For those that have read this space for a while, you’ve probably noticed that I’m a pretty big supporter of Yountville both in terms of the great food that’s often talked about, but also in terms of the family friendly atmosphere, something that is generally lacking in wine country much of the time.
One of the best low key tasting rooms in Yountville belongs to Girard Winery and for some time the winery has been in discussions about bringing a winery to the Valley floor near Calistoga, where it owns about 30 acres.
While development of new winery space in Napa is limited, Girard owns enough land to make it happen, eventually.
Like many real estate projects though that happen in heavily regulated industries, there are some issues to deal with. As it turns out the biggest here is water rights and usage. The question, can two wineries share water and wastewater, even if they’re owned by the same people (Clos Pegase is across the street and uses the current systems).
Napa Valley supervisors were split on the issue, voting 2-2 which is an increasingly common situation.
So the owners appealed and eventually won.
The core issue is what’s common in Napa-what counts as urbanization? How many wineries should exist? How much land needs to be kept only for agricultural uses?
At first glance, it seems to me that sharing some common facilities like waste water, makes sense. That leaves more space for grapes to be planted. After all, people don’t come to Napa, or buy Napa wine because of a small, dirty lake, right?
Of course, what happens if the lake isn’t sufficient and water has to be trucked in? How will a 2nd winery with an additional 500+ weekly visitors effect what’s happening in this small space in Calistoga, when the winery already has an urban (wine country urban we’re talking, maybe walkable would be a better term) tasting room 10 miles away?
Honestly, I’m not sure anyone quite has the answers to these questions. What seems to be straight forward on one hand, often has had unintended consequences when it comes to development in Napa Valley. While some see this as an easy answer to allow both growth and the preservation of vineyard land, others see further encroachments on a rural way of life that is increasingly being driven out of Napa Valley, visitor by visitor.