Road.
It would be a family venture with their daughters Angelina, Alycia, Riana and Giovanna.
The Napa County Planning Commission on Wednesday postponed a hearing on Aloft to digest all of the comments and to give the Mondavis time to respond. The county has yet to set a date for the next hearing.
“This is a family whose name is synonymous with wine and the Napa Valley,” consultant Donna Oldford said on behalf of the Mondavis.
Angelina Mondavi talked about the family’s local winery history, starting with Sunny St. Helena winery in 1937 and moving on to Charles Krug winery in 1943, where her grandfather, Peter Mondavi Sr., gained fame. She started working in the family winery at age 10 and is now 35 years old.
She and Alycia Mondavi called Aloft winery a “dream.”
“We live, breath, eat and sleep wine,” Alycia Mondavi told the Planning Commission.
Marc Mondavi, who would serve as Aloft winery general manager, called himself the “proud father.” He too talked of the family’s long history in the Napa Valley wine business.
“We’re not fly-by-night,” he told commissioners.
The commission also heard from the public.
Angwin resident and Measure C co-author Mike Hackett opposed the project in a letter to the county. Among other things, he said the traffic generated by the winery will negatively affect people on Cold Springs Road.
Hackett referred to “the increasing cumulative impacts from the various projects which are nothing more than event centers to sell booze on location.”
Oldford disliked the term “event center.”
“I don’t think anybody really knows what that means,” Oldford said. “That’s a term that’s intended to be incendiary …. this is not an event center. We are not even asking for the number of visitors and events that a larger winery does.”
Angwin resident Kellie Anderson said this was the most stressful day she’d spent at a county hearing. The Mondavi family has supported Save Rural Angwin and hosted a memorial service for her friend, the late Volker Eisele.
“Nonetheless, this is exactly the kind of project that causes community divide and countywide issues related to inappropriate winery development,” Anderson said.
Vintner Josh Phelps of St. Helena said the future of Napa Valley depends on legacy families such as the Mondavis. Sustainable, profitable businesses provide the privilege of protecting the valley.
“I think a lot of people who are protesting this project would protest any development project,” Phelps said.
Fidel Delgadillo lives on Cold Springs Road and said his family also has a history in Napa Valley, with his father in the 1950s producing grapes for wine. His three children walk and bike on the narrow road and he’s worried about winery traffic.
He called the Mondavi’s plan amazing, but in the wrong place.
“I hope the plan, the project, their winery, their future works, but somewhere else,” he said.
Oldford said the Mondavis will talk with the neighbors about their concerns in an effort to find solutions. Planning commissioners liked that move.
“We are not legislating neighbor relations,” Commissioner Jeri Hansen said. “But I’m hopeful there can be something, so when it comes to us again, we have some of this addressed.”
Commissioner Terry Scott agreed.
“It’s going to require effort,” Scott said. “I sense the effort and resolve to accomplish that is present on both sides.”
The winery would be located at a hillside on the 58-acre property, with a cave for wine production and a hospitality building at the west portal. Total visitation including tastings and marketing would be 5,670 guests annually.
A 10-page letter from attorney Michelle Black on behalf of Protect Napa Watersheds is dated Sept. 4. Oldford said she saw the letter for the first time the evening before the hearing and will need time to respond.
The project involves removing 47 trees, including seven native oaks. The Mondavis will plant 22 blue oaks, 10 swan hill olive trees and eight pinemat manzanitas, a county report said.
The Protect Napa Watersheds letter mentioned the raptors and birds that roost or nest in the trees that are targeted for removal.
About five rare Napa false indigo plants would be removed to widen a road, with plant salvage and seed gathering proposed as mitigation. The Protect Napa Watershed letter questions whether the mitigation is sufficient.
Black listed several other issues, from traffic to cave excavation impacts. She said the project requires an environmental impact report.