Signorello Estate winery secured the Napa County approvals it sought to further rise from the ashes of the Atlas Fire.
“We really looked to come up with something that will stand the test of time,” owner Raymond Signorello said. “I have two young daughters and my goal here is to hand this over to them one day.”
Signorello wants to do more than rebuild his winery along Silverado Trail northeast of the city of Napa. He wants to make more wine and host more visitors.
He convinced the county Planning Commission last week. The commission granted unanimous approval to increase annual production from 20,000 gallons to 50,000 gallons and annual visitation from 6,637 guests to 20,221 guests, among other things.
“I don’t see red flags or issues,” Commissioner Andrew Mazotti said.
Signorello told commissioners how the family bought the Silverado Trail property in 1977. They grew grapes that they sold to other wineries initially and transitioned to winemaking in 1985.
Then came the Atlas Fire that sparked the night of Aug. 8, 2017 as winds reportedly topped 70 mph on Atlas Peak. Flames swept down to the Silverado Trail area near Soda Canyon.
The fire destroyed the winery production facilities, offices, hospitality space and even his home, Signorello said.
He subsequently began making plans for a comeback, opened a temporary tasting room in July 2018 and secured various rebuilding permits. The winery today uses a custom crush facility and leases office space in the city of Napa. Signorello lives off the property.
The Planning Commission dealt with the growth component of the winery’s plans.
“This is what he needs to have a financially viable winery,” said consultant Donna Oldford on behalf of Signorello Estate winery.
Seven of Signorello’s neighbors wrote in support of his plan.
“We appreciate his design, consideration for the neighborhood and essential need to rebuild, expand and modernize the winery destroyed by the 2017 fire,” they wrote.
But they had a concern — the location of a proposed solar array.
“The proposed, western-facing hillside location is a significant and prominent visual-natural resource along the Silverado Trail, for both locals as well as visitors,” they wrote.
For Signorello’s immediate neighbors, the viewshed is “an even more important asset to the value of our properties, daily life in Napa and, for some, our business,” they wrote.
The solar array wasn’t an issue before the Planning Commission and wasn’t subject to the use permit. County Principal Planner Sean Trippi said the state in the early 2000s tried to remove hurdles to solar power.
Still, Signorello heard his neighbors.
“We will work with them to come up with a landscaping strategy that makes it as unobtrusive as possible,” he said. “Honestly, I would like it be something I don’t see either. That’s the goal.”
Besides the visitation and production increases, the Planning Commission approved the construction of a 15,906-square-foot cave. It approved increasing parking from 10 to 17 spaces and employees from four to 20 that would be a mix of full-time and part-time.
Commissioner Anne Cottrell said she’d been hoping for a smaller visitation increase. On the other hand, the winery is located on Silverado Trail and the road has a two-way left turn lane extending along a portion of the winery frontage.
She noted the importance of supporting a winery in a post-fire recovery phase and added that this will be important going forward. Though Cottrell didn’t specifically mention it, the Glass Fire recently damaged a host of Napa Valley wineries.
Signorello Estate is located at 4500 Silverado Trail.
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