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Adobe Road races to open Petaluma winery

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In about a year, the drive along the D Street bridge toward downtown Petaluma will look remarkably different.

Construction is in process on Adobe Road Winery’s 16,000-square-foot riverfront Winery Facility and Tasting Room, between the PG&E substation and Petaluma Yacht Club on Fourth and C streets. A demolition party held Oct. 24 celebrated the beginning of the project, as workers tore down the battered Bay Bridge Garage that formerly occupied the site.

Owner and former professional race car driver Kevin Buckler calls the forthcoming building an “entertainment complex,” an attention-grabbing description of what will be a conspicuous addition to downtown’s historic waterfront. The two-story L-shaped building will feature large bay windows, a clock tower and a patio facing the river stretching the length of the building.

“The world loves authenticity and Petaluma has that,” Buckler said. “So, we decided we wanted to build a winery here, right in downtown.”

Buckler and his wife Debra established Adobe Road Winery in 2002. The couple opened their first tasting room in Sonoma Plaza in 2010, where it remained until moving to the Great Petaluma Mill Shopping Center in Spring 2016.

The new building will welcome the winery’s second tasting room location in the city, as well as a banquet space, brick pizza oven and an in-house production area estimated to churn out about 5,000 cases of wine a year.

In a nod to his successful professional car racing career, Buckler is also including a motosports museum in the waterfront building. The museum, or motor sports gallery, will even feature a 31 degree track meant to mimic the angle of the famous Daytona International Speedway, giving wine and car enthusiasts alike a unique playground.

“There’s a big car culture out there now, just look at American Graffiti,” Buckler said, referring to the annual Petaluma event that celebrates classic American cars in a salute to the film. The motorsports museum will not be the first time Buckler marries his two successful careers. Earlier this year, Adobe Road Winery debuted a line of race car-inspired wines, each of the four representing moments on the race track with names like “Redline” and “Shift.”

Buckler famously burst into the racing world when he won the California Grand Prix in 1995 — his very first professional race. In the years since, Buckler and the team he co-founded with wife Debra Buckler, The Racers Group (TRG), have won some of the sport’s most recognizable events.

In addition to his role as Chief Executive Officer of Adobe Road Winery, Kevin Buckler continues to manage his professional racing team and motorsports business. Debra Buckler has remained Chief Financial Officer of TRG since its inception in 1993, and is also CFO of Buckler Family Vineyards and the TRG-Aston Martin Racing Group.

Kevin Buckler underscored the incoming Petaluma winery’s multi-funcitonality as an event space, museum, restaurant and tasting room. It mimics a larger trend among Sonoma County wineries to offer more than the classic wine tasting, instead emphasizing unique experiences that can’t be replicated, said Barbara Cox with Sonoma County Vintners.

Cox also pointed to the winery as yet another example of Petaluma’s status as an up-and-coming wine destination. The Petaluma Gap, a geographical region encompassing the city and surrounding areas, was designated an American Viticultural Area in December 2017. This designation recognizes the uniqueness of Petaluma soil and climate as a growing area, producing grapes with particular taste profiles, Cox said.

“There’s a lot of wineries that produce wines in the Petaluma Gap, so there are a lot of opportunities in the area for the wine industry,” Cox said.

Kevin Buckler is anticipating the winery will be a major regional tourist attraction, especially because of the space’s unique offerings. However, he also insisted that the space will be as attractive for Petaluma residents as out-of-towners, including those who don’t consider themselves wine or car enthusiasts.

“We’re also creating a place for people who just want to go somewhere to relax, enjoy a slice of pizza and watch the sunset,” Buckler said.

The project, which is funded by Adobe Road Winery and a group of about 25 investors, has been in the works for about four years according to Kevin Buckler.

The Petaluma Planning Commission approved the project during its Sept. 11, 2018 meeting, after some back-and-forth regarding the building’s potential to limit public access to the riverfront and potential bike trail development.

Adobe Road agreed to the commission’s requirements to include access to the trail via the winery’s property, proposing a pedestrian and bike path along First Street. Additionally, Adobe Road will donate $50,000 toward the construction of a park at the end of C Street and expressed support for a future floating boardwalk project.

The site will include 11 on-street parking spaces and 17 off-street parking accessible from C Street, according to the planning commission report. Adobe Road Winery’s “entertainment complex” location is expected to open its doors in fall 2020.

“We’re not going to make people in Petaluma drive over an hour for this type of wine experience, we want to bring it to them,” Kevin Buckler said.

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