Throughout the Napa Valley there are approximately 500 wineries. In a recent survey, the County counted 467 brick and mortar wine production buildings and 1,260 wine labels with an address associated thereto. The question being raised more and more, how many wineries are too many?
This is what is happening right now and will be the question asked of a newly to be formed Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee. The County Board of Supervisors is poised to form a 17 person committee made up of of volunteers with diverse interests. They want people in the wine business, environmentalists, County staff and members of the public to look at all aspects as to what it should take for a new winery to be permitted.
You may ask why this change to the County’s 1990 Wine Definition Ordinance. The reason has been applications which average about 18 per year, half for new wineries, half for modifications to existing wineries for each of the past seven years. Many of the new wineries being built in areas which have created a huge backlash from neighbors who feel their “Napa Valley” quality of life is being ruined when living directly next to a winery. You need to understand, wineries are not quiet neighbors. They can create quite the racket during crush, have tasters coming and going almost every day of the year and many are allowed a limited number of events, i.e. sometimes loud gatherings of a large number of guests attending an event.
Thus the approval process for any new winery has gone from almost rubber-stamped to every one taking two to three meetings of the Board of Supervision’s each lasted several hours. Every new winery application is being contested by neighbors who attend these in numbers of at least 10 and several almost a hundred opposed to the winery’s approval. One of the notables contesting a winery being built next to their property, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
A few facts:
- There are approximately 5,000 hotel rooms in the Napa Valley
- There are an average of more than 13,400 daily visitors to wineries spending $3.8 million per day
- 9% of the wineries have 68% of the wine production and 55% of the weekly tasting room visitors
- This 9% also has 65% of the marketing event visitors
For more go to the Napa Valley Register and read one of Berry Eberling’s three excellent articles about this.
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- County looking for ag advisory committee members