Bill Hocker | Apr 2, 2021 Update 4/2/21
1.2 miles at the end of Bella Oaks Lane
SFChronicle 4/2/21: Napa's prestigious Staglin winery says it needs more visitors to succeed. Its wealthy neighbors are fighting back
NVR 3/4/21: Napa County tries to find Staglin winery visitor balance
3/3/21 Planning Commission Agenda
3/3/21 Meeting Video
On Feb 3rd the County Planning Commission approved the visitation expansion of the Staglin Winery on Bella Oaks Lane
, owned by one of the "Old Land, New Money" generation of winemakers roasted by James Conaway in the "The Far Side of Eden
The project generated an unusual, and organized, amount of neighborhood opposition (20 some neighbors) in a short period of time. This was a one month turaround from the shock notice that the county sends out warning neighbors of pending destruction of their bucholic lives. Most end up having at least a few months and sometimes years to assemble their defense.
As often happens, the commission fell into horse-trading on the tourism numbers, probably leaving both sides unhappy. Visitation went from 2980 to (about) 10800 vis/yr. Given the full blown legal brief filed by neighbors (see here
), there is a good chance that the project will be appealed to the BOS seeking an EIR.
The proposal had nothing to do with wine production - it was strictly a request to increase tourism and tourism hours at the winery. After 34 vintages the winery doesn't see survival possible without more visitors. It is another indication of the fall in demand for $100-$350 bottles of wine as The Wine Advocate connoisseurs die off and well-heeled millennials turn to less pretentious and more eclectic quaffs. For the Napa wine industry as a whole, pursuing more visitors rather than expanding internet sales advocated by Rob McMillan earlier in the day (beginning at 43:00 in the meeting video
) to offset the demographic change will probably doom many small wineries to expensive and futile tasting room competition, and the physical environment of the county will continue to degrade, as more and more tourism venues spring up desperately hoping for tourism as their salvation.
In each of the neighbor-opposed projects that have come to the commission over the last 7 years, I keep wondering why more residents (including growers and vintners) only see tourism as a problem when it shows up in their backyard -- at which point it is a battle over the technical nitty-gritty of a proposal rather than the "big picture" issue of tourism degrading the quality of life of every rural county resident. The Supervisors in 2015, with Sup. Luce still on the Board, tried to take on the issue after hundreds of residents showed up for a meeting to address winery proliferation
. The result was the creation of the APAC commission
which ultimately, under industry pressure, did nothing to reduce winery proliferation, but instead lead to the creation of a process to exonerate and legitimize wineries already operating well above their permit limits. Since then a small winery ordinance has been added to make proliferation easier, and now there is mention of a micro-winery ordinance probably to encourage tourism to winemakers not yet owning a permitted winery.
Most residents bemoan the baleful impacts of increased tourism, but until those impacts finally get to their front door there is no effort to do something about it. Activism led by Napavision2050
, and the diligent NVR reporting of Barry Eberling on the issue never seem to lead to another surge among the public to act. After 7 years of obsessing about this issue, it is a bit depressing that the battle is still being fought, quite ineffectively, one impacted community at a time.