Ruth Walz | Apr 14, 2014
[Comments prepared in protest of the issuance of an alcohol license for two of the brands to be sold at the Caves of Soda Canyon]
March 27, 3014
My name is Ruth Walz.
My family and I moved to Soda Canyon Road more than 30 years ago. It was a bucolic place with no traffic, no wine tasting and very, very quiet. Maybe there was a car every two hours.
There was a wonderful Christmas tree farm across the street. For three weeks of the year there would be traffic in and out as families chopped down their own trees in preparation for the holidays.
Then about 10-12 years ago, very large parcels up the road from us were broken up. From what we understand, two and three thousand acre units were broken into one hundred acre parcels. Grapes were planted and much discussion evolved over whether the terroir was good, bad or indifferent. Not to worry, it's just grapes not wineries.
We began to see the beginning of changes to our road.
If you haven't been on Soda Canyon know that it is five or six miles long running from north to south. It is quite curvy for 5 miles and then the last mile, which goes right by my house, straightens out and drivers think they can now pick up speed. There is an entrance on Silverado Trail where the Soda Canyon Deli is located and then no exit at the other end. Were there to be a fire, the only way in and out is at the corner with Silverado Trail.
Soda Canyon Road along with Atlas Peak had the "big fire', about one thousand acres, approximately thirty years ago. Since then, there have been fires regularly on our road, at least one or two a year. They usually start with a substantial wind that knocks down power lines that set off a spark that starts a fire. One has only to go outside to smell the smoke and know that we're in trouble. Given the increased traffic load on the street, I can't imagine easily getting fire equipment in.
Our water situation in California is dire and all of us on Soda Canyon are on wells. I am currently pulling from a sulfurous strata that frankly smells bad. Friends will turn on the water and say, "What is that smell?" Many of us wonder how much longer our wells will last.
The traffic on our road has become abominable. During March it is only mildly dreadful. Come summer it is horrible. There are only shoulders in a few areas, so there is no way to easily pull over to let cars or(fire engines) go by. Cars regularly speed over the posted 45 mph limit. Because of the frustration of the very curviness in the first 5 miles, by the time cars get to my stretch (the straightaway) they take off at very fast speeds.
I host a group of ladies, average age 80,once a month. They go home at 4:00. That's also the time that our farm workers get off. Vehicles tear down the road with folks anxious to get home, and old ladies try and back out of my drive way. I either stand in the road and bellow when it is safe, or stand in the road and try and stop traffic so they can back out.
My very comfortable old car has 200,000 miles on it. It doesn't pick up speed very quickly. After I back out of my driveway, I slowly make my way toward Silverado Trail. I watch in my rear view mirror as cars and trucks and shuttles race from the north up to my car and decide whether to pass me on the double yellow line or wait impatiently until my speed increases. In my rear view mirror I see them with their teeth clenched and their hands tightly gripping their steering wheels probably wondering if I'm going to pull over so they can continue their race down the hill.
My grandchildren live only 500 feet from my house, and yet I'm afraid to have their mother push them in a stroller over to my home for dinner. Too dangerous.
My neighbor used to walk his dog to the store in the morning and buy a paper and a coffee. No more. Too dangerous.
The increase in the amount of cars and truck and limos and shuttles and vineyard management trucks and landscapers and food purveyors and trucks carrying tractors is awful. I actually saw a house going up the hill last month. Last summer at the height of the season, my living room windows would rattle at the force of the larger trucks coming down the road.
And, now we learn that there are more folks planning on opening wineries on our road. Not acceptable. One might just as well have a bar up the road. Mildly intoxicated folks racing down the hill to try and visit just one more winery before the day of wine tasting is over - not good..
I have no issues personally with the people who are opening wineries and trying to make a living. They want to have a life. But I too want to have a life. I had intended to live a rural life, not a shi chi life. I had hoped to move from my house to assisted living some day. Not from my house to a place in town so I could get away from the stress of what is happening on my road.
Wineries belong on major arteries like Silverado and Highway 29, not on country roads that were never intended for that purpose.
I am not so naive as to think that I can fight the wine industry in this county. We have just learned that another new winery is planned and they're expecting approx. 320 guests a week. Assuming everyone is with a friend that's another 160 cars a week plus.
I understand there are currently just under 300 wineries in Napa. When is enough, enough?