04.16.2012  
 

Showcase for Northernmost California Wines

Wine Village development will bring tasting rooms, fine dining to Redding

 
by Jane Firstenfeld
 
shasta wine village
 
Shasta Wine Village would bring as many as 19 individual new tasting rooms to California's Shasta/Cascade region.
Redding, Calif.—It’s not the famous North Coast, nor does it approach Paso Robles, Temecula or even Lodi in terms of production or name recognition, but California’s Shasta/Cascade region near the Oregon border grows grapes and makes fine wine. Developer Marcus Partin, managing partner of Western Resource Partners, hopes his proposed Shasta Wine Village will build a market for the local product, bringing as many as 19 individual tasting rooms to a roadside center customized to provide a full-fledged wine and food experience for residents and tourists.

To most Californians, Redding is the last stop in the Northern Sacramento Valley before Highway 5 begins its winding ascent to Lake Shasta, the Siskiyou Mountains and the southern Oregon border. The commercial hub of extreme Northern California, it marks the headwaters of the Sacramento River. Interstate drivers see its plethora of outlet malls, but for others, it’s a staging point for outdoor recreation: fishing, boating, hiking, and exploring Lassen Volcanic National Park. According to Partin, almost 1 million people pass through the greater Redding area every month; more than 3 million tourists visit every year.

Wineries in Shasta County and neighboring Tehama, Lassen, Siskiyou and Trinity counties are small and far-flung. According to WinesVinesDATA, Shasta has 11; Tehama, nine; Trinity, six; Siskiyou, two and Lassen, only one. Distant from the highway and each other, only a handful have tasting rooms, limiting direct sales for their limited output.

Four structures planned
About 2.5 years ago, Partin and his partners assembled three parcels of prime property just off Highway 5 north of Redding and began planning the wine village. Inspired by Westside Wine Village, the Santa Cruz urban wine and food center anchored by Bonny Doon Vineyard, plans show four distinct structures linked by walkways and patios, offering various environments for licensed tasting rooms and eateries, including common areas and picnic zones. The buildings are designed to maximize views of the distant mountains, snowcapped year-round. A demonstration vineyard will greet guests.

Five wineries have already signed on; another two are being “documented.” Two restaurants have committed: One will serve breakfast, lunch, light dinners and provide catering for the wineries and provisioning for guests; a fine dining establishment will extend business hours beyond normal tasting room hours. Rentals will start at a modest rate per square foot, Partin said. He anticipates this will grow with the business.

After months of preparation and applications to local, county and state entities, Partin believes his team has answered all bureaucratic requirements, and he anticipates final approval in June.  His engineers estimated construction time of nine to 12 months from groundbreaking to grand opening. He said, however, “We want to fast track it” and aim for a 2013 launch.

Despite the inevitable red tape involved in any wine-based business, “The county is supportive. They think it’s a great mix, and want to expedite it,” Partin told Wines & Vines.

A simple concept
Partin, who once taught classes about commercial real estate, “before real estate became toxic,” researched wine developments throughout the West Coast. 

By designing a single-themed center, with neither housing, additional retail or wine production, the developers hope to avoid the pitfalls experienced at Vintners Village in the Port of Benton near Prosser, Wash. Although it is now home to 14 wineries, the ambitious, mixed-use development is still struggling. “The rents are shocking,” Partin observed. “So are the vacancies.”

Woodinville Wine Village, once a highly anticipated addition to Western Washington’s wine hub, floundered early. When ultimately it went on the auction block, Partin took a look. “They had $24 million in it and never put a shovel in the ground. Wineries were interested; the retail and housing sunk it,” he said. “We will be a wine destination, as opposed to a mixed bag.”

Also simplifying the process, the Shasta Wine Village property is owned by a single entity and, “We expect the vast majority of the individual tasting room tenants to use their duplicate 02 (wine-producer license) privileges for their tasting room, and be members of the local wine production community,” according to beverage attorney KC Branch, who is helping the partnership navigate the legal shoals.

“If necessary, wineries from outside the area may lease locations, but the strategy is to keep them primarily local wine producers (i.e., within 100 miles.)…One or more wine bars or 17/20s (distribution license) might be considered if 02 wineries do not lease all available facilities; however, that would not be a welcome result,” Branch said.

While nurturing the local wine industry, he pointed out, the project also will promote public safety, keeping drivers off unfamiliar mountain roads. Branch termed the project a win-win for state and county governments as well as the local economy. “The proposed development enhances the area’s viticultural image,” with increased access to wineries and a public meeting place including local and artisanal dining and cultural activities.

Partin said he is already coordinating with the Shasta Cascade Viticulture Association.

Shasta College offers a viticulture/enology program—one of the few in California with its own bonded winery—and Partin expects it will provide a ready-and-willing labor force of support staff at the village, where students will gain real world wine industry experience.

The most important aspect of the Shasta Wine Village, Partin said, “is creating the relationship between the winery and the individual customer.” To inquire about space or learn more, visit shastawine.com.

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