by Kathy Felch and Gary Margadant

Yet another new winery is proposed for a yet another quiet country lane. “Darms Lane Winery” would produce 30,000 gallons of wine, have a two-story production building in the viewshed, a 3,303 square foot accessory building, a commercial kitchen and an 11,771 square foot cave. This all comes with a request for County approval of tours, wine-tasting, events and marketing.

Here are our recommendations and concerns:

*Yearly visitation totals for the site are too high. The winery total is 9214, yet the closest wineries of equal production (30,000 gal) are listed at 7750, 7254 and 5700 yearly visitors. Darms Lane Winery is accessed by the full length of Darms Lane, a rural residential area with residents in relatively close proximity. Certainly this fact should preclude any visitation numbers higher than the average or median numbers of other similar wineries.

The County’s use of a mitigated negative declaration for CEQA evaluation misses the mark on several accounts.

*It does not address the increased vehicular traffic, or the appropriateness of the size and weight of trucks on the existing roadway. The proposed winery would bring tourist, employee and service truck traffic to a peaceful road with no pass through traffic. The only outlet is Solano Avenue. Most residences are situated very close to the lane and have no buffer between the home and the lane. There are no sidewalks thus exacerbating the hazards of commercial trucks and wine-tasting visitors to children, runners and bike riders who use the road all day. The neighborhood will suffer a loss of privacy and quiet enjoyment.

*The water availability analysis relies on incorrect calculations, thus giving the nod to another draw on the aquifer in an area where wells are already challenged.

Detail: The Winery proposes to use 7 gallons of process water per gallon of wine produced, or 211,803 gallons per year, which is generally consumed over a 3 month period during crush.  This is the high end of process water usage. A conservative use would be 4 or 5 gallons/gallon of wine.  This figure constitutes little effort to conserve process water. In comparison, UC Davis is experimenting with a winery usage of 1 gallon of process water per gallon of wine.

Well: The yield test for the new well was not done by a certified testing agency, but by the well driller using an air lift method, which is highly inaccurate and is not considered a definitive test.  (The driller uses the air lift method to excavate the drilling spoils from the well shaft). 

*Summary on page 9 presents an improper conclusion.

It is improbable for the applicant to have not had time to test the vineyard well in the 3 years since starting the application process.  The application should not to go forward without this information, which is critical to the WAA conclusion.

Rain Recharge rates, page 4.  If the vineyard has drain ties, 8′ underground, then the recharge rate is highly diminished by the pumping out the groundwater and discharge into or near Dry Creek.

Water Quality, page 5.  Again, there is no excuse for this vital testing of the groundwater to be missing in this examination of the applicability of the water for vineyard and domestic usage.

*Food: Discrepancy. The condition of approval should reflect the application statement, which is the rule under which the winery is to receive approval. The application reads (page 10)” All food served with wine tastings and for wine marketing events will be catered.” Conditions of Approval (page 4) reads, “Food may be provided by a licensed caterer or prepared on site in a permitted commercial Kitchen.”

*There is NO LISTING FOR CAVE SPOILS DISPOSAL.   Napa County requires Cave Spoils to be disposed of on the project site.

*Green House Gas Reduction Potential:
BMP-3  No habitat restoration or new vegetation
BMP-5  No  efforts to exceed title 24 energy efficiency standards: Build to CALGREEN Tier 2
BMP-7  No efforts to exceed title 24 enerby efficiency standards:  Build to CALGREEN Tier 1
BMP-13  No Connection to recycled water
BMP-15  No Low-impact development (LID)  ie; management of Storm Water 
BMP-20  No Planting of shade trees within 40 feet of the south side of the building elevation
BMP-25  No effort to design and build to qualify for  LEED
BMP-26 see 27
BMP-27  No effort to certify as a Napa Green Winery nor Napa Green Land
BMP-28 No effort to use recycled materials.

*In what has become a familiar story, neighbors of the project received last minute notice of the Planning Commission hearing on the project scheduled for this Wednesday, March 6. Some neighbors received no notice at all.

Let’s lend our support to the Darms Lane neighborhood by attending the meeting and adding our comments at the Planning Commission meeting this Wednesday, March 6. The meeting will be held in the Board of Supervisors chambers, Third Floor of the County administration building at the corner of Coombs and Third Streets in downtown Napa.

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