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Soda Canyon winery project draws neighbors' ire
wine industry

Soda Canyon winery project draws neighbors' ire

Napa County is performing an environmental review

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A proposed 100,000 gallon winery on Soda Canyon Road northeast of the city of Napa has drawn the ire of neighbors who say it’s too large for their rural area, and would draw too much traffic to a remote location.

The project, known as Mountain Peak Winery, would be located 6 miles up the road, and the developers plan to build an 8,700-square-foot winery, 64,000 square feet of wine caves and a 15,000-square-foot outdoor crush pad, according to its use permit application.

Napa County planning staff are currently doing an environmental review on the project, and it would be brought to the county Planning Commission for a vote on approval once that’s finished. The analysis is slated to be finished in early June, said Donna Oldford, a consultant working on the project.

It’s being developed by Steven Rea of the Reserve Group, on the former Jan Krupp Estate in Soda Canyon. A new family now owns the property, Oldford said.

Bill Hocker, who owns a weekend home down the street from the project site, said it’s much too big for the area and would draw 18,000 people up a rural, winding road each year for tastings and events. The cave excavation would be among the largest attempted in Napa Valley, he said.

“It’s a very substantial project in a very remote place,” Hocker said.

The permit application asks for the county to approve a maximum of 80 visitors per day and weekly maximum of 320, with six events each month ranging from 12 to 24 people. It could have larger events of 75 to 125 people six times a year.

Hocker said he’s organizing neighborhood opposition to the winery project, similar to what’s been happening to other winery projects in the last year. He said 75 people attended a recent meeting about the project, and another meeting is scheduled for next Saturday.

Hocker said other neighbors have voiced concern about groundwater usage for the project, which sits on about 40 acres and would be able to use 20 acre-feet of water under county policy. The project proposes to use 19 acre-feet annually, according to water availability analysis.

The project has drawn other environmental concerns, such as the impact all of the excavation and development would have on neighboring Rector Creek and another nearby creek.

“There’s a whole host of issues that we’re going to attack on,” Hocker said.

Neighbors, Oldford and the developers have been meeting over the last several months to discuss aspects of the project, and to negotiate its size and other elements. Oldford said the developers are willing to make some concessions to the neighbors’ requests, but declined to identify what they will be. That information has to be submitted to county planners first, she said.

Hocker said he opposes the project regardless, and believes it’s indicative of broader effects the growth in the wine industry is having on unincorporated Napa County.

“Is this a direction that the valley wants to go?” Hocker said. “I think they’re diverging from this issue of protecting the Agricultural Preserve.”

Oldford sees the project differently. The winery’s production would be wholly within the confines of the caves, and would be designed to an LEED Platinum standard, which few wineries attain in Napa Valley. Furthermore, she said the owners have enough grapes in the vineyards they own in Soda Canyon to crush 100 percent estate-grown grapes, taking 88 truck trips off Soda Canyon Road.

“What should my client do?” Oldford asked. “Build a winery that can only process half his grapes? His entire winery is in a cave. If we can’t approve this winery, I don’t know the kind of winery we can approve.”

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