Bill Hocker | Mar 31, 2015
[Sent to the Commissioners re: the Bell Wine Cellars use permit modification
The NVR article on the hearing is here: Planners balk at Bell Wine visitation increase request
Doesn't this project again raise the grape sourcing question? A 50% increase in capacity. Is that the standard? Where is the 50% increase in the grape crop? I hope that a temporary contract to buy grapes out from under someone else is not the justification for a permanent increase in capacity.
And then there is the tourism. 50% to 600% (depending on paragraph) increase in tours & tastings that can now be lunch. 1300% increase in marketing that can be lunch and dinner (only 14 parking spaces?). New commercial kitchen, hospitality employees, water system, wastewater system, no restriction on busses, film festival, music events. Over 30,000 visitors/yr This is yet another poster child for the transition from an agricultural to a tourism economy.
Half of the wineries on the staff size-comparable winery list are under 5000 visitors/year - 15% of this request. 84% of the wineries on the list have less than half the visitors proposed here. 12% of the wineries have no visitors. Are they all going broke?
It is probably true that you can't continue to increase the number of small and inefficient wineries and expect them all to make a profit producing wine. So what is the answer? So far it has been to let them sell food and event tickets. But there is still no guarantee of profitability as every winery begins to sell food and tickets. And, as we are all sensing, there are long term impacts for agriculture (and for the character of the county) as the land and water resources available become co-opted for ever expanding tourism uses, the tourism workforce and the urbanization necessary to accommodate them.
Perhaps it is time to take a different approach: if a winery can't make a profit producing wine then perhaps some encouragement is needed to replace it with low-impact vines, which do seem to be a profitable enterprise, and that will serve the real long term interests of the wine industry and of the citizens that see this place as something special to be preserved.
3460 Soda Canyon Road