Number of wineries in Nevada County to grow to 13 |

Number of wineries in Nevada County to grow to 13

A pair of high technology refugees with French roots are getting ready to uncork their own vintages in the growing western Nevada County wine industry.

Michel “Mike” Naggiar, who runs his own 50-acre vineyard in the south county, plans to start selling the first Naggiar Wines to area retailers and restaurants early next year.

Meanwhile, Jacques Mercier hopes to have the first bottling of Soulne Wines on sale at a Grass Valley or Nevada City tasting room at the end of 2005 or in early 2006.

Once the necessary permits are approved, the two new wineries will bring the number of bonded wineries ” those that can sell to the public ” to 13 in Nevada County.

Naggiar, who expects final approval any day now, has been growing grapes in the Wolf Road/Garden Bar area for the last eight years, selling his crop to northern California wineries. Now he’s going to start making his own Rhone varietals, initially Syrah and Viognier.

“We want to make high-end, quality wines,” he said Thursday. “That’s why we’re putting our name on the bottle. I think it’s important to stand behind your product.”

Steve Burch of Burch Hall Winery has been retained as Naggiar’s wine maker, and a barn is currently being converted into a barrel storage room. Naggiar plans to initially produce 500 to 600 cases a year.

All of this is quite a change for Naggiar, who spent more than 30 years working for Hewlett Packard Co. in the Bay Area. That’s when he became interested in wine, working his own one acre vineyard.

“I’ve gone from a one-acre hobby to a 50-acre business,” he said. “I may not be retired, but I believe I’m working in one of the most beautiful places in the world.”

Mercier also worked in high tech, but has been a serious wine hobbyist for many years. He has worked as a wine judge at the California State Fair and other competitions, and has been a home wine maker for 15 years.

He’s now growing 24 varieties of grapes on 2.5 acres along Highway 174 between Peardale and Chicago Park. The grapes that do the best in the local soil will be planted on another eight acres he owns.

Mercier plans to produce 600 to 700 cases the first year, eventually growing to 3,000 to 4,000 cases utilizing estate and purchased grapes.

The brand name Soulne is a combination of the French words for sun and moon. “It expresses the warm days, cool nights advantage we have up here in the foothills,” he said.

Mercier has received the necessary federal and county approvals to open his winery, but has been delayed by protests made to the state Alcohol Beverage Control board.

He has not yet seen the complaints, but Mercier expressed a willingness to work with his neighbors to resolve any concerns. “My intent is to meet with the neighbors, see what their concerns are, and work something out,” he said Thursday.

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