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.

The mix of allowed events also would be changed under the requested modification. Daily tours and tastings would increase from 400 allowed now to 500, with the additional visits by appointment only. Raymond is asking for its allowed events per year to drop from nearly 500 to 50, but no more than eight a month. Two per year could have up to 500 people; four, up to 250; six, up to 150; 12, as many as 100; 26, with no more 50; and one weekend soiree per summer month with up to 100.***

Lake County Winegrape Commission (707-279-2633, lakecountywinegrape.org) opened its new office and education center last month.

[caption id="attachment_95429" align="alignright" width="360"] At the opening of the new Lake County Winegrape Commission office in June 2014 were (from left) Jim Magliulo, Lake County Chamber of Commerce; David Weiss, commission secretary-treasurer; Bill Oldham, board member; President Debra Sommerfield; Paul Zellman, education director; Broc Zoller, board member; Jeff Lyon, outgoing board member; Susan Peters, office manager; Jeff Tyrrell, district representative; Sen. Noreen Evans; Buz Dereniuk, board member; Terry Dereniuk, executive director, Lake County Winery Association; Randy Krag, outgoing commission board member; Paula Blaydes, consultant, Senate Select Committee on California’s Wine Industry; Bonnie Sears, board member; Jonathan Walters, vice chairman; Peter Molnar, chairman; Alan Flora, deputy Lake County administrative officer; Rick Hamilton, chamber of commerce; Matt Perry, county administrative officer; Jeff Smith, chairman, Lake County Board of Supervisors; and Robert Boccabella, chamber of commerce. (credit: Lake County Chamber of Commerce)[/caption]

The new office is at 3865 Main St. in Kelseyville. About 150 attended the open house, feted by Lake County Chamber of Commerce.

"The commission’s new space includes office space plus an education center that enables us to host workshops, tastings, our Master Vigneron classes and other events," commission President Debra Sommerfield said. "It also will provide a community gathering space for local grape growers to get together and for other agriculture-related organizations to host meetings."

The event featured a tasting of the newest releases of Lake County sauvignon blanc, a regional specialty, from Art+Farm’s The Girls in the Vineyard, Brassfield Estate, Cache Creek Vineyards, Chacewater, Fetzer’s Bonterra, Gregory Graham Wines, Guenoc, High Valley Vineyards, Shed Horn Cellars, Shannon Ridge Vineyards, Six Sigma Ranch & Winery, Smiling Dogs Ranch, Steele’s Shooting Star, Thorn Hill Vineyards and Wildhurst Vineyards.

Just prior to the open house, the commission board officially seated two new and two returning members elected by local grape growers, approved the commission’s 2014--2015 budget and set the grower assessment rate at 1 percent for the 2014 marketing season. Bonnie Sears and Bill Oldham joined the board, and Jonathan Walters and Broc Zoller were re-elected.

Officers for the coming year are Peter Molnar continuing as chairman, Mr. Walters as vice chairman and David Weiss as secretary-treasurer. Appointed as committee chairmen were Mr. Walters on the Executive Committee; Mr. Zoller, Research and Education; Mr. Molnar, Marketing; Buz Dereniuk, Finance; and Bill Brunetti, Community/Industry Relations.

Exiting the board were Jeff Lyon and Randy Krag after eight years of service.***

The Wine Road (wineroad.com), made up of 190 vintners and 50 hoteliers in Sonoma County's Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River valleys, donated $25,000 to the Redwood Empire Food Bank from proceeds on tickets this year for events Winter Wineland, barrel tasting and Ticket to the Wine Road. The food bank has been Wine Road’s beneficiary since 2003 and so far has received $300,000.

The marketing group also donated more than $20,000 to various local charities during the Wine Road on the Road series, promoting local tourism through wine tasting events while simultaneously benefiting local charities in the cities visited. In February, Wine Road traveled to Arizona and donated $2,500 to Habitat for Humanity Tucson and $6,500 to the Phoenix Animal Welfare League. For the final stop of the series, Wine Road made a trip to Seattle in April and donated more than $12,000 to the Northwest Harvest Food Bank.***

The fourth annual Flavor! Napa Valley food and wine conference (flavornapavalley.com), benefiting The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, is set for Nov. 19--23.

Themed "Terroir to Table: Farm, Cellar, & Kitchen Experience," events include demonstrations by celebrity chefs, wine-paired dinners at local wineries and top winemakers leading tastings at Greystone and "The Appellation Trail," featuring nearly 25 restaurants and 100 wineries.

Chefs new to the festival include Dean Fearing (1978 institute graduate) of Fearing’s Restaurant in Dallas, Duff Goldman (1998) of Charm City Cakes in Baltimore, Melissa Perello (1996) of Frances in San Francisco, The Pound A Day Diet author Rocco DiSpirito (1986), Trevor Kunk (2003) of Press in Napa Valley and culinary author Lee Brian Schrager (1979).

Returning chefs include Michael Chiarello (1982) of Bottega Napa Valley and Coqueta in San Francisco, Todd English (1982) of Todd English Enterprises, Larry Forgione (1974) of Conservatory Restaurant at Greystone, Christopher Kostow of The Restaurant at Meadowood Napa Valley, Masaharu Morimoto of Morimoto Napa and Mill Valley-based restaurant chain owner Charlie Palmer (1979), also chairman of the institute board.

Wine experts include master sommeliers Robert Bath, Tim Gaiser, Peter Granoff and Andrea Robinson and vintners Peter Mondavi Jr. and Mike McGrath.

Tickets range in price from $75 for First Taste Napa to $295 for the welcome dinner.

The event is hosted in partnership with Visit Napa Valley, Greystone, Napa Valley Vintners and founding sponsors Silverado Resort and Spa and Dolce Hotels and Resorts. The festival is produced by Karlitz & Company.***

Californians Building Bridges, a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding the appreciation for Cuban culture, will host the first-ever delegation of Cuban sommeliers to visit California this week.

"This trip is the culmination of years of hard work and many visits to the island of Cuba, and we can't (wait) to see our guests here in California wine country," said Darius Anderson, organization founder, Sacramento lobbyist and managing member of Business Journal owner Sonoma Media Investments, in a statement.

In its 14 years in operation, Californians Building Bridges has conducted more than 50 cultural and leadership exchanges between the U.S. and Cuba, including several last year and this year.

Hosts for the visiting sommeliers include the Wine Institute, Napa Valley Vintners, Sonoma County Vintners, Lodi Winegrape Commission, Santa Barbara County Vintners, Paso Robles Wine Alliance and the Guild of Sommeliers, Michael Mondavi Family Wines, MacMurray Ranch, Franciscan Estate Winery, Seghesio Family Wines, Gloria Ferrer, Saintsbury, Garnet, Black Stallion, Buena Vista Winery, Ram's Gate, Russian Hill and Benziger Family Winery.

"We exported a record $1.5 billion of California wines in 2013, and we look forward to sharing our award winning vintages with wine lovers in Cuba in the years ahead as well," state Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross said in a statement.***

Fine Northern Oak, a maker of oak alternatives and acquired by Seguin Moreau earlier this year, hired Cody Ewers as California account manager.

He will report to Marion Ghiringhelli of Seguin Moreau Napa Cooperage.

"Their innovation and willingness to try new things inspires me," Mr. Ewers said in a statement.

He has cellar experience at Hunnicutt Winery, Robert Sinskey Vineyards and Girard Winery. He has more than three years of sales experience, most recently selling agricultural supplies to Northern California grape growers.

In off hours, Mr. Ewers works with his own label, Preamble Wines....

Send items for this column to jquackenbush@busjrnl.com or call 707-521-4256.