A winery outside Jacksonville hopes to host a variety of events that include food — without running afoul of a state law that blocks wineries from running restaurants on land zoned for exclusive farm use.
Jackson County planning staff issued a preliminary denial of Rellik Winery’s plans, saying those plans may have morphed beyond what has been approved for the property.
Jackson County Hearings Officer Roger Pearce heard from residents who largely are supportive of Rellik Winery during a public hearing this week. He likely will make a decision about the winery’s future in October, but first he wants more details about the full range of events proposed there.
Formerly known as Caprice Vineyards, the property at 970 Old Stage Road is home to vineyards and alpacas. It recently was sold to four new partners and renamed Rellik Winery.
Co-owner Christopher Wallace said the partners want to continue holding events on the property, including weddings, fundraisers, farm-to-table culinary events, corporate functions and more.
Wallace said the food offered would include cheese plates, panini-style grilled sandwiches and tapas.
Wallace said the winery already has an on-site kitchen.
Former Caprice Vineyards co-owner Jim Davidian said he operated his business there for nine years without getting complaints from the surrounding community.
“There was no problem with what we were doing,” he said.
Events there included charity fundraisers with food and music, and corporate events. Davidian estimated the largest crowd was 150 people.
The only person appearing at the hearing to oppose the application was Gary Pellett, owner of an adjacent nursery, organic orchard and farm stand. He declined to state the reasons behind his opposition, although he did submit written information to the hearings officer.
Neighbor Jeff Adamson said he was neutral about the proposal. He said he would enjoy walking over to the winery for a glass of wine, but didn’t want nonstop events there, especially if they would go late into the night.
Jacksonville area homeowner Christie Fairbanks said she and her husband were relieved the winery did not get converted into a marijuana farm when it changed hands.
“When that was purchased and I saw the vision for it, we were excited,” she said.
Herb Quady of the Quady North wine business said the community needs good wineries to survive economically. He said the wine industry benefits restaurants, bed and breakfast inns, hotels and more.
“We all depend on a vibrant, unique industry,” Quady said.
The wine industry needs a critical mass of businesses to thrive, said Anne Root, co-owner of EdenVale/Eden Valley Orchards.
She said wineries cannot support themselves if they rely only on the people who stop by to taste wine and purchase bottles. Instead, wineries need to host events.
Root said wineries are caught in a bind, with Jackson County putting restrictions on food service but the Oregon Liquor Control Commission requiring that wineries offer food in conjunction with wine.
A law passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2013 allows wineries on exclusive farm use land to have an on-site kitchen and serve food for events and wine tastings. For example, wineries can host weddings, charitable events and winemaker dinners. But they can’t cross the line and run a restaurant or cafe that would be open to the general public, according to January 2017 written guidance from the OLCC.
Depending on individual conditions, such events are permitted outright for some wineries, while others have to apply for special permission through a county’s conditional use permit process, the OLCC said.
Counties have discretion to impose a range of food service restrictions on wineries that have to go through the conditional use permit process, according to the OLCC.
Root said the mix of regulations has left wineries confused about what is wanted of them.
Fiber artist Leslie Stoddard of Ashland said she sold her art and conducted art workshops at Caprice Vineyards before it was purchased and renamed.
She said events at wineries and vineyards don’t create an undo hardship on neighbors, and they provide a way for urban dwellers to see and interact with agriculture.
The former owner of a studio and alpaca ranch in New Mexico, Stoddard said growers have to hold agri-tourism events in order to survive financially.
Lynn Reardon, a member of a guitar and harp duo that performed at Caprice Vineyards, said cultural events are enjoyable for musicians, artists, locals and visitors.
“They seemed to have a wonderful time there,” she said.
Reardon said winery and vineyard events benefit the wine industry, the Rogue Valley and Southern Oregon.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.