Napa County wineries face more permit scrutiny

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Napa County wineries face more permit scrutiny


After two years of discussion, the Napa County Board of Supervisors is this year developing changes to winery use-permit reporting procedures to make sure the area’s roughly 500 wine producers meet the requirements of their operating permits when it comes items like event sizes, production limits and tasting-room hours.

“Compliance is definitely a priority,” said Napa County Fourth District Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza. “Everyone involved must understand that we will enforce use permits. We all want the same thing — a predictable system so everyone understands the goals and what we are striving for. Compliance is a two-way street and includes having a commitment from the wine industry to adhere to permit requirements as well as having consistent and predictable processes.”

At the same time, there is uncertainty in the industry on what this future course of action may be.

“We need clarity to achieve easier implementation and buy-in,” Pedroza said. “Napa residents and wine industry want such a program to be balanced. Our current cumbersome bureaucratic process is not consistent at times, so we are also looking for ways to incentivize reporting and make it more dependable and clear.”

As an example, “if a permit states that a winery has 10 workers, but now has 20, creating jobs and fostering economic growth is a good thing, but figures still have to be kept up to date. Reporting is especially important with regard to winery production, hospitality and hosting activities to see if they are consistent with today’s realities.”

David Morrison is director of Napa County’s Planning, Building and Environmental Services Department, which issues use permits and is responsible for enforcing and auditing winery compliance.

“If a winery is found to be in violation, our goal is to get them in compliance as soon as possible,” Morrison said.

The intent is to take steps to maintain the high standards Napa already has without creating an entirely new system, he said.

“We have to make sure that everyone is operating under the same rules, so that wineries with violations do not gain an unfair advantage over their competition, which could lead to damaging the brand and image of Napa Valley,” Morrison said.


When it comes to wine production, Morrison said wineries have to report production, crush figures and bottling counts today to state and federal agencies including the state Alcohol Beverage Control Department and the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. However, Napa County does not see this data.


“State and federal agencies can provide the county with aggregate numbers, but not specific data on individual wineries, due to the proprietary nature of the information. Instead, we are looking to have relevant data sent directly to the county by the wineries, where it would receive the same proprietary protection,” Morrison said.

There is concern among some in the county that winery permit rules are not effectively enforced and impact residents as a consequence. At the same time, there is interest in the wine industry to have a fair playing field so some of its members will not continue operating outside the rules.

Ten years ago, Napa County began conducting random annual spot production audits beginning with five wineries, which was increased to 10 five years later, while also including reviews of tours and tastings log books and marketing events. However, with 500 wineries legally established in the county, it would take 25 years to cycle through all of them.

Napa Co. winery applications for modified permits

Six new use-permit applications plus seven modifications to existing permits in Napa County were issued from Jan. 1 through April 5, proposing wine-production increases totaling 487,000 gallons per year. This first-quarter figure is more than the annual production increases reported for the county in 2014, 2011, 2010 and 2006.

Baldacci Family Vineyards (Archangel Investments, LLC)

Increase production from 20,000 to 40,000 gallons/year

Behrens Family Winery (Les Behrens and Lisa Drinkward)

Major modification of use permit from 10,000 to 20,000 gallons/year

Black Sears Winery (Ashlander, LLC)

Major modification of use permit

Bin to Bottle Custom Crush Wine Production Facility (Bin to Bottle, LLC, Wilkinson)

Major modification, with maximum of 250,000 gallons/year capacity

Flynnville Wine Company (PD Properties, LLC)

New 40,000 gallons/year winery

Fortunati Vineyards Winery (Gary Luchtel)

New 12,000 gallons/year winery

Grassi Family Winery (Grassi Wine Company)

New 25,000-gallon-a-year winery.

Laura Michael Wines (Laura and Michael Swanton)

Major modification of use permit.

Mountain Peak Winery (Mountain Peak Vineyards, LLC)

New 100,000-gallon-a-year winery.

Raymond Vineyard and Cellar, Inc. (Boisset Collection)

Major modification of use permit.

Sam Jasper Winery (San Bernabe, LLC)

New 20,000-gallon-per-year winery.

WHL Winery (South Whitehall Lane Development, LLC)

New 10,000-gallon-a-year winery.

ZD Wines (Robert DeLeuze and Brett DeLeuze)

Major modification of use permit.

Source: Napa County Planning Commission