"To insure that the intensity of winery activities is appropriately scaled, the County considers the remoteness of the location and the amount of wine to be produced at a facility when reviewing use permit proposals, and endeavors to ensure a direct relationship between access constraints and on-site marketing and visitation programs"
At the BOS meeting on Tues Sep 25, 2018, Planning Director Morrison requested direction from the Supervisors on a possible ordinance which might give more specificity to the meaning of the remote winery guidance.
The issue of remoteness was central to our argument against the Mountain Peak winery proposed for our neighborhood at the end of Soda Canyon Road. Unfortunately, we failed to convince Planning Commissioners and Supervisors that hosting 14,000 people each year for food and drinks was a bad idea 6 miles up a winding dead end road. But as more and more wineries and winery expansions are proposed or approved in the watersheds, adding tens of thousands of visitors to other remote neighborhoods each year, and with some recent insight about the dangers of wildfires in remote areas, there seems to be a renewed desire to put some teeth into the interpretive guidance. Thank Goodness.
It appears that the Supervisors may want to generalize the nature of such an ordinance beyond just some metric of "remoteness", and they are leaning toward winery "compatibility", of which remoteness, accessibility, topography, road-standards (see the Caloyannidis letter), variances, and community acceptance and benefit might be factors.
To me, the concept of community acceptance really needs to be a part of the equation, because the "wine industry" is changing radically from wine-production based to wine-entertainment based. The impacts of real agriculture (the "right-to-farm" issues that property owners in Napa County acknowledge) in remote communities are part of living in rural Napa. The impacts of wine tourism, however, are intrusive and destructive of that rural character, and are at the heart of the resistance of residents to the approval of winery construction and the re-definition of "agriculture" to include tourism.
Removing visitation from winery proposals in remote locations will not only remove the conflict between residents and winemakers, but will help insure that wineries are appropriately sized and being built as needed processing facilities rather than expressions of vanity or a desire to create entertainment venues.
I would encourage the Supervisors to severely limit, or outright ban, visitation in any remote winery ordinance.
On Feb 11, 2020 The BOS upheld the appeal and denied the project despite the owner proposing a last-minute reduction in volume and visitation. It is a significant decision concerning the Board's responsibility to begin to look at the issues surrounding remote wineries as more suitable locations for wineries (and vineyards) become scarce and more and more winery entrepreneurs continue to pursue their dreams on the parcels remaining. Following on the Planning Commission denial of the Dry Creek Winery this decision continues a shift toward more scrutiny of wineries proposed in remote rural locations.
The vote makes Planning Commissioner Joelle Gallagher's uncharacteristic approval of the project look a bit more strategic, in allowing the Commission to claim that without more direction, i.e. a Remote Winery Ordinance, the Commission was powerless to consider this any differently than a project on Hwy 29. The Board now has good reason to take up the issue.
One ominous note (being the contrarian that I am): Winery expediter Donna Oldford also urged the Supes to come up with a remote winery ordinance to insure that developers know what the rules are in these locations. The fact that the industry now sees the ordinance as inevitable and is now supportive of it, makes me think that, as happened with the 2010 WDO, APAC, Watershed Ordinance and the definition of agriculture, the hope that a new ordinance will support the goals of preservation over development is a faint hope indeed. Based on the outcomes thus far, a new ordinance may just solidify the ability to develop in these areas rather than limit it.
Update 2/7/20The appeal of the Hard Six Cellars use permit approval will be heard by the BOS on Wed Feb 11, 2020.
