Seaton Vineyards to build winery; traffic study in contentionThe Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted 5-0 to uphold the July approval by the county Board of Zoning Adjustment of a mitigated negative declaration and use permit for winegrape grower Hugh Seaton to build a 10,000-case winery and hold 24 annual events at 7412 W. Dry Creek Road. The Dry Creek Valley Association had filed an appeal against the decision.

The family has been farming the property for 46 years, but the recent soured grape market made building a winery necessary, said Mr. Seaton's son Steven.

The association alleged the county's traffic study underestimated traffic and safety problems with the four-mile stretch of West Dry Creek Road between Lambert Bridge and Yoakim Bridge roads. Also in contention were tasting room hours, creek setback, five-year vesting of the permit and compatibility of weddings with the site's Williamson Act contract.

Association Vice President Judith Olney told the Board of Supervisors that the group filed an appeal mainly because the county tabled work in progress over the past few years on a comprehensive review of projects planned on this road, given the Seaton winery would be the fourth approved on that part of the road.

"We are dismayed that we have to be in an adversarial role," she said. "It's unfair to this project applicant."

The group argued that the road is too narrow in places for two-way traffic and has blind curves as well as steep drop-offs.

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Supervisor Shirlee Zane said a video played at the meeting showing a bike tour van having to pull off the road to allow a big rig to pass convinced her it is, indeed, a safe road.

"A narrow road is traffic-calming," she said, noting her experiences of traveling narrow roads in the United Kingdom. "Americans have to get used to that."

Seaton Vineyards plans to seek construction of the winery in three years, according to the family.

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The California Department of Food and Agriculture's Market Enforcement Branch, which oversees transactions involving farm products such as winegrapes, on Oct. 8 put processor licenses for La Czar Vineyards of Forestville and Camelia Cellars of Healdsburg on probation for six months, according to the agency.

The two businesses stipulated to the measure in lieu of administrative hearings.

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In time for this year's harvest, Santa Rosa-based Mavrik North America introduced "rapid tartrate stabilization." The process is said to control acidity and sediments in white wines and roses with only a week of chilling, rather than in a few weeks with conventional methods.

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Submit items for this column to Jeff Quackenbush at jquackenbush@busjrnl.com, 707-521-4256 or fax 707-521-5292.