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Napa County leaders want to make certain that new wineries aren’t tone deaf when it comes to earth tones.

The county Board of Supervisors wants to define “earth tones” with a color palette. Supervisors said this would end case-by-case arguments that they don’t care to have the county engaging in.

“I don’t want to become the color police,” Board chairman Ryan Gregory said at last week’s Board meeting.

Supervisor Diane Dillon described a winery just north of the city of Napa that could only be Ashes & Diamonds, though she didn’t name it. Ashes & Diamonds, which opened in 2017, is white and is visually prominent from Highway 29.

Dillon said she’s been contacted by constituents who say the winery’s color is contrary to what Napa County has been doing for the past 30 years.

“Since that winery got approved, wineries think they should be able to be blue, red, white, yellow or whatever,” Dillon said.

Contacted by email, Ashes & Diamonds owner Kashy Khaledi said in effect that his winery hadn’t gone rogue.

“Ashes & Diamonds worked closely with the county to be sure all existing guidelines were scrupulously followed,” Khaledi wrote to the Napa Valley Register. “We received approval from the county both before construction, as well as after opening.”

A county report made it clear that the definition of earth tones can be open to interpretation. Historically, the accepted range for Napa County wineries has been such colors as tan, brown, dark green and olive green, it said.

With an increasingly competitive market, proposed wineries wanting to stand out have requested such colors as white, bright yellow and sky blue, the report said. Applicants refer to white sands and multi-colored gemstones as justification that they are using earth tones.

“For about 30 years, this wasn’t a problem,” Dillon said. “For me, it’s like common sense. Earth tones that go with Napa Valley are earth tones that go with Napa Valley.”

County staff will return to the Board of Supervisors with a proposed color palette at a future meeting.

“Having a palette that makes it easy to choose and there you are – yes, let’s do it, let’s get it done,” Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht said.

Rex Stults of Napa Valley Vintners said Friday the group hasn’t yet discussed the issue to take a position. It might, depending on the timeline. Napa Valley Vintners represents about 550 members.

The Napa County General Plan doesn’t mention limiting new wineries in unincorporated areas to earth tone colors. The county code makes one mention, in relation to exceptions granted to county view protection laws.

But the county Planning Commission for years has limited exteriors of new wineries to earth tone colors as a condition of approval.

The latest boilerplate language updated in 2017 says the tones must blend the winery into the colors of surrounding vegetation. Applicants must obtain written approval from county planning division before using paint colors that differ from those in the building permit.

Now the county will come up with a color palette to take away any gray areas.

“You can spend all your time arguing with them or we can just adopt something and it’s done,” Dillon 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.