Thankfully the project has been appealed. Although a smaller project than Mountain Peak on Soda Canyon Road, the access constraints on this project are even more egregious. After all the issues that have been raised since the fires concerning the dangers of remote roads, in addition to the impacts of these tourism projects on their remote rural communities, it was really disappointing that the project was passed by the Planning Commission. Comm. Cottrell, as the only no vote, has been consistent since Mountain Peak in opposing remote winery-tourism projects, and two devastating fires in the interim have proved the wisdom of her decisions. The biggest disappointment was Chair Gallagher's yes vote. She has been a reliable voice in the consideration of access constraints and of community concerns. Noting that the Supervisors have as yet not produced a remote winery ordinance that would allow her to consider access constraints in her decision, despite noting that such constraints do exist on this project, seemed a weak argument indeed. The supervisors' appendix to the 2010 WDO changes makes clear that access constraints should be considered.
In the Planning Commission hearing of Oct 16, 2019 four winery projects were approved, a new normal perhaps. After a summer hiatus, and a year of light, non-controversial, winery approvals as the planning department dealt with staff shortages, fire rebuilds, "recognize and allow" submittals, and the watershed, winery streamlining and cannibus ordinances, the government seems to be pressing ahead full force to expedite the 80 or so projects on the county's pending projects page.
Of the Oct 16th approvals, it was hard to tell which was the most egregious: the Bremer "recognize and allow" permit after truly outrageous flouting of the county's laws; or the Hard Six Cellars Winery approval as another inappropriate location for a tourist attraction intruding into the rural peace and tranquility of the county.
The winery was approved to allow 80 (or is it 112?) visitors/week for tours and tastings, and events up to 125 people (leaving at 10:00pm). Diamond Mountain Road doesn't meet the county's road and street standards. It is, in fact, a one lane road , far short of the 2-10' lanes plus 1' shoulder the county requires. The driveway on the site also does meet those standards, and exemptions were granted. This deficiency of legal access alone should be enough to should be enough to deny the project form simply a practicality standpoint.
In approving Hard Six, several commissioners felt that the lack of the "Remote Winery Ordinance" (one of many "to do" items on the Supervisor's bucket list) prevented them from evaluating this winery any differently from the standpoint of access constraints than a winery on the Trail.
But, of course, realizing the potential impacts of their 2010 changes to WDO to encourage more tourism at wineries, the Supervisors made exactly this distinction in their Interpretive guidance at the time:
"To insure that the intensity of winery activities is appropriately scaled, the County considers the remoteness of the location and the amount of wine to be produced at a facility when reviewing use permit proposals, and endeavors to ensure a direct relationship between access constraints and on-site marketing and visitation programs"
This approval also comes in the wake of the 2017 fires, and a renewed understating about the consequences of building in areas with "access constraints". Our own neighborhood-busting winery approval, Mountain Peak at the top of Soda Canyon Road, was approved by the Supervisors on the basis that "In the event of a fire that results in mass evacuations from this area, the road has sufficient capacity and roadway width to accommodate all outgoing traffic while allowing incoming fire response units."
In the Atlas fire of 2017, a tree fall blocked the road to exiting traffic and to incoming response vehicles. The tree was moved enough to allow cars to get by, but by that time the entirety of the canyon was engulfed in flames. The response vehicles retreated and the residents that remained on the upper parts of the road had to be evacuated by helicopter, a dangerous task in the ferocious winds. A judge has ruled that the Supervisors must reconsider their approval based on the evidence of the actual fire dangers on Soda Canyon road.
Diamond Mountain Road is both narrower and more heavily forested than Soda Canyon Road. It did not burn in the 2017 fires, and the fuel load and potential tree falls remain severe. A fire during a 125 person event at the winery could be catastrophic. The planning commissioners who voted to approve the project seem to be ignoring the recent evidence of the real dangers that concentrating tourism activities in the remote hillsides of the county will present. It may be a decision that comes back to haunt them.
Last month, another winery was approved, through the Napa County Planning Commission process, on Diamond Mountain Road. Always, the planning commission explains that they "don't set policy," and therefore have no grounds to disapprove this type of development even though I think we'd all agree; with this new normal of continued threat of fires on our watersheds, safety is being sacrificed for yet another remote winery.
