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Neighbors Appeal Napa Supervisors Decision Allowing New Winery on Diamond Mountain

by Kerana Todorov
December 10, 2019
Neighbors have appealed a decision to approve Hard Six Cellars on Diamond Mountain. Photo courtesy of Napa County.

The fate of a remote winery slated to be built on a property on top of Diamond Mountain above the Napa Valley floor near Calistoga is up to the Napa County Board of Supervisors.

The Napa County Planning Commission on Oct. 16 approved in a 4-1 vote a proposal to build a new 20,000-gallon winery off Diamond Mountain Road over the objections of nearby residents. The appeal, filed by neighbors in November, is scheduled to come before the supervisors on Feb. 11 in Napa.

The Napa County Planning Commission in October decided that Wayne and Kara Fingerman could build Hard Six Cellars on their property off South Fork Diamond Mountain Road. The plans included a two-story 3,969-square-foot winery along with a 1,185-square-foot outdoor hospitality area and a 5,480 square feet of outdoor work space. The Fingermans also planned to construct 7,135 square feet of caves. A 4-acre vineyard is already planted on the 53-acre property about 2 miles from Highway 29.

The Fingermans, who live in a house already built on the property, purchased the land in 2014. Having a winery would give them greater control on their wine, Wayne Fingerman told the Planning Commission in October. The winery would also serve custom-crush clients, according to testimony from Oct. 16.

The Fingermans produce their Hard Six Cellars wines at Benessere Vineyards under a custom-crush arrangement. Hard Six Cellars could host up to 16 visitors seven days a week. Under a compromise, they were allowed to have up to 80 guests a week. The winery could also host two marketing events for up to 75 guests and a bigger event for up to 125 people. The plan is to have the visitors reach the winery by shuttle.

The property is reached by traveling 2.2 miles uphill along a road that’s narrow road with no outlet on another public road other than downhill, noted opponents in October.

Planning Commission chairwoman Joelle Gallagher said during the Oct. 16 public hearing there is no policy in place that applies to wineries in remote locations. She voted with the majority.

The appellants, Martin Checov and husband Timothy Bause, appealed the Oct. 16 vote in part because the project was approved with a negative declaration - which means the project does not have major impact on the environment. Checov and Bause disagreed. They allege the Planning Commission ignored evidence related to public safety, environmental and other impacts, according to their letter filed Nov. 13.

Checov and Bause allege the Planning Commission failed to comply with California’s environmental laws, according to their appeal letter. Therefore, the supervisors must reverse the Planning Commission’s decision and either remand the decision or deny the proposal altogether, according to the letter. The neighbors also argued in their letter the project is inappropriately scaled for the remote mountaintop location.

Donna Oldford, a consultant who represents the Fingermans, on Monday said her clients are still putting together a response to the appellants’ letter. “But we’ll see it through,” she said, of the project. “It’s a very small winery,” she noted.

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