Saintsbury winery in the Carneros region has secured Napa County permission for a sizable increase in the number of visitors and with a minimum of controversy.
The winery had permission to have 1,488 combined daily and marketing event guests annually, which was on the small side for county wineries of this size. Now it can have 23,900 visitors annually.
“For a winery that’s been in business for about 37 years, this is not a huge jump,” said attorney Rob Anglin on behalf of the winery.
Compared to other by-appointment-only wineries making 150,000 gallons to 175,000 gallons of wine annually, the new weekly and annual visitation levels are lower than average. A peak of 95 visitors on any one day is slightly higher, a county report stated.
On Aug. 19, the Napa County Planning Commission granted unanimous approval to Saintsbury use permit changes.
Traffic is often a commission concern with increased visitation. The winery will appoint a traffic management demand coordinator to schedule visits in a way that restricts trips during rush hour.
“Abiding by the traffic management rules is something we will take seriously,” Anglin said.
The winery, though reached by using busy Highway 12/121, is located at 1500 Los Carneros Ave., in a far more lightly traveled area. Neighbor Janice Ankenmann-Hill had concerns about an influx of more winery visitors.
“It’s our home,” she told commissioners. “And we don’t really want to live in the middle of a traffic area or a sight-seeing area.”
In a letter, she said visitors seeking Saintsbury sometimes end up on her driveway. Apparently, their GPS is telling them they are at Saintsbury.
“The number of requested visitors is outrageous and intrusive to those of us who live here,” she wrote. “This (proposed visitor increase) sounds commercial, not agricultural.”
Anglin said Saintsbury wants to help address her concerns.
“Lost guests and people who are bothering people in the community is not a good result for us,” he said. “I can’t think of something more annoying than wanting to go to a place and getting lost and not finding where I wanted to go. That’s not a good experience.”
Saintsbury is a by-appointment-only winery and the winery gives directions to guests, he said. The goal is to have guests come directly to the winery.
Ankenmann-Hill said she now has the cellphone number for David Graves, who co-founded Saintsbury in 1981.
That pleased Planning Commission chairperson Dave Whitmer, who said the commission believes in good communication among neighbors. Whitmer also said he finds it compelling that the closest neighbor to Saintsbury supports the project.
“Overall, Saintsbury has been a good neighbor …. Overwhelmingly, the letters we’ve received from neighbors have been in support,” Commissioner Megan Dameron said.
The commission approved letting Saintsbury have a maximum of 95 visitors daily and 450 weekly. A revised marketing program allows for six annual events with 50 guests and two events with 100 guests. The winery can go from having 10 employees to 19 employees.
Saintsbury winery is located in the Carneros, an area with rolling hills that peters out in wetlands that, in turn, end at San Pablo Bay. The area has more of a marine influence than most of nearby Napa Valley. Graves and the late Richard Ward named their winery after George Saintsbury, an English writer, scholar and wine connoisseur.
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