as Phelps seeks approval for rural location
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The westward march of wineries across Sonoma County has reached
the hamlet of Freestone, a sprinkling of homes, businesses and
a fire station nestled among the coastal hills.
Vineyards, a Napa vinter, is proposing a two-story, 40,000-square-foot
winery in the hills northeast of town, which would produce 15,000
to 18,000 cases of pinot noir and chardonney annually.
it would be one of the county's smaller wineries, it would be
by far the largest building in Freestone, dwarfing such businesses
as Wildflour bakery, the Wishing Well nursery and the Freestone
approved, the facility would be the 192nd winery in Sonoma County
-- unless other wineries are built between now and its target
opening in 2004.
hearings will be scheduled as the Planning Commission considers
the proposal. But neighbors already are divided on the issue.
whole quality of life will change in Freestone" if the
winery is approved, said Lori Bazan, a director of the Town
Hall Coalition based in Occidental, some five miles from Freestone.
The coalition is a citizens action group that seeks to preserve
the environment through responsible land use.
coalition has asked for an Environmental Impact Report describing
the winery's impacts on the town's limited water supply and
on the rural, winding roads that would carry dozens of trucks
a day, according to the company's application with the county.
Others are waiting for more information.
are watching carefully, but it seems like a modest proposal,
relatively speaking," said Freestone resident Bill Wheeler.
"Tentatively, I think it is fine and it will provide some
The proposed winery, Phelps' first in Sonoma County, would process,
age and bottle wine from some 100 acres of pinot noir and chardonnay
grapes the company has planted near Freestone.
The St. Helena company aims at the high end of the market, and
some of its wines sell for more than $100 a bottle. Wine from
the Freestone winery could sell from $60 to $75 a bottle, Shelton
believe this site offers the potential for some of the best
pinot noir in the country, if not the world," said Tom
Shelton, Phelps' president and CEO.
want to locate the winery as close as possible to the vineyards
because it reduces the travel time and makes for a higher quality
product," Shelton said.
minimize the winery's impact on the town, the structure will
be agricultural in design and will be partially bermed into
the hillside. It won't be visible from either Highway 12 or
Bohemian Highway, Shelton said.
the winery won't be open to the public. Phelps has bought the
now-closed Pastorale store on Highway 12 for a tasting room
and retail sales, Shelton said.
it will take more than that to overcome the water and traffic
concerns of the Town Hall Coalition.
has a very difficult water situation, and people are afraid
their wells will go dry," Bazan explained.
roads are terrible. Bohemian Highway is basically the only road,
and it's very curvy. The project would be putting trucks on
little roads that are not built to handle an industrial operation,"
winced at the word industrial but acknowledged the environmental
concerns. He said Phelps is an environmentally conscious company
and is a leader in the field of organic and biodynamic vineyards.
company will take the same care with the winery, he said.
are legitimate environmental concerns and we take them seriously,"
Shelton said. "We want to do all we can to address them."
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You can reach Staff Writer Carol Benfell at 521-5259 or email@example.com.