Now I see a "Aloft" project is slated for a planning commission hearing in December, out on the end of Cold Springs Road. This is extremely troubling. People who will be drinking alcohol will pass by an elementary school, a day care center and over 70 homes on a narrow one-directional rural road. The effect will devalue the home's on the road on Cold Springs Road and change those home owners quality of life, forever.
Additionally, when, not if, there's the next wildlands fire in remote Angwin, egress will be impossible. Do you want blood on your hands? Do you want to be responsible for this clearly unsafe condition? Well, I know you all fairly well, and the answer is no.
Please delay all actions until further notice regarding winery expansions on any new commercial developments in the AW until you have a new policy in place through which the planning commission can have a clear direction.
This is vitally important. It is timely and we must error on the side of safety.
Scions of the Mondavi family are starting over by developing a new 50,000 gal/yr winery up a dead end road outside of Angwin. The project, the Aloft Winery, has run into opposition from neighbors as being incompatible with its remote location (an outline for a CEQA lawsuit has already been submitted!). The initial presentation of the project before the Planning Commission on Sep 5, 2018 generated enough concern that it has been continued to a date uncertain while neighbors and the owners attempt to come to some consensus.
The project represents one of several projects that are receiving new scrutiny after the fires of 2017 and the close defeat of Measure C in 2018. There are issues both in the water impacts of winery and vineyard development in the watersheds and the wisdom of pursuing tourism development in rural areas that are fire prone and are seen by residents as farming communities and not commercial development zones. The issue of winery development in the watershed areas has been the subject of a series of meetings at the Board of Supervisors that may, or may not, lead to an ordinance defining winery compatibility criteria for winery locations. The two meetings thus far are discussed here:
George Caloyannidis sent the link to the Wine Searcher article at the top of this post. There is a certain disdain in the title of the article which seems to reflect the attitude of the wine industry toward communities that push back against the expansion of commercial facilities into their rural midst. The article closes with chamber-of-commerce talking points voiced by a "Chicago-based drinks attorney": "it will spur job growth and tax revenue. Plus, a great facility like the one proposed will draw people to the area." Just what this remote rural neighborhood was looking for, I'm sure.
At the Oct 16, 2018 BOS meeting, Dir. Morrison produced an agenda letter that identified 7 constraint criteria around which the compatibility of a winery with its site might be evaluated: traffic, custom crush, hold and haul, topography, fire safety, visitation, variances and exception. It was a first stab at itemizing the issues which an ordinance might concern itself.
After public comments (including Eve Kahn's comments on food, and threats from the wine industry lobbyists about the can of worms this discussion was opening), it didn't seem like any of the Supervisors were completely happy with the approach. Sup Dillon led off with the initial salvo, and since it highlighted an 'incompatible' winery on Soda Canyon Road (and my potential next door neighbor), it is worth quoting in its entirety:
"First of all, I don't think this [Dir. Morrisons compatibility issue list] is ready to be put into an ordinance or any other document. I really think in general that we're focused on these details when what should happen is a common sense application of "does this proposal fit into this place?"
I can remember a year and half ago when I thought, "oh-oh, I think we're in a little bit of trouble" because I looked at the Mountain Peak winery comparison chart - this is compatibility but compatibility is a comparison - that had been prepared by the planning staff and it was for Mountain Peak at the top of the canyon [Soda Canyon]. And it was compared to Ashes and Diamonds, Round Pond, Black Stallion, Tinter, Alpha Omega. Why on earth was it compared to those things?
I remember thinking this is not a good thing because we're not comparing apples to apples. And the essence of what we're talking about today, the reason this started with "remote" is we're supposed to be talking - not comparing a winery at the top of Soda Canyon to a winery on the Silverado Trail. You just can't make that comparison. And yet that's where we are right here and we're talking about these details, and what I'm really concerned about is going through each of these things - one, two, three, four, five, six, seven - and deciding on each of these factors and then you are going to have some proposal come before the planning commission that might technically fit into each of these, but it's not a good fit at this location where it is.
