Dan McFadden | Mar 13, 2015
I think the county faces a clear choice. If it wants to protect the Napa brand and preserve the character of Napa Valley, it needs to clamp down on expansion of winery capacity that cannot be supplied by Napa County fruit, enforce its restrictions on grape imports, and resist debasement of the brand by operators using a "Made in Napa" label. It needs to account for the environmental damage and congestion costs of more wineries, more wine tourists, and more low-wage workers commuting into the county to work in the wine and hospitality industries. The wine and hospitality industries have been good for Napa County, but it is in their interest as well as all our interests that they continue to thrive on a sustainable path without self-destructive over-development. Currently, the County development plan, and ordinances to channel and regulate growth, have failed to restrain growth of the wine and tourist industries to sustainable levels. To achieve prudent growth levels, the Supervisors have to tighten their current planning and permitting procedures. Here are some specific possible actions:
- Ask AFT to reduce confusion of Napa production and Napa AVA wines by requiring all producers to label their products with the percentage of Napa County fruit.
- Keep separate production statistics for large everyday wine producers like Sutter Home that rely primarily on non-Napa fruit, and the wineries who do rely primarily on Napa fruit. These types of wineries are very different, and their growth should be regulated separately.
- Declare a partial moratorium on winery and hotel expansion, limiting them to growth rates of one percent per year.
- Give priority to estate wineries and wineries that are scaled in proportion to their grape supply.
- Give priority to wineries who commit to using Napa fruit, and can establish a source.
- Give preference to wineries that locate in current industrial areas rather than in the ag preserve.
- Give preference for visitor programs to wineries who locate their tasting facilities near major tourist centers.
- Increase minimum parcel size for a winery, and require that wineries replace any vineyards destroyed or damaged by construction or operations.
- Improve monitoring and audits of wineries to ensure that they meet the Napa fruit requirements and do not abuse the Napa environment.
- Give wineries substantial freedom to run their visitor programs as they wish, but strictly limit annual visitor numbers, taking into account traffic congestion, safety, and neighborhood nuisance factors.
Bill Hocker adds:
The complete McFadden letter at the Mar 10th joint BOS-PC meeting is here
, and is well worth re-reading