The folks at the Napa County planning office have been busy. It is actually a pretty busy place no matter what, but especially lately around the topic of winery use permits.

They have long maintained a downloadable spreadsheet on their website which listed all the approved winery use permits and a very limited amount of details specific to each. Recently they have updated this same spreadsheet to list a lot more, including all those popular items we hear about regularly such as number of marketing events and number of tasting visitors.

Here is a summary of the permit items you can now look up on either your own Napa County winery site or another:

  • The building size (square footage): the numbers listed on original permit and the most currently approved permit
  • The production gallons per year, also listing what was originally approved and what is currently approved
  • The number of visitors allowed per day, week and year
  • The number of marketing events allowed per year
  • Whether or not your winery’s use permit is pre winery definition ordinance (WDO) This determines whether or not a winery is required to adhere to the 75% grape sourcing rule.
  • Most recent permit application file #

I often find that many wineries are not aware of these details on their use permit, which means that no one is paying any attention to whether or not they are staying in compliance. With all of the meetings in the last year plus held around the topic of winery use permits one of the results of those is mandatory annual reporting, which is coming starting in 2018 per the county office’s latest information. Initially the first required reporting will be to verify that a winery is in compliance on its current permitted production gallons. So if your winery started out permitted with  20,000 gallon annual production and then a modification was later approved increasing that amount to 50,000 this is valuable information for the appropriate winery staff member(s) to be aware of.

Currently to verify use permit compliance the planning office carries out annual winery use permit audits. They randomly select 20 wineries each year for this, so the general rule of thumb has been  “sooner or later your winery will be selected”. The planning office will continue to hold these annual random audits at least until the mandatory annual reporting is in place. One of the items that is verified during these random audits is compliance with your use permits annual production gallons. See an earlier blog post I’ve written which fully describe the exact numbers they use to determine this.

More often than not wineries are caught off guard when selected for these random audits that the county office does, (same way they are when informed they are being audited by any other government agency!) For any wineries that are either not familiar with the details listed on their most currently approved use permit, or how they are directly connected to the TTB report (5120.17) they are already filing then becoming familiar needs to be put on the appropriate staff members compliance task list. Generally the staff that is currently managing or filing the TTB 5120.17 report is probably the best fit for this.

For now any Napa County winery that has no idea where their county use permit file is can look up their details they’ll soon be required to report on. Follow this link then once there select “Winery database listing” under the “Useful Information & links” section        Napa County winery database.

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