SodaCanyonRoad | Define a "true" family winery

Define a "true" family winery
Bill Hocker | Nov 24, 2014 on: Solutions

One of the complaints about increasing the minimum acreage for a winery to 40 or 160 acres (brought up by several people at the recent APAC meeting) is the impossibility of all but the wealthiest to be able to build one. To counter this I would suggest that a true "family winery" be defined in a new WDO with the following conditions:

10 acre minimum
20,000 gal/yr maximum [originally 10,000]
85% estate grapes (NVV definition of "napa" wine)
Owner occupied residence
By appt. tours/tastings, no food - max visitations 50/wk
Use-permit given to owner, not property.

People who wish to prove their winemaking ability should have the opportunity to do so in Napa County. The purpose of the winery must be to make wine. Marketing it is something that the owner must do the old-fashion way: pitching to restaurants and retailers, competing in tastings, lots of leg work and now internet buzz.

I must again mention that some cult wines such as Screaming Eagle [as well as Scarecrow, Coglin and others] have no visitation. They produce less than 20,000 gals per year. They just make some of the best wine in the world. The waiting list is years long. Somehow they survive.

This new WDO would replace its predecessor for the AW zone, and other types of wineries or winery expansions would no longer be permitted there. Increased volume or a desire for more marketing would have to be accommodated in the industrial and municipal areas of the county.

The appeal of this solution is that a new generation of winemakers would be able to start in the business on smaller parcels made more affordable because tourism potential is not factored into the land price. More importantly the restriction on visitation and size does begin to provide the "authentic" experience that wine aficionados seek in out-of-the-way wineries, maintaining a sense of discovery not found in the mass-market wine-pairings of the tourist wineries. The Napa Brand might have an opportunity to regain some the authenticity it is losing through the current tourism-centric, "elvis-goes-to-vegas", approach.

The county already defines a "small winery" though not for the purposes described here.