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Some Napa Valley Residents Seek Stricter Rules On Winery Tourism

NAPA (KPIX 5) -- Wine and Napa go hand in hand, but the influx of people enjoying Wine Country has changed the landscape, the industry and many argue the quality of life.

Diane Shepp moved out of the city to avoid grid lock and urban sprawl. Thirty years later, Shepp said it has reached her Napa haven. A wine cave and tasting room the size of two football fields is slated to go in next door and bring 25,000 people a year to her one lane road.

Shepp and her group, called "Vision Napa 2050," are fighting for stricter regulation of the wine industry,  including the cutback of special events and a return to the focus of winemaking over marketing.

"It is overdue, long overdue," Shepp told KPIX 5.

The rules regulating the wine industry haven't been changed in 25 years. There are now 800,000 more tourists and 230 more wineries in the county. So for the first time in a quarter century, Napa County is creating new rules, and that process has become a bitter battle.

"It's sort of like the perfect mix. Self-righteousness meets self-righteousness, boom!" said David Graves, a winery owner.

Graves said it's explosive because a major winery revenue source is under attack. New restrictions could cut back on the tourism and tasting industry- that make up thirty percent of his business.

"We can sell to them directly, as opposed to through an increasingly clogged distribution system that has got lots of brands, lots of competing areas," Graves told KPIX 5.

If that changes, Graves said smaller wineries would face major economic impacts- and new brands wouldn't be able to enter the market. He understands the need for more controlled development, but worries that process may hurt the industry that spurred it all in the first place.

"If we just sort of say we're done, then it's kind like what Woody Allen said about sharks- if you don't move forward, you die," Graves said.

"Napa is a famous wine producing region, for good reason, and now it's becoming an adult Disneyland." Shepp said.

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