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Councilman Reeve: ‘I Want a Winery’

Other San Juan officials also like the idea of dedicating a now-empty historic home to fermented grapes.

They’ll drink to that. Or rather, they’d like to drink to that.

On Tuesday, City Council members discussed what to do with a historic house the city owns. One idea they all seemed to favor: a winery.

Built in 1923 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Williams/Swanner property consists of a 2,220-square-foot house, a detached garage and water tower. The property itself is 2.6 acres and includes an orange grove, but it’s surrounded by another 63 acres of oranges.

“A winery really fits," Councilman Sam Allevato said. "San Juan Capistrano is the birthplace of the wine industry in California, not Napa Valley, if you go back to .”

The council discussed the , when it mulled the idea of turning the property into an event venue to host weddings. Without clear direction, the city .

So far, three enterprises – two wineries and an “artists cooperative” – have expressed interest in the property. Only one, Hamilton Oaks Vineyard and Winery of Trabuco Canyon, has submitted a written proposal.

“The vineyard will provide an educational venue for local schools to host field trips to the winery, to learn about viticulture and see the varietal that was planted by the fathers when Mission San Juan Capistrano was established,” vintner Ron Tamez wrote in a letter to the City Council. “Mission grapes were planted from cuttings that they brought from Spain.”

Councilman Derek Reeve was wooed. “I want a winery,” he said. “And I drink beer.”

Reeve said a winery fits his criteria of using the open space wisely, in a way that can bring money to the city and relates to the history of San Juan.

The property is part of the , and its uses are confined to  agriculture and education, said City Attorney Omar Sandoval. A winery fits the bill, as long as grapes are harvested on site.

Hamilton Oaks’ proposal includes a wine tasting room, educational classes and events such as parties and weddings.

While council members Reeve, Laura Freese and Mayor Larry Kramer said they wanted to move as quickly as possible, Allevato said he wanted to make sure others in the industry were aware of the opportunity, so the city could get the best deal possible.

The council voted to send the matter to the city’s Open Space, Trails and Equestrian Commission to consider all proposals for wineries and artist colonies that come into the city before the next commission meeting on March 5. Kramer said the commission should do the “legwork” and get a recommendation back to the City Council for its March 20 meeting.

City Manager Karen Brust volunteered to call other wineries in the region or trade associations to get the word out.

Megan B February 16, 2012 at 05:42 AM
Having a winery in San Juan Capistrano is exactly what the area needs. A winery has the unique sensation of a place that is relaxing, yet elegant. I think that Hamilton Oaks would be the perfect fit in this case. They make the visitors of their establishment feel welcome, almost as if they've known you your whole life. Not to mention, their wines are fabulous. Hamilton Oaks would fit in great in SJC, and I would love to see it happen.
Randy Caparoso March 07, 2012 at 06:11 PM
If there is a winery, it would be fitting to have wine made from Mission grapes, which were fabulously rich and sweet. These types of wine are called Angelica. There is a winemaker in El Dorado named Marco Cappelli who specializes in commercial production of authentic styles of Angelica out of pure love for this historic wine style, and I'd strongly recommend that he be called upon as a consultant on this project, should it ever come to fruition.
Randy Caparoso March 07, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Should anyone have any questions about the Mission grape planted by the Franciscans at all their missions along El Camino for the making of their wine, please feel free to contact me at randycaparoso@earthlink.net.
Carol March 25, 2012 at 03:44 AM
I believe that a winery & tasting room would be a lovely addition to our town and a good "fit" for it too, however the location of the property under consideration is in a dangerous portion of Camino Capistrano being adjacent to the Christmas tree farm & pumpkin patch. I have seen many near misses & have almost had a crash there myself by drivers who slow down to "rubberneck" & see what it is or by those who are making illegal U-turns at the site of this business, those who pull out into the highway carelessly, and those who are speeding around this curve in the road. Now, picture this situation with someone who has imbibed in a little wine-tasting. Also further up the road is In & Out Burger which also has a traffic pattern that creates a driving challenge. In & Out Burger accepts customers driving in from only one direction & many who are headed toward it just go a little further down the road & make a U-turn to get back in the desired direction, furthermore the shoulders of the road in that area are always filled with tractor-trailers & other trucks parked along the road. This road is narrow (only two lanes) and dangerous as is - are these problems going to be addressed & remediated prior to the city of SJC allowing a winery & tasting room to open up there?
Penny Arévalo March 25, 2012 at 04:01 AM
Carol, see this story http://sanjuancapistrano.patch.com/articles/council-oks-winery-s-proposal-for-historic-swanner-house for the follow-up.

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