Windsor-area winery seeks expansion
Published: Friday, October 11, 2013 at 6:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 11, 2013 at 6:41 p.m.
Windsor Oaks winery, located at the end of a country lane just north of Windsor, wants to more than double its production capacity and begin catering to the public by adding several dozen promotional and wine events annually.
Not surprisingly, the prospect of increased traffic from weddings and other events that would draw as many as 300 people has led to complaints from residents along Hillview Road, which leads to the winery.
Ever since the vineyard went from appointment only, to hosting some public wine tasting weekends, “it feels more like we live in a noisy, urban industrial area with nonstop freeway of cars and trucks coming up and down the narrow one-lane road at all times night and day,” residents Daniel and Suvee McGree stated in a letter to county planners.
It's a familiar battle that has played out before in Wine Country, particularly Sonoma and Dry Creek valleys, where residents seeking to guard their tranquility have tried to stem tides of visitors streaming in for special events and tastings.
The most effective way to market wine is often to attract crowds.
“The industry says it's best to have events, bring people to the winery, give tours, show how the wine is made,” said county planner Traci Tesconi.
The concept, she noted, is “grape to glass. It's one way to get label recognition.”
Windsor Oaks may have found a way to appease many of its neighbors. After listening to the complaints, representatives for the winery have decided to improve a private road from Arata Lane and use that as the primary access to the winery, instead of the half-mile-long Hillview Road.
Steve Martin, a Sebastopol civil engineer representing Windsor Oaks, said Friday that as a result there actually will be less traffic on Hillview.
A traffic study showed there will be an average of 53 new daily trips generated from the events Windsor Oaks wants to stage.
But Martin said the plan is to funnel almost all the winery traffic, including visitors and employees, onto the winery's private road, after it is paved and chip sealed at a cost of more than $250,000.
He said that truck traffic, about three trucks a day, would remain on Hillview.
“We've really tried hard to work with the neighbors,” he said.
The winery's proposed solution hasn't made everybody happy.
Richard and Rhonda Honsa said the proposed access road is adjacent to their two homes on Arata Lane and the volume of car and truck traffic will pass less than 20 feet from their front door.
“No one in their right mind would be in favor of such a large scale project going through their yard,” they stated.
The winery on 472 acres has been there since 1978 when it was known as Balverne Winery.
The property lies in both the Russian River and Chalk Hill viticultural areas.
For about the past 20 years, it has been called Windsor Oaks and owned by Bob Stein, who also owns a small ship maintenance company in Long Beach.
Stein wants to modify the use permit from the current 43,000 cases annually to a maximum of 100,000 and add public tastings, tours and retail sales.
He also is requesting 25 events per year, for things like wine club events or wine pick-up, ranging from 60 to 300 people. There also would be participation in another 10 county-wide “industry wide” events such as Barrel Tasting weekend.
In addition, the winery is applying to hold three weddings a year, and one play and one concert per year, restricted to fewer than 300 guests.
A second phase of expansion is proposed with a new 8,380-square-foot winery and tasting room, along with offices, a kitchen and hospitality area. But Martin said that is at least five years away from breaking ground.
The application for the use permit and design review is scheduled for a public hearing at 1:05 p.m. Thursday at the county's Board of Zoning Adjustments.
Planner Tesconi is recommending approval.
(You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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