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.