Winery permit draws interested buyers for Kozlowski family’s Forestville farm

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After two years on the market, the Kozlowski Farms property in Forestville is close to being sold after the family recently got permission to operate a winery on the land.

There are apparently five potential buyers who are interested in the 21-acre tract along Highway 116 that is being listed for almost $9 million, said Randy Waller, the real estate agent for the property in the heart of the Russian River Valley. It already has 15 acres planted for pinot noir grapes.

The sale is expected now that Sonoma County Board of Zoning Adjustments approved in February a permit that would give the Kozlowski family the ability to turn the property into a winery with a 35,000 annual wine case production, as well as a tasting room to do food-and-wine pairings, Waller said.

The parcel is attractive because Sonoma County officials have been much more hesitant to approve new winery projects given increasing opposition by rural residents to traffic and noise that accompanies such establishments, he said.

“If you had a (vacant) 20-acre parcel and wanted to do this, it would get shut down,” Waller said.

Separately, the family is selling its pie and specialty foods business, too, though Waller said he isn’t involved. That sale would mark the end of the family-operated business that was started about 70 years ago by Carmen and Tony Kozlowski, whose