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Napa County Supervisors Turn Down Remote Winery

by Kerana Todorov
February 12, 2020

Hard Six Cellars winery site. Photo submitted by applicant to Napa County.  

A proposal to build a Napa Valley winery with a cave on top of Diamond Mountain in Napa County has been stopped.

The Napa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted against plans to build Hard Six Cellars Winery, a 20,000-gallon production facility on a 53-acre property near Calistoga at the end of a narrow and windy country road, about 1,000 feet above the Napa Valley floor. The project included a two-story winery, a wine cave and daily tours and tastings.

The supervisors sided with neighbors Martin Checov and Timothy Bause who were appealing the Napa County Planning Commission’s decision last October to approve the project. The appellants cited among other arguments the remote location off South Fork Diamond Mountain Road, a dead-end road. The site is immediately next to Checov’s and Bause’s home.

“We are relieved that the Board of Supervisors was sensitive to the safety and environmental concerns we raised over development in this remote mountain location,” Checov said Tuesday after the vote.

The supervisors’ unanimous vote overturned the Napa County Planning Commission’s decision on Oct. 16 to approve the winery. The supervisors, who noted the narrowness and condition of the rural roads leading to the proposed winery, still have to vote on findings to back their decision to uphold the appeal. That final vote is scheduled for April 14.

The appellants brought in experts, including fire consultant David Rich of Reax Engineering, who reported that the vast majority of Diamond Mountain neighborhoods are in a “very high” fire hazard severity zone. Rich questioned plans to build turnouts and install signage as mitigation measures to ensure evacuation and firefighting access.

Hard Six Cellars Winery would be located in an area of “elevated wildland fire risk as demonstrated by historic fires and risk assessments from Cal Fire and the California State Public Utilities Commission,” according to his report.

But Brien McMahon, an attorney for owners Wayne and Kara Fingerman, told the Supervisors the project had addressed all the concerns and was consistent with the Napa County General Plan.

Wayne and Kara Fingerman acquired the property in 2014, which includes a house and 4-acre planted vineyard. The Fingermans, who planned to plant another 2 acres, also own a vineyard on Hennessey Ridge. They produce their own wine at a custom crush facility.

The Fingermans said making the wine at Hard Six Cellars would give them greater control on the production of their wine. The Fingermans also planned to have custom crush clients at Hard Six Cellars Winery.

The Napa County Planning Commission approved the project in October with a 4-1 vote. Plans called for a 3,969-square foot winery; 7,100-square-feet of cave; 5,000 square-feet of work space; and a 1,185-square-foot outdoor hospitality area. Hard Six Cellars Winery proposed to host up to 16 visitors a day, seven days a week, or up to 80 people a week. The business could also have two events a year for up to 75 people and one event for up to 125 guests. Event guests would be shuttled to the two-story winery.

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