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Petaluma wine tasting room plans in fast lane

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A long-awaited proposal for a state-of-the-art downtown Petaluma winery, tasting room and auto racing museum is gaining momentum, according to Adobe Road Winery’s CEO.

CEO Kevin Buckler, a luminary in the racing world, said he’s weeks away from securing the $6 million in investor funding to support the 15,000-sqaure-foot riverfront facility at the corner of First and C streets.

“We’re almost finished with the fundraising. I was able to do what I wanted to do — it’s not something that’s the most expedient method, but I did the fundraising myself with all-star people that came in and were interested in the winery project,” said Buckler, 57. “I connected with people throughout North America.”

As those wine industry investors are falling into place, the project team is working to fine-tune details of a proposal to submit to the city for approval. Once city officials give the green light to the project, it will take about nine to 10 months to build and could be open as soon as the end of next year. The Bay Bridge Garage, currently located at the site owned by Buckler and his team, will be demolished to make way for the winery and associated parking.

“Everything is on track and moving forward,” the Marin County resident said, adding that the application will be submitted to the city after the first of the year, though there’s not yet a set time line. “I honestly could not be happier.”

The project will allow the winery, which last year opened a Petaluma tasting room around the corner from the proposed facility in the Old Petaluma Mill on Petaluma Boulevard, to grow its operation. The winery currently produces about 5,000 cases a year, with 1,100 wine club members and seven employees, Buckler said.

Company leaders are still mapping out exact growth patterns and hammering down production numbers, but Buckler anticipates bringing on as many as 10 new employees.

The business will feature a tasting room with doors that open to the Petaluma River, VIP areas for large parties, a small second floor with a viewing area and office space as well as a 2,500-square-foot car museum. That feature will allow Buckler, who is also the CEO of The Racer’s Group, which is a 25-year-old conglomerate of award-winning professional racer car drivers, to pay homage to another one of his passions.

Buckler’s racing resume boasts one overall win and four class wins at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, a victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the title of 2002 Porsche World Cup Champion, as well as wins at many large-scale motorsports circuits in North America. The museum will feature cars that will rotate on a monthly basis, potentially featuring themes such as McLaren March and Aston Martin April, Buckler said.

He hopes the facility will appeal to a diverse crowd and boost local tourism.

“The Napa snooty side isn’t what we’re after — our project is about fun,” he said. “Even though there will be a high-end beautiful VIP area where you can drink $100 bottles of wine, when everyone leaves, we want them to say ‘that was cool.’ I joke and say Petaluma is a meeting of the minds of Austin, Texas and Napa Valley, that’s a little cool and funky and hip … and we want to carry that forward with what we’re doing.”

Adobe Road’s wines have won many accolades from industry publications such as Wine Spectator, and the tasting room in Petaluma has allowed the business to more than double, Buckler said.

The company will move from its current headquarters to the new facility, where it will also focus on creating new wines, some of which will be made from grapes sourced from the Petaluma Gap.

“We’re going to have a little slice of heaven inside that new facility,” Buckler said. “I’m promoting it now as the closest spot to wine country.”

(Contact Hannah Beausang at hannah.beausang@arguscourier.com.)