2nd Micro-Winery Permit Approved In Napa County

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Napa County's wine permit allows the small production of wine — 201 up to 5,000 gallons — onsite, limited onsite tastings and direct-to-consumer sales
Napa County’s wine permit allows the small production of wine — 201 up to 5,000 gallons — onsite, limited onsite tastings and direct-to-consumer sales. (Shutterstock)
The Chaix family, whose ancestors were pioneers of wine country, were approved for a micro-winery in Rutherford.

NAPA COUNTY, CA — Napa County announced the approval Wednesday of its second-ever micro-winery permit.

The honors went to Chaix Family Micro-Winery along Manley Lane in Rutherford, now permitted to produce 5,000 gallons of wine annually. The permit also allows tours and tastings for groups of up to 10 guests per day, seven days a week, with a maximum of 70 people per week during harvest and non-harvest seasons.

Onsite consumption of wines produced at the winery is also authorized. In addition to these operational permissions, the permit calls for the addition of a designated parking area and improvements to access roads compliant with county standards.

The county’s micro-winery ordinance was approved in May 2022 by the Napa County Board of Supervisors and allows applicants to avoid public hearings, potentially reducing the costs of acquiring a use permit. The permit allows the small production of wine — 201 up to 5,000 gallons — onsite, limited onsite tastings and direct-to-consumer sales.

To streamline approvals for small wineries, the county’s zoning administrator reviews and approves micro-winery permits.

“Thanks to the collaborative efforts of county staff and the applicant, the approval process happened relatively quickly,” said Brian Bordona, Napa County Zoning Administrator and Director of Planning, Building and Environmental Services. “Today’s decision is proof that the county’s micro-winery permit process is working.”

Runs In The Chaix — Pronounced ‘Shex’ or ‘Checks’— Family

The Chaix Family of today — brother and sister team John Chaix and Kathy Chaix and their families — pay homage to their great-grandfather and great-uncle, brothers A.P. Chaix and Jean Chaix, respectively, who came to Napa Valley in the 1800s from France with solid winemaking knowledge and vine cuttings from the Médoc — Bordeaux’s “left bank.”

In 1877, Jean Chaix co-founded the ninth winery in California on the present-day site of Napa Valley Wine Company in Oakville. In 1884, not to be outdone by his brother, A.P. founded the French-American Wine Company, with vineyards and wineries in Rutherford, Healdsburg and Cloverdale. (He would purchase the current Chaix Family Vineyards property, on the Rutherford Bench, in 1909.)

The sibling rivalry continued when Jean Chaix and partner, Jean Brun, planted a vineyard on Howell Mountain and in 1886 erected California’s 13th bonded winery — a pioneering example of gravity-flow design, now occupied by CADE estate. The duo also ran a successful grapevine nursery, stocked with 100,000 cuttings of French varieties.

The Chaix brothers were instrumental in shaping Napa Valley as a world-renowned wine region in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Their wines won international recognition at the Paris Exhibition Universelle in 1889, at the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition and elsewhere.

The Prohibition mostly halted this work although A.P. Chaix, great-grandfather of the current Chaix Family owners, continued to ship bulk wine to destinations such as New Orleans. After Prohibition, A.P. Chaix converted much of the Rutherford property to orchards, growing prunes and walnuts. The Chaix family line continued to tend a field blend of old vines and never lost the connection with viticulture, or the land.

After the Judgment of Paris tasting in 1976 that put Napa Valley wines back on the map, the family took a leap of faith and revived the family tradition of grape-growing. These days, the family tends to at least 34 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon of several clones in seven unique blocks.

The approval of Chaix Family Micro-Winery as a bonafide micro-winery marks a milestone not only for the family but also for Napa County’s effort to facilitate the establishment of small wineries. The Chaix Family permit comes six months after the county approved its first-ever micro-winery permit for Goel Estate Vineyards.

“After 150 years in the valley, finally getting a seat at the table feels nice,” John Chaix told Patch.

Goel Estate Vineyards

Two applicants out of St. Louis, Missouri, got approval in October for Goel Estate Vineyards, off Cuttings Wharf Road near Milton Road, to produce up to 5,000 gallons a year in a renovated barn in Carneros. The applicants’ 20-acre parcel is on well water and features about 14 acres of planted vineyards, a residence and a 7,000-square-foot barn built in 1978.

The barn once used to grow mushrooms would be transformed into a 5,000-square-foot winery with a tasting room and a 2,000-square-foot crush pad. Of the two wells on the property, one would be for the winery and the other for a residence. Approval was for 10 visitors a day, three employees, a six-car parking lot, and the installation of a new wastewater treatment system and an above-ground water storage tank.

Verified Micro-Producers

A nonprofit organization called Save the Family Farms Napa Valley, which advocated for a streamlined micro-winery permitting process in Napa County, lists 14 “Verified Micro-Producers” on its website.

The group states:

“This esteemed title is supported by Save the Family Farms and celebrates the essence of Napa Valley’s origin through a farm-to-bottle narrative and educational experiences as told by Napa Valley’s Micro-Producers.

“Verified Napa Valley Micro-Producers promise wine enthusiasts an authentic connection to Napa Valley’s small family farm heritage. When supporting a Verified Micro-Producer, enthusiasts of ultra-small-batch Napa Valley wines have the unique opportunity to gain insights directly from the farmer, the owner and the winemaker who are also the people who answer the phones, write the emails and handle nearly all aspects of their operations with their own two hands. This small business self-sufficiency enables Micro-Producers the freedom to experiment in the vineyard and the cellar too, and they are often celebrated for being at the forefront of innovative winemaking techniques and sustainable agricultural practices.

“At the intersection of innovation and differentiated consumer experiences, Micro-Producers stand as shining examples of the artisanal approach to Napa Valley winemaking. Their small size, coupled with a true back-to-the-land movement, enables wine enthusiasts to gain incomparable insights into the craft, passion and artistry behind each bottle of wine. Wine enthusiasts are encouraged to seek out and support Verified Micro-Producers, as it grants them access to a facet of the Napa Valley that often go undiscovered — a world where passion, tradition, and craftsmanship converge to create unparalleled wines and experiences.”

To be considered for this prestigious designation, the group states, wine producers must meet specific criteria in alignment with the Napa County Micro-Winery Ordinance. These include:

  • An operational wine brand with an annual production between 201 – 5,000 gallons.
  • Hold the necessary licenses required to produce/sell wine commercially.
  • A commitment to utilizing at least 75 percent of Napa AVA fruit in the wine production process.
  • Adherence to sustainable practices in the vineyards and/or winery, demonstrating responsible stewardship of the land.
  • A majority of wine sales must be direct-to-consumer, enhancing the personalized connection with customers.
  • Providing customers with direct access to the grower, winemaker, or owner, fostering a deeper appreciation for the craft.

Napa County Micro-Winery Permit

The county has an Online Permit Center with a micro-winery use permit PDF for download.

The county offers pre-application meetings to provide project-specific guidance from county staff; interested parties can visit the Planning Division web page.

For inquiries regarding the micro-winery permit, call 707-253-4417.