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Coombsville Winery Appeals Napa County Planning Commission's Vote Against Proposal to Boost Production and Visitation

The proposal now sits before the Napa County Board of Supervisors
by Kerana Todorov
November 19, 2018

 A proposal to boost visitation and wine production at a family-owned winery east of Napa to spur its direct-to-consumer business remains up in the air.

The Napa County Board of Supervisors is expected to consider Caldwell Vineyards’ proposal later this winter to increase the number of visitors from 2,340 to 13,580 a year and to boost annual wine production from 25,000 to 35,000 gallons, according to county reports.

The Planning Commission on Oct. 17 turned down Caldwell Vineyards’ application after multiple hearings during which neighbors objected to the plans, in part because of concerns over the proposed number guests that would be allowed at the winery, which sits at the end of a rural public/private road. The vote was 4-0.

The winery filed its appeal on Oct. 30. A public hearing before the Board of Supervisors has been tentatively set for late February, according to Napa County’s Planning Department.

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Caldwell Vineyards | Photo by Suzanne Becker Bronk

One of the main issues the Planning Commission discussed during three hearings was the winery’s request to boost visitation numbers. The original request was for 23,050 visitors a year, a figure that was lowered to 22,880 in March, according to the County. The request was further lowered before the Oct. 17 meeting to 13,780 visitors a year. Then Caldwell Vineyards on Oct. 17 offered to scratch a proposed marketing event for 200 people from its application; that meant the proposed number of guests would be capped at 13,580 visitors annually. However the last-minute offer did not sway the commissioners who found the proposed numbers of guests still too high for the location.

The proposal also included a request for a crush pad cover, a trellis shade structure and the installation of traffic calming measures on Kreuzer Lane, the rural public/private road that leads to the winery. The winery also wanted to add about 3,400 square feet of cave, according to a staff report.

Winery representatives said Caldwell Vineyards, which now sells 40 percent of its fruit, wants to eventually use all its grapes on-site. The winery produces its own wines and has custom-crush clients.

The wine club keeps the operation growing at about 5 percent a year, owner John Caldwell told the Planning Commission on Oct. 17. Caldwell said he purchased the property in 1974 and started planning a vineyard in 1981. “It’s been a love now for 44 years--and part of this love is it’s got to be sustainable economically,” Caldwell said. The size of the winery is fixed and based on the size of the vineyard, Caldwell said.

Neighbors who opposed the proposal in October requested another continuance, saying the 10-day notice they had received was not enough time to digest the revised application or make plans to be present at the Oct. 17 public hearing.

The project is “outsized” and is not consistent with the Napa County general plan, said Denis Shanagher, an attorney who represents a group of neighbors known as the Kreuzer Lane Protection Committee.

Caldwell’s attorney, Tom Adams, said during the Oct. 17 hearing that the project is consistent with the Napa County general plan. During the meeting, Adams offered to further reduce the proposed visitation numbers but the commissioners responded they were not interested in “horse trading” on the spot. Adams then asked for a vote instead of another continuance.

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