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Saratoga winery could stop tastings next month when permit expires

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House Family Vineyards may have to stop hosting wine tastings on its property at the end of next month.

The winery is set to go before the Saratoga City Council on Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. to ask for an extension of its temporary compliance plan, which allows the business to host wine tastings while it completes the permit process it bypassed more than a decade ago.

House Family Vineyards, located in the hills of Saratoga at 13336 Old Oak Road, opened 10 years ago and has become a popular tasting room with an open-air deck and sweeping views of Silicon Valley.

Once the city caught wind of the winery’s lack of permits, it was forced to shut down until it had the necessary paperwork on file.

Last year, the winery applied for a temporary compliance plan, which allowed it to remain open at a limited capacity until Sept. 30. A group of residents appealed the decision, citing noise levels, traffic concerns and safety issues, but the council rejected that appeal.

Nancy Leitzke, who filed the appeal, said she and several other residents who live near the winery were concerned about the commercialization of their quiet neighborhood.

“Many residents bought homes before Dave House built homes and planted vines,” Lietzke said at an October meeting. “No one expected a quiet, semi-rural hillside one day to have a large commercial operation.”

More than 100 people attended the virtual meeting last year, with several speaking in support of the winery. Council itself was split, with then-vice mayor Kookie Fitzsimmons, who is now mayor, and former council members Rishi Kumar and Mary-Lynne Bernald voting in favor of the winery staying open. Then-mayor Tina Walia, who still serves on the council, and current Vice Mayor Yan Zhao voted against it.

Under the temporary permit, House moved its tastings to Izumi Point, a Zen garden located on the sprawling property.

Dave House, owner of the vineyard, built three homes on his 73-acre property before constructing the tasting deck. He started planting grapes as a hobby before teaming up with soil and weather experts in the early 2000s to expand his pet project into a business.

By 2010, House got licenses to sell wine retail and wholesale at restaurants in downtown Saratoga. The family started hosting wine tastings from their home on the property, and the city warned that if the tastings increased in size or frequency, they might require a conditional use permit.

In 2013 the winery built the tasting deck – without any city permits– to host both public and private wine tasting events.

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