The Napa County Planning Commission has advice for people wanting to win approval for wineries but worried about being stuck in a morass of controversy — look at the case of the Matthiasson winery.

Commissioners on Wednesday unanimously approved the Matthiasson winery along Dry Creek Road north of the city of Napa. Some of the same people who have opposed other wineries in recent years turned out in support.

Several commissioners called Matthiasson an example worth emulating.

“I really hope the example is something that gets some publicity, so other applicants can look at this process and say, ‘That looks less painful than a lot of other ones that we’ve heard about,’” Planning Commissioner Anne Cottrell said.

She and other commissioners praised the way Steve Matthiasson and his wife, Jill Klein Matthiasson, worked with their neighbors, starting the outreach even before they bought the property two years ago.

“It’s not just something that’s nice to do anymore, it’s critical,” commission chairperson Joelle Gallagher said.

Commissioner Andrew Mazotti said the Matthiassons could have asked for more wine production, but didn’t. They based their application on what is best for the site, rather than on what is best for them.

“That resonated with me,” Mazotti said.

Matthiasson winery is located on 5.75 acres at 3171 Dry Creek Road about a mile north of Alston Park. It was originally approved with different owners in 1986 as Phoenix Vineyards under a small winery exemption for 5,000 gallons annually.

The Planning Commission approved a use permit allowing wine production of 18,000 gallons annually, winery remodeling to provide a tasting room, construction of a wine cave and 6,375 visitors annually, including four marketing events with 30 guests each and one event with 50 guests.

Residents who last year opposed the proposed expansion of nearby Anthem winery praised the Matthiassons. Patricia Damery said Steve Matthiasson talked with neighbors about such things as wine production and visitation levels.

“He cut it down from what he wanted,” Damery said. “And he did that on his own.”

Bernadette Brooks said the Matthiassons worked to make the winery fit in with the rural area.

“Rather than build some grandiose winery on this small plot, they are taking what’s there and modernizing it,” she said.

Steve Matthiasson started consulting work for vineyard practices in Napa County in 2002. The family bought and leased its first vineyards in 2006.

“We’re part of the community,” Steve Matthiasson said after the meeting. “We deeply understand the community response to winery development and how people can be impacted. We get it. We live in Napa.”

He talked about working with neighbors on how many gallons the winery would produce.

“We found a number we thought was reasonable, meeting in the middle,” he said.

All of this made for a no-drama Planning Commission meeting.

“I hope this has got the attention of other applicants out there,” Gallagher said.

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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.