And I realize that this is land use planning and so it's a little difficult to use - I don't know if it was a metaphor - in the discussion of pornography there was a judge who said at one point "I'll know it when I see it"? Well the flip of that is "I'll know when this is not a good fit" at this location based on what neighbors say, based on many factors.
And that was the way the winery definition ordinance was designed. It didn't have all these details in it. If you look at the legislative history, which I wish staff would bring to us, it said we're going to look at these on a case by case basis. So I don't think this is the way for us to solve the problem which we have, which is we have had a planning commission that has approved wineries that are not compatible with the neighborhood or the physical situation where they're located. Then we have a lot of community consternation and/or we have an appeal to here.
One of the things that is missing from this process is a meeting between the planning commission and this board - it's been at least a couple of years - and we used to have that regularly and we would have some interaction and they'd get informal direction, and that informal direction solidified that decision making that was based on a common sense approach of what was the appropriate thing to do.
Going through each of these [7 points] and having these as decision points - to me its not the answer to the challenge that we do have before us. I question, for instance, on number seven, variances and exceptions: " strictly construe the regulations to protect health and safety". Does that mean that there's another case where we're going to loosely construe? I just don't think this is ready for prime time.
I think we should be looking at other things.I think we should be looking at the bigger picture. We just had out Strategic plan folks say - what was the number one thing people appreciated about Napa valley in the slide show that had no building in it [holds up photos in report] by the way. I think it's very interesting that we always show vineyards without wineries in them and I think we should show wineries in them because they are part of the landscape and part of the context. But what we cherish is natural beauty and environment.
I think we should go look as some other solutions that were previously proposed. For instance, instead of thinking about the minimum parcel size of a winery - I not saying we should reduce the 10 acres - think about how close they should be in appearance. If you have a place where you have a whole bunch of 10 acre parcels you're going to have whole bunch of wineries and I think it creates something that is adverse to what we cherish about this place. So either increasing the minimum parcel size in certain areas, talking about the developable area including of the residence. One of the things that was left over at APAC was the residential coverage. We have got to get to that because all those things we are saying about wineries? - residents could do far more - a mini-mansion of mega-mansion. Talking about the distance between wineries. And talking about the safety issues. Those are the things I think we should focus on."
Sup. Wagenknecht also had some interesting comments perhaps also worth quoting to know where one supervisor stands on remote wineries:
"This discussion was far beyond what I was anticipating. I still ...when we talked about it what we were talking about was a "remote" winery. I was concerned about the remoteness. And in the work product we have today [Dir. Morrisons's 7 points] there is no mention the remoteness of the ... what a remote winery, remote site would be.
I think it could be a lot of things. The remoteness of the road. The narrowness of the road. The accessibility of the parcel. How far the parcel was from arterials. Most of the things that you have in here would help address a remote winery very nicely. I guess I'm kinda in the mindset, in my mind, that I'm not seeing a real need for more wineries in the far hinterlands of Napa County. I'm seeing that we have plenty of them out there. So I liked having these things to look at remote wineries.
To me the remote winery was my access point to this discussion. There would need to be a traffic benefit from the winery coming in, the traffic for the overall neighborhood coming in. There would need to be a fire safety and a safety benefit for that winery coming in. Emergency benefit. The water... we kinda talked about this that the water was... sometimes they're going to get/move[?] the winery, they say that we'll put in the grapes now that we have a winery. The grapes should be the reason that you're having the winery up there not the other way around.
A lot of these questions help me answer the remote winery question. And I've appreciated the discussion we've had more broadly, but I don't want to lose that I'm very concerned with wineries that are going out in the middle of nowhere. And I'm not seeing a huge reason for them. And maybe in the discussion with the Planning Commission I'll see that but I don't see it right at the moment. That was my access point to this discussion."
(Sup. Luce expressed similar concerns at the Mar 10, 2015 joint BOS/PC meeting and it probably cost him his re-election. Let's hope that three more years of winery and visitation slot approvals and community pushback, and knowledge of the real dangers of tourism development in fire-prone hills, have altered some perceptions.)
Each of the other Supes had their own preferences or disinterests about the 7 point list. Sups. Pedroza and Gregory were all about prohibiting custom crush in remote areas; too bad they did nothing to stop the expansion of The Caves. And I really appreciate Sups. Dillon and Wagenknecht championing this issue; I wish that their concerns had been as clear during the Mountain Peak appeal.
I couldn't help but feel some sympathy for Dir. Morrison as the discussion careened from one issue to another, especially after he had made a concerted proposal to get at winery proliferation issues 3 years before with little success. It had been a long day and he finally held up a white flag and claimed to have been given enough direction. It will be interesting to see his responses to the Supervisors own internal divisions and lack clarity in their demands, and how the process, which may require modifications to the WDO, unfolds over the months that it will take to play out.
As happened 3 years ago with APAC going on, this scrutiny of winery issues is happening in tandem with another significant public planning process, this time the Napa Strategic Plan which will also be covering some the same community concerns, At the end of the meeting there was some consensus around melding the winery growth concerns raised in the Strategic Plan with these proposals on compatible wineries as part of the joint meeting with the Planning Commission.
Previously referred to more descriptively as "direction on the adoption of an ordinance regarding remote wineries" this discussion came as a bit of a surprise to all concerned at the Aug 14 2018 meeting of the BOS. This is the most significant attempt to look at runaway winery development since the failed effort by APAC. The industry stakeholders showed up just in time to express their consternation that this process hadn't been vetted through them prior to its introduction to the board.
While efforts to curb the continuing development of wineries in the watershed areas of the county were proposed and then curtailed in the APAC process, (with opposition led by the wine industry that wanted evaluation only on a case by case basis under existing WDO rules rather than new proscriptive ordinances) two events have changed the dynamic in looking at the issue: 1. the Oct 2017 fire that laid bare the dangers to health and safety (and perhaps county liability) in the industry's effort to bring ever more tourists into the county's remote areas, and 2. the narrow defeat of the Watershed Protection ordinance that brought to light not only public concern over the protection of water resources but was, in fact, a referendum on the continued development of the watersheds for commercial use of any kind.
This meeting is only an initial step in looking at the issue again post-APAC. It promises to be a months long process.
2202 Diamond Mountain Road Calistoga, CA 94515
September 22, 2018
To: Napa County Board of Supervisors
cc: Minh Tran, David Morrison
RE: REMOTE WINERY WORKSHOP
I sympathize with Mr. Morrison's requesting definition clarity (Board Agenda letter 9/25/18) on how a "remote" winery is defined.
In Napa County, we do not consider remote wineries and vineyards which are located on the valley floor but ones which are exclusively located in the hillsides. We therefore need to define the hillside location factors which would merit special considerations for new vineyards and wineries or expansion of existing ones.
NATURAL ENVIRONMENT CONSIDERATIONS
1) Loss of woodlands.
A partial list includes:
a) Aesthetic degradation of a scarred landscape (an important asset to the Napa valley experience).
b) Negative impacts on water quality and stream siltation, municipal watersheds etc.
c) Negative impacts on animal habitat.
COMMERCIAL / AGRICULTURAL ACTIVITY CONSIDERATIONS
1) Increased traffic.
a) Oversized vehicles for agricultural and wine making operations.
b) Large limousine and personal vehicles for visitors and events.
2) Increased fire danger by the increase of workers and visitors in fire prone areas.
3) Difficulty in navigating the generally narrow roads on opposing traffic situations.
4) Inadequate escape and emergency vehicle access routes.
It is my contention that at its core, the term "remote" implies "hillside development" considerations. As such, the term "remote" does not reflect the fundamental issues which have initiated this inquiry.
Conceivably, one could define "remoteness" in quantifying acceptable negative impacts on the hillsides' environmental factors, in which case, "remoteness" would not necessarily be linked to the distance from some defined point.
While important, this paper will not attempt to evaluate "remoteness" within the environmental relevance / impacts framework.
Rather, it will concentrate in examining it in relation to the introduction of commercial / agricultural vineyard and winery operations in the hillsides. Specifically, it will examne compliance with existing minimum established County road standards and provide related recommendations.
The pertinent road classifications serving vineyards and wineries are either (a) Arterial (Collectors to Highways) or (b) Collector (1,000 to 5,000 vehicles per day). These roads are through-roads, not Dead- End-Roads.
These are defined as serving "up to 1,000 vehicles per day". They may have a Cul-de-Sac (e) but then they may have a "maximum traffic volume of up to 250 vehicles per day". "Cul-de-Sac situations with lengths greater than 1,000 feet shall be provided with turnaround areas at 1,000 foot intervals and emergency access unless it is not considered feasible by the County Engineer".
It is important to note that the requirement is for turnarounds, not turnouts.
Furthermore, the criterion of feasibility is not defined beyond the generally accepted topographic and economic considerations and ignores public safety, health and welfare.
Other Roads (i) Agricultural Special Purpose Roads
"Serves agricultural related single use facilities and light traffic facilities which generate up to 100 vehicle trips per day. This road is not applicable to any winery access. Applies to lightly travelled, low speed roads connecting two activity areas with no significant side traffic. Turnouts must be inter-visible".
Unless agricultural activities using such roads do not comply with this specification, they must be accessed by Major or Minor roads.
SECTION 15 / Design Criteria
"All streets and roads with the exception of Agricultural Special Purpose Roads shall be constructed to provide a minimum of two 10-foot traffic lanes and a minimum of one foot of shoulder on each side".
Since wineries are excluded from this category, unless vineyard and activities comply with the use limitations of Agricultural Special Purpose Roads, they too must comply with the above roadway width specifications unless they also come under the specifications below.
Both Arterial and Collector Roads with no Parallel Parking Lanes (Details C-2 and C-3) require a Right of Way of 40 feet with two 14-foot traffic lanes and shoulders (totaling 39 improved feet).
General Minor Roads with no Parallel Parking Lanes require two 12-foot traffic lanes, a total of 12 feet of shoulders (36 improved feet within a 40-foot Right of Way).
In addition, to the 1,000 feet turnaround maximum spacing requirement for dead-end roads, roads with turnouts (Detail C-11) "shall be spaced a maximum of 400 feet apart and must be Inter-Visible unless allowed by County Engineer and Fire Marshal".
The Napa valley hillsides have a plethora of dead-end roads, many exceeding 3 miles. Soda Canyon Road and Diamond Mountain Road are just a few examples, well above the maximum allowable 5,260 feet.
"Maximum length for parcels zoned 5 acres to 19.99 acres - 2,640 feet for parcels zoned 20 acres or larger - 5,260 feet"
"(b) Turnarounds where parcels are zoned 5 acres or larger shall be provided at a maximum of 1,320 foot intervals".
Agricultural Special Purpose Roads must comply with the inter-visible mandate of the required turnouts spaced a maximum of 400 feet apart (Detail C-11).
I am not aware of any of the county's hillside roads being in compliance with ANY and ALL of the above requirements or exceptions.
Unless there are exceptions I am not aware of, all of the county's hillside roads are out of compliance with the County's Road Standards.
The County Engineer and Fire Marshal have in the past exercised their discretionary power in approving them in the interests of development while increasing the risk of residents', workers' and visitors' inadequate escape routes and the concurrent access to emergency vehicles.
Given the increased danger of fires as we have experienced and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future and in order for the County to avoid being knowingly complicit in case of catastrophic loss of life of property as well as in the interest of public health and safety I recommend that:
The County Supervisors revoke the Engineer's and Fire Marshal's discretion to deviate from the accepted road standards on all future commercial / agricultural hillside development, new or the expansion of existing ones.
All future commercial / agricultural hillside development on roads which do not comply with the County's Road Standards shall be prohibited until such roads are improved to meet such standards.
All commercial / agricultural hillside development be prohibited on hillside roads lacking a secondary accesses beyond a maximum distance of 2,640 feet.
All new secondary road accesses for all commercial / agricultural uses, shall meet the same standards as the primary access roads at any given location.
Revise the standards for Special Purpose Roads and Agricultural Special Purpose Roads (single lane) for all new commercial / agricultural hillside development to comply with General Minor Road standards.
Finally, since the issue of remoteness does not reflect actual considerations of remoteness but rather environmental and access safety ones, I recommend that a designation reflecting its actual purposes be adopted.
Taking aim at one issue involving remote wineries prior to the BOS discussion on Sep 25th, ( and directly applicable to Soda Canyon Road but probably triggered by the denied dry Creek-Mt Veeder Winery), Supervisor Pedroza sent out this email request for input from community members at the meeting:
"The BOS will be discussing Rural Wineries on Tuesday.
Background: In remote areas like Atlas Peak Rd, Soda Canyon Rd, Mt. Veeder, etc, we've had some winery proposals that are completely custom crush facilities, no vineyards on site.
Problem: Wineries in remote, rural areas, that have no fruit, will need to bring in fruit, meaning more traffic, than a normal winery, on a rural road network.
Discussion: require an estate component on wineries in rural/remote (will need to define rural/remote)? For example, if you're going to do a winery on Soda Canyon Road, a requirement might be that you be at minimum 10% estate (requiring you to have some vineyards).
My take: I think if you're going to have a winery, especially in rural areas, you should have some level of vineyards. Also, with the growth of the Corporate Park and Airport Park, that area seems better suited for custom crush activities. I recognize most wineries, if not all, bring in fruit from different vineyards, areas, so there needs to be some flexibility to bring in fruit, which is why I think the % should be on the lower side for rural wineries."
Soda Canyon has two wineries, Relic and The Caves at Soda Canyon, up steep winding driveways with no grapes on the properties. Despite residents having raised the issue of being a grape-less custom crush facility during their last Planning Commission hearing, The Caves was nonetheless granted a doubling of their capacity in 2017 (in addition to the exoneration of their illegal construction of a viewing portal through the ridgeline).
Grape sourcing has become a bigger issue at Planning Commission meetings of late. Relic and the Caves represent the great pitfall of granting approvals based on a "contracted" source of grapes. While I don't know for sure, it is likely that that Relic and The Caves relied on some of the Stagecoach grapes from the top of Soda Canyon Road. The sale of Stagecoach to Gallo last year will probably mean the end of many contracts leaving smaller wineries competing for alternative, and perhaps more distant, sources. Contracted grapes should not be used to justify use permit approvals. Use permits run with the land forever; grape contracts can disappear overnight.
The Mountain Peak owner purchased another vineyard property on the Rector plateau to help justify the 100,000 gal/yr production capacity they were proposing. While that is a substantial commitment and helped justify such a large production capacity on a 40 acre site, non-estate sources used to justify permit approvals, even if owned by the applicant, are only modestly more secure than a grape contract. Mountain Peak may sell the property at any time (perhaps to finance the winery construction) to another owner wishing to build their own 100,000 gal winery.
In the remote areas of the county wineries should be allowed to process the grapes on the property for which the use permit is given. But production capacity beyond what the property can supply will always open the potential for a custom crush operation. In future approvals for remote wineries, the production limit should be, perhaps, 125% of the amount that the property's grapes can generate to allow for some remote component. Entrepreneurs with production ambitions beyond that limit should be relegated, at this point in the progression of Napa winery development, to the industrial areas of the county.