WALNUT CREEK -- A winery in the hills below Mount Diablo will be allowed to expand after the City Council voted Tuesday to allow such a change in the Northgate area of Walnut Creek.
In a unanimous vote, the council approved an amendment to the 1991 Northgate Specific Plan -- a joint planning document with the county -- to modify the existing land allowing a small winery to increase capacity from 1,000 cases of wine per year to 3,000 cases. The change also now allows tasting, retail and other special events at the winery.
While the application for Shadowbrook Winery's expansion at 900 North Gate Road was preliminarily approved by the county in March, because it's in the plan area shared with the city, Walnut Creek officials had to sign off on allowing such a use.
While it's good news for Shadowbrook, it also may open the door for other wineries to apply for conditional use permits in the 507-acre Northgate area plan.
Shadowbrook owners want to build a 7,260-square-foot winery building; half of it would be used for crushing grapes and bottling, at a 1.2-acre site at 900 North Gate Road. While it would not be open to the general public, wine tastings and a certain number of events would be allowed.
Tim Jochner of Shadowbrook Winery already operates a winery in another part of the Northgate area. Making Walnut Creek wine and selling to local restaurants is the goal of the winery, he said Tuesday.
"Walnut Creek started as a farming community, and we want to bring a little bit of that slice back ... we want to grow grapes we want to make wine," Jochner said.
The winery is very small and will only use equipment a few weeks out of the year because the rest of the time the wine rests, he said. So it will not be any noisier than leaf blowers used every day in the area and traffic to the winery will likely be less than those who use the equestrian center up the road, he said.
Linda Loza, who lives nearby, said she is excited to have this winery, especially because Shadowbrook has been a good neighbor already.
"A small winery and a tasting room would be a nice addition to the area," she said. "Shadowbrook wine is very good ... And has been a part of our neighborhood for awhile."
But others have concerns.
"Intellectually I agree with a winery being there," said John Nai, a neighbor. "My concern is the vagueness of the language (in the conditional use permit) it doesn't put a limit on the number of tours and tastings events -- that's limitless."
But the council doesn't have the power to change the development application by Shadowbrook; that is up to the county planning commission.
Overall, the City Council was very supportive of the plan, and even excited to have such a use in the area.
"It's kind of nice from my standpoint to see us going back and restoring some agricultural use," Mayor Pro Tem Bob Simmons said.
Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617 or firstname.lastname@example.org