Nickel and Nickel winery is looking to the future by securing sizeable visitor and wine production cap increases from Napa County and the past by preparing to renovate two late 19th-century farm buildings.
The Oakville area winery along Highway 29 won Napa County Planning Commission approval last week for its proposals. Commissioners particularly liked the planned restoration of an old barn and shed.
“I’ve been involved with historic buildings before,” Commissioner Andrew Mazotti said. “It is a lot of effort and money that goes into maintaining those. I definitely really appreciated this.”
Nickel and Nickel winery is on the site of the former Sullenger farm. John Sullenger became owner of the property in 1865 after being involved in quicksilver and silver mining operations in the county. He built the barn, shed and home in the late 1800s and grew corn and Zinfandel grapes, a county report stated.
Before Nickel and Nickel restored the house after 1999, the property was “an abandoned and derelict former historic farmstead,” architect Naomi Miroglio said on behalf of the winery. The property is significant in Napa Valley as an attached, agricultural complex from the 1880s. Now the barn and shed will get the same renovation treatment as the house.
“Future generations will be able to drive by and see what a piece of the 1880s looks like,” Miroglio told the Planning Commission.
Then there was the nuts-and-bolts of the application. Nickel and Nickel had a code violation to clean up.
The violation involved having 73 full-time and part-time employees combined instead of the approved total of 27. Nickel and Nickel stepped forward voluntarily to try to correct the matter. The Planning Commission granted approval.
In addition, the winery received permission to expand annual tasting and marketing visitation from 22,250 to 82,230 guests. It can increase parking spaces from 45 to 106 stalls.
The wine club is the economic engine, said Greg Allen of the winery. The winery needs visitors to see the facilities, hear the winery’s trained educators and learn about the winery’s passion for single-vineyard wines and the microclimates and geography that makes Napa Valley remarkable.
“We really do need the increase in visitation so we can continue to have that level of success,” he told the Planning Commission.
Commission chairperson Dave Whitmer said some wineries simply want to get more visitors through the door to increase sales at the end of the day. But his sense is Nickel and Nickel emphasizes educating its visitors as to why its wines and Napa Valley are different.
Commissioner Anne Cottrell said her concern is traffic on Highway 29 in the Oakville area. It’s hard to approve adding more traffic and she wanted creative solutions from the winery.
“I’ve sat in that traffic many afternoons,“ she said. “It’s not just peak hours …it’s a really challenged traffic area.”
Whitmer said the county isn’t going to solve Highway 29 traffic problems on the back of Nickel and Nickel winery.
After being approved in 1999, Nickel and Nickel winery constructed a left turn lane and right turn lane at the winery driveway approach to Highway 29. The winery will do such things as expand its work-from-home and cash-for-carpooling programs, a county report said.
In the end, commissioners found much more to like than dislike about the Nickel and Nickel application. The commission approved it unanimously.
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