Russian River Brewing Co. near finalizing plans for second location in Windsor
Russian River Brewing Co., the wildly popular craft brewery that draws more than 300,000 visitors annually to its downtown Santa Rosa brewpub, has submitted plans to build a second brewpub in Windsor.
Owners Natalie and Vinnie Cilurzo, who have been courted by local cities and developers since they disclosed plans in February to open a second brewpub, said they have agreed to buy a nearly 16-acre vacant parcel at the corner of Mitchell and Conde lanes for the project.
Natalie Cilurzo said she was wary of making a big announcement about the expansion, given that an earlier site near Shiloh Road west of Highway 101 in Windsor fell through because of environmental issues. Escrow on the new site, owned by developer Rich Coombs, is not scheduled to close until June 9. Financial terms were not disclosed.
“Hopefully this is the one,” Cilurzo said. “We have been looking for a long time.”
The project represents another economic coup for Windsor, which will soon have a 34,000-square-foot Oliver’s Market, scheduled to open later this month, next to its Town Green.
Russian River is one of the most famous breweries in the county, if not the nation. The limited two-week release of its coveted Pliny the Younger beer draws beer pilgrims from around the world, generating almost $5 million for the county from visitors this year, according to a survey by the Sonoma County Economic Development Board.
“Craft beer is huge,” said Vice Mayor Deb Fudge. “We are beyond excited. This is a real coup for Windsor.”
The proposed 85,000-square-foot facility resembles similar projects, such as Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s taproom in Chico and Stone Brewing Co.’s San Diego bistro and gardens. They are destination breweries for tourists, as opposed to places for locals to stop in for a quick drink after work.
Plans for the Russian River brewpub include guided tours by appointment and a self-guided tour along an elevated walkway that follows the brewing process down the center of the brewery.
The proposed structure would house a tasting room with growler fills and a sampling of beers, a gift shop with its own entrance, and a brewpub and restaurant that will seat 175 guests. Ample outdoor seating is also planned at the brewpub, allowing diners to watch the sunset off to the west. Customers would be able to walk through a hop yard and a kitchen garden. There also are plans for a pet-friendly area.
The site will have free parking for cars, motorcycles and bicycles. Bicycle traffic should be popular given its location near the bike path for the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit project. There also will be a drop-off area for large groups coming in buses or limousines.
The parking lot will have environmental features that will include swales to collect water along with native plants and shade trees. There will be benches set into the landscape for those queuing in line.
Local customers will benefit from a second location, assuming it draws crowds that would once have crowded the downtown Santa Rosa location on Fourth Street, which opened in 2004. Many longtime fans have said they visit less frequently or not at all because they typically face lines to enter, especially on weekends.
The new plant will be designed to house enough brewing capacity to allow the Cilurzos to eventually sell their production facility at Ferdinand Court in Santa Rosa. But the couple have said they want to keep distribution in the state and do not want to dramatically increase their output. Last year, Russian River produced about 16,000 barrels of beer, which puts it into the category of boutique brewery.
The project was a result of ongoing lobbying by Windsor officials after the first site fell through. The Cilurzos were approached by developers and officials from various cities after they announced in February that they were looking for a second location in the county.
Windsor officials kept looking for parcels that would fit the Cilurzos’ requirements, Fudge said, which specifically included ownership of the property. They also reached out to Coombs as a way to stress the importance of the project for the city.
Fudge noted that the site is perfectly located to house the brewery, given its proximity to a compact district tailored to similar visitors. It’s located about a half-mile from so-called Artisan Alley, which features local cidermaker Tilted Shed, distillery Sonoma Brothers Distilling Co., brewery St. Florian’s Brewery, and vintners Two Shepherds Wine and Colagrossi Wines.
The town also worked to ensure planning officials would be able to streamline any application, ensuring there were no surprises in the process. It can typically take from five to six months, once the formal application has been received, to win approval by the planning commission.
Local economic officials have ramped up their recruitment of craft breweries given their proven ability to attract visitors, especially millennials, and their economic impact. In 2013, craft brewing generated $169 million in economic impact for the county, according to the Economic Development Board. There are roughly two dozen craft brewers now in the county.
In February, Rohnert Park officials trumpeted their success in landing the second brewpub location for Bear Republic Brewing Co. Bear Republic will build its new location at the site of the shuttered Latitude Island Grill, while retaining its original brewpub in Healdsburg.
You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 521-5223 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @BillSwindell.
Business, Beer and Wine, The Press Democrat
In the North Coast, we are surrounded by hundreds of wineries along with some of the best breweries, cidermakers and distillers. These industries produce an abundance of drinks as well as good stories – and those are what I’m interested in writing. I also keep my eye on our growing cannabis industry and other agricultural crops, which have provided the backbone for our food-and-wine culture for generations.