Napa County approves Rutherford winery

Napa County Planning Commission on Wednesday approved a new 100,000-gallon-a-year (42,000 cases) winery on the 90-acre Long Meadow Ranch vineyard and fresh-produce farm in the Rutherford winegrowing area of mid-Napa Valley. And at the same meeting, action was pushed back again on Boisset Family Estates' nearly 3-year-old proposal to expand Raymond Vineyards a few properties to the north of the ranch, but that request now excludes doubling of allowed production capacity, which helped kick up a flurry of debate in the wine business two years ago about where grapes for Napa Valley wines come from.

[caption id="attachment_95428" align="alignleft" width="360"] Long Meadow Ranch Winery & Farmstead plans to build a 42,000-case-a-year winery on its Rutherford vineyard and farm-produce property in Rutherford. (credit: Napa Wine Project)[/caption]

The commission approved the use permit for LMR Rutherford Estate Winery at 1790 St. Helena Hwy. S. The plan calls for construction of "farmscape" styled buildings: a 11,000-square-foot production building with 4,164-square-foot covered tank pad and like-sized covered crush pad, 816-square-foot storage building and 1,360-square-foot administrative office building with conference rooms. Ninety percent of winery capacity will be used for the existing Long Meadow Ranch sauvignon blanc and cabernet sauvignon wines.

Wines would be made from the 74 acres of vines on the property. The property is enrolled in the Napa Green program, which is aligned with Fish-Friendly Farming, and the goal is to certify the production facility in the Napa Green Winery program. Conservation easements were granted on 59 acres. The property has 200 commercial fruit trees, egg-laying poultry and hives. That's in addition to the 650-acre LMR Mayacamas Estate ranch to the west and ranches in Marin and Humboldt counties, where grass-fed beef and lamb, more fruit, vegetables, eggs and olive oil are produced.

“We are very proud of our project as we will continue our diversified farming on the site, and we are introducing new concepts -- like green walls that will be made up of trellised rootstock to provide cooling in addition to a consistent vineyard aesthetic, “ said Ted Hall, who owns the ranch together with his wife, Laddie, and son, Chris. They acquired the first part of the property, formerly San Mateo Ranch, in 2002.

Farm products and wine are sold in farmers' markets in St. Helena and Napa and at the Farmstead restaurant on Main Street in St. Helena.

As for Raymond, the planning commission continued discussion on a major modification to the use permit until the Aug. 20 meeting. Raymond has dropped plans to double its 750,000-gallon annual wine production cap with an allowance of 900,000 gallons once in any three-year period.

Last October, Raymond's project team told county planners it planned to drop the production increase from the proposal, get existing production in line with 75 percent Napa County grapes rule by the end of this year then reapply for any needed increase in production, according to filed documents. Iconic North Coast grapegrower Andy Beckstoffer has been a vocal opponent of Raymond's production expansion if it means more than one-quarter of the wine with Napa Valley as the stated origin is made from grapes or wine in bulk trucked in from outside the county.

Part of Raymond's use-permit modification would be authorizing property and staffing upgrades, according to county documents. Allowed employees increased to 90 full time from 24, but Boisset attorney John Mackie of Carle Mackie Power & Ross wrote to county officials that ongoing staffing would be less but that the limit would allow for staffing up for certain events.

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