Today, our six Heritage Vineyards in the Napa Valley have a history and provenance that is unparalleled in the State of California. The pinnacle of grape growing lands, each of these vineyards offers a combination of soil and climate that have historically produced the highest quality Cabernet Sauvignon grapes for the finest wines.
Like those who first farmed these historic lands, each vineyard is different, producing fruit of varied personality and character for wines that are exceptional and, each in their own way, unique. Over 50 fine wines are designated as originating entirely from Beckstoffer Vineyards Heritage Vineyards, honoring those vineyards that have consistently produced fine wine for generations and, in some cases, centuries.
Raymond Vineyards winery won a tight victory before the county Board of Supervisors in an appeals hearing that saw two Napa Valley wine industry luminaries speaking on different sides.
Jean-Charles Boisset, who comes from a Burgundy wine-making family, bought Raymond Vineyards in 2009 and championed a proposal that in part would create more visitor space. Longtime Napa County grape grower Andy Beckstoffer was among opponents who said Raymond is emphasizing hospitality over agriculture.
By a 3-2 vote Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors tentatively sided with Raymond Vineyards. Supervisors endorsed upholding a Planning Commission decision on March 15 — also 3-2 — in favor of Raymond.
“This is not Disneyland,” Supervisors Afredo Pedroza said, responding to some Raymond critics description of the winery. “I just think it’s agriculture in the 21st century. I think Napa is fortunate to have experiences that are not one-dimensional.”
Gregory, while also favoring Raymond, could see the other side.
“Clearly, there is a lot of history here,” Gregory said. “There’s a lot of people who see this facility and this product as over the top and not consistent with their version of the ag preserve.”
Gregory, Pedroza and Board Chairwoman Belia Ramos voted “yes” for Raymond’s proposals and Supervisors Diane Dillon and Brad Wagenknecht voted “no.” The ruling will come back on Oct. 10 for a final decision.
Raymond Vineyards on 61 acres at 849 Zinfandel Lane recently bought the adjacent, 25-acre Ticen Ranch fronting Highway 29. It asked to merge the properties, turn the ranch’s 19th century house and barn into an additional visitors center and offices and create a Highway 29 entrance.
The winery asked permission to hold half of its marketing events outdoors, install 61 more parking spaces and build a vineyard viewing platform. It sought to come in compliance with its use permit by legitimizing several tasting areas and structures such as a dog kennel and by increasing the permitted number of employees from 26 to the 90.
Appellants said the proposed mile-long driveway from Highway 29 through Ticen Ranch to the Raymond winery would pave over 2.2 acres of vineyards. This road wouldn’t serve wine production or farming, but tourism, they said.
“Now they want to take land out of ag solely for the purpose of hospitality,” Beckstoffer said.
Beckstoffer didn’t blame Raymond Vineyards for making requests opponents said would cause traffic and noise problems.
“They have no sworn commitment to protect the agricultural land and rural character of our county,” Beckstoffer told supervisors. “But you do.”
Raymond Vineyards doesn’t attract its allotted visitation of 400 people daily, Beckstoffer said. That doesn’t give Raymond the right to add hospitality facilities and a Highway 29 entrance to try to do so, he said.
Napa County has two choices. One is to have an agricultural economy supported by tourism and the other is to have a tourism economy supported by agriculture, Beckstoffer said.
“We ask you to reject this application and support an agricultural economy,” he said.
Grapegrower Frank Leeds and Kelleen Sullivan of Sullivan Vineyards were also appellants.
“Bonjour and good afternoon,” Boisset told supervisors when he came to the microphone.
Raymond Vineyards is grateful to purchase the Ticen property, Boisset said. That allows further improvements and enhancement to the winery in a way that aligns with the future protections of the valley, he said.
“We want to be fully transparent,” Boisset said. “We want to be partners and good citizens.”
Consultant Donna Oldford said the county has some roads leading not to wineries, but other types of commercial endeavors, such as Meadowood resort. Vineyards are often removed when the county approves a new winery to be built, she said. She saw no violation of county policy to remove vines for the proposed Raymond driveway.