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Vintner JC Boisset's plans for historic Calistoga Depot approved by city

From the Napa Valley Wine Insider Digest: Aug. 21, 2021 series

The historic Calistoga Depot is about to enter a new era.

The Calistoga Planning Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved plans for an upscale café, brewery, spirits tasting room, and artisan grocery in the Depot, once the last stop on the train ride through the Napa Valley from Vallejo.

The project is a new venture for French vintner Jean-Charles Boisset, the proprietor of the Boisset Collection and owner of the Oakville Grocery, also an upscale food, wine, and gift store. The Collection operates 28 wineries in California, France, and Canada, and JCB also has a tasting salon in Yountville.

The interior renovation will maintain the Depot’s original rustic character and “elegance,” according to a letter from Boisset to the city. The plans include only minor alterations to the exterior, with no impacts to the historic nature of the building. Lighting for the patio will be added, and fencing will be replaced, but the history of the Depot will be showcased throughout and plans call for a large portrait of the town’s founder, Sam Brannan, to hang in a prominent place.

Brannan built the Depot in 1868, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building underwent a transformation last year when the rare, antique railcar that formerly housed Wine Stop was removed from the interior, and the exterior was painted white by the Merchant family, owners of the property. The Depot has sat empty since tenants Palisades Deli moved just a couple of doors down two years ago and Wine Stop moved across the street.

Boisset is a history fanatic, said Patrick Egan, vice-president of marketing and communications. His interest in historical sites includes the purchase and restoration of a historic mansion next to the Oakville Grocery into 1881 Napa, a wine history museum, which opened two years ago.

“We are stewards of history. And to us, the Depot is a historical gem,” Egan said.

The six adjoining rail cars will also be maintained by JCB and the intent is that they will serve as retail outlets.

Planning commissioners agreed on Wednesday that the project promises to provide a gathering place for visitors and locals.

“Their reputation precedes them,” Vice-chair Tim Wilkes said of Boisset’s team. “This is the kind of site that will pull in pedestrian traffic. Geographically, it’s a wonderful thing to happen at this end of town.”

Plans for the project also include spirits tasting, and although distillery tanks will be displayed behind glass, spirits will be brewed off-site, elsewhere in Napa Valley.

Belgian-style beer will be brewed onsite, however, and the tanks will be stored outdoors in the back of the building. So as to avoid any potential impact on city’s sewer system, waste from the brewery will hauled off-site for processing outside of Calistoga.

Earlier this year the commission tighten up the city’s tasting room ordinance, limiting the number of permits to two per year. The ordinance did not go into effect until spring, so the approval of Mario Sculatti’s Vault Wine + Artifacts in February does not affect ordinance requirements. However, with the approval of a new restaurant and tasting room in the Brannan building in May, Boisset’s would be the last new tasting room permit allowed this year.

You can reach Cynthia Sweeney at 942-4035 or csweeney@weeklycalistogan.com.

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The Weekly Calistogan Editor

Cynthia Sweeney has been editor of The Weekly Calistogan since July, 2018. Previously, she was a reporter for the St. Helena Star, and North Bay Business Journal. She also spent a significant amount of time freelancing in Hawaii.

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