Many generations ago, the raw-dirt parcel that conjured up so much dust and excitement Thursday at a ground-breaking 3-miles north of Redding and 4-miles south of Shasta Lake was a far different place.
Decades upon decades ago, the property that’s now the future site of the Shasta Wine Village at the corner of Old Oregon Trail and Holiday Road was part of a sprawling ranch. The ranch was home to more than 2,000 turkeys. It was owned and operated by the late Edward Fish, grandfather of Donna Jellison, who attended the Thursday groundbreaking with her husband Don.
“The turkeys were his main business,” said Donna Jellison. “But there was a lot going on around here then. Over there, on the north side near the freeway, there was a grocery store and a feed store and a gas station.”
The turkey ranch is long gone. So are traces of the old-time grocery store, feed store and gas station.
But if Marcus Partin, managing partner of the Shasta Wine Village, has his way and sees his project through, that former turkey ranch will boast a tourist attraction beyond anything Grandfather Fish could have ever imagined. It will be the Shasta Wine Village – “A Destination of Good Taste.”
It will cover more than 10 acres, and is approved for 35,600 square feet within four primary buildings, and 2,700-square-foot covered outdoor pavilion. It will have a pet area, and electric-car charging stations.
Partin says it will be more than just a wine-tasting destination, but a huge boon to the local economy, before, during and after full build-out. During construction it’s expected to be a source of an estimated 180 constructions jobs. After the doors open, the Shasta Wine Village anticipates about 130 retail and service jobs added to the local economy.
Remember February of 2012 when we first heard about the Shasta Wine Village? We spoke with Partin, the project’s managing partner, who shared his hopes and dreams for the Wine Village, an idea that had been in the works for a while already.
He told how the Shasta Wine Village would gather more than a dozen wineries in one huge place, eliminating the model of how tourists now visit Napa Valley, for example, where they dive miles and miles between wineries.
We learned how the Shasta Wine Village would be one-stop wine-tasting, dining and entertainment. And Shasta Cascade wineries would be joined by those from the Sacramento Valley, Sierra Foothills and the far north coast areas.
Two-and-a-half years came and went. The public’s issue attention cycle turned its head to other news. Maybe the Shasta Wine Village wouldn’t happen after all. That’s sometimes how things go.
But wait. It turns out that the Shasta Wine Village’s wheels of progress were in motion all along, navigating permits and designs and red tape and weather and planning and reviews.
Judging by last week’s groundbreaking, under thick clouds that had spit rain earlier that day onto the soft red dust, it looks as if the Shasta Wine Village project is a go.
The Shasta Wine Village development team consists of about a dozen companies, including experts and consultants specializing in architecture, engineering, environmental issues, graphics, law, marketing, photography, real estate, web design and viticulture. Many of those people were there, and looked pleased.
But nobody appeared as happy – and perhaps relieved – as Partin as he addressed the crowd.
“Hundreds of times over the years people have asked, ‘When are you going to break ground,’ ” he said. “Today I can say with all certainty, in just a few minutes.”
But first, he threw out some numbers, such as how more than 21 million wine tourists come to California each year from all over the world, and how more than 3 million visitors already drive right by the future Shasta Wine Village spot. He said wine tourists tend to come and stay longer, and when they do, they spend money.
“This won’t be like Napa, where you drive miles and miles between wineries,” he said.
“What’s next? Our goal is to be open this time next year.”
Perhaps for some people it took a good dose of imagination to fully visualize the Shasta Wine Village, beyond Thursday’s parcel as it was that day – scraped ground dotted with heavy equipment, white folding chairs, a porta potty, a temporary stage and white tents that covered wine-tasting and refreshment areas.
Though Partin said wine will always be the main event at the Shasta Wine Village, in addition to wine-tasting, the more-than-$12 million project plans for fine and casual dining, picnic areas, a working vineyard, retail stores – such as Enjoy the Store – walking areas and plenty of parking, from two-wheeled varieties to RV’s.
Drawings and a small-scale model of the fully built out Shasta Wine Village were on hand, provided by Terry Topolski, the project’s architect. He provided an architectural statement that described the Shasta Wine Village as “Mediterranean Revival style meets northern California, resulting in a comfortable early California Mission style.”
Topolski’s other design visions include large, smooth stucco walls, clay tile roofs and wrought iron elaborations. There will be open-air courtyards, demonstration vineyards, and the focal point – a Mission-style bell tower. Large solid-wood plank doors will be flanked by weathered oak wine barrels.
For wine-makers like David and Kathy Roth of Dakaro Cellars, the Shasta Wine Village’s opening day cannot come soon enough.
“For us one of the most obvious benefits is the exposure it will give us,” David Roth said from his Dakaro Cellars table that displayed an array of family wines. “We’re in Whitmore, and for us it’s an opportunity at the right time for people to get to know us and our wine.”
At his table next door, Trevor Bartlett agreed, and said it will be a boost for his business, The Cellar, as well as his in-law’s winery, Indian Peaks Vineyards.
“It’s fantastic,” Bartlett said. “It’ll open doors to all kinds of people. A lot of us have wineries in distant places, and the Shasta Wine Village brings them together. It will give people an idea of how many wines are actually made in this area. I think they’ll be surprised.”
In addition to the attendance of delighted wine-makers, there were dozens of invited guests, plus the Shasta Wine Village partners and top supporters, rounded out by media, and local dignitaries and elected officials.
Retired Senator Maurice Johannessen, perhaps best known for his unwavering committment to the construction of the Veterans Home of California in Redding off Knighton Road, said he was enthused by what it’s taken to get the Shasta Wine Village this far.
“I like people who take risks,” he said. “Things like this – projects like this of this magnitude, they make a difference. I don’t know if the average person realizes all the risk that goes into creating something like this. There’s a lot.”
And what of the four-year wait between the Shasta Wine Village’s conception and Thursday’s ground-breaking?
“Four years is nothing in the scheme of things,” Johannessen said. “Let’s not forget it took 17 years from start to finish the Kington Road project and the Veterans Home. Projects of this size are not easy. All the stars have to be in alignment for everything to work.”
Shasta County Supervisor David Kehoe, renowned for his civility as a public servant and his skills as an intellectual orator, agreed, but added there are other components necessary for a project such as the Shasta Wine Village to reach fruition.
“As a community we have to be business-friendly,” Kehoe said. “To be alive and vibrant and growing we have to move ahead in a cooperative fashion and realize positive opportunities based objective decisions and a targeted demographic.”
Across the way, Partin greeted a steady stream of well-wishers. The sun was out, the speeches were over, the invocation said, the dirt shoveled and the newly broken ground toasted with wine (of course).
“I’m elated,” he said. “It’s been four years of so many points to take care of; literally a thousand details. and we’re not done.”
As the festivities wrapped up, and guests left with their commemorative wine glasses, Don and Donna Jellison stood quietly together under a white canopy as they scanned the area that once was covered with Edward Fish’s noisy turkeys, the place Donna had played as a little girl.
Asked how she felt about the development taking place on this land, Donna Jellison smiled a little, then gestured to the brush- covered hill to the east, already showing signs of early fall, beyond orange plastic snow fencing
“That’s Fish Hill,” she said. “That’s still in the family.”
“But I’m grateful something is going in here,” she said.
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.