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Dave Phinney Plans to Develop Vineyard East of Napa

No winery is planned for the site. The wines will be produced on Mare Island in Vallejo.
by Kerana Todorov
March 06, 2019

Winemaker Dave Phinney may soon develop a vineyard of his own on the eastern hills of the Napa Valley.

Napa County officials may decide later this year whether the founder of The Prisoner Wine Co. and other brands, could develop the future Bloodlines Vineyard off Soda Canyon Road. The land is east of Stagecoach Vineyard, the 600-acre property Jan Krupp sold in 2017 to E & J Gallo, the world’s largest family-owned wine company.

Amy Whiteford, director of viticulture at Bloodlines Wines, said 83 acres are slated to be planted on the nearly 300-acre property. The vineyard will be primarily planted in Cabernet Sauvignon for Bloodlines wines, she said. No winery or tasting room are planned. Instead, Phinney plans to produce Bloodlines wines on Mare Island in Vallejo, where he recently opened a tasting room for his distillery, Savage & Cooke.

Preparations to develop the nine lots of the future Bloodlines Vineyard have taken years. Phinney started purchasing the land two decades ago.  The plans included an EIR, an in-depth environmental impact report. Phinney and his team have been reaching out to neighbors to discuss the project and construction plans for the vacant land.

“We hear loud and clear that traffic, water and, more recently, climate change are top priorities for local residents. We share the same priorities,” Phinney said in a Jan. 29 letter to the Napa County Planning, Building and Environmental Services.

This is the site of the potential Bloodlines Vineyard, which would be planted primarily to Cabernet Sauvignon. Photo submitted as part of study to Napa County officials. 

Among the provisions, Phinney agrees to have vineyard employees meet offsite and travel in a van to the vineyard and the company is open to paying for the installation of guard rails and a blinking sign that shows drivers their speeds.

The EIR also includes a provision to have Phinney’s company provide pilot cars before heavy equipment. The company will also monitor its wells. Phinney, who wrote in an open letter to the community that there is more than enough water on the property to farm, said Bloodlines Vineyard will make adjustments if the neighbors’ wells are affected.

Most of the property and its ground cover burned during the 2017 Atlas Fire. “Planting vineyard and covercrops should greatly increase the carbon sequestration from current conditions,” Phinney said in his letter, adding that “an engineered vineyard planting will greatly reduce erosion potential.”

The company also commits to planting oak trees and more shrubs known as Ceanothus purpureus as required.  The company has provided for “needed upgrades” to the Soda Canyon fire station, home to the Soda Canyon Volunteer Fire Department, including repairing dry rot, replacing garage doors, repainting the firehouse, and repaving the driveway, according to Phinney’s letter to the county. “As we were all reminded of in 2017, fire is threat to our families, properties, and livelihoods. My brother-in-law was a volunteer for 13 years, and I can’t thank him enough,” Phinney said.

The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental organization, wrote in a letter that the project’s EIR does not comply with California’s environmental impact laws in part because the analyses are inadequate. The center cited a number of concerns, including the project’s impacts on wildlife and plant species.

However, neighbors have written in support of the Phinney project. “Please know that Dave and his project have the full support of us and our community,” Catherine and Christopher Dann wrote in an email.

The erosion control application decision is anticipated to be handled administratively. If approved this summer, the development of the land could start in 2020, according to Whiteford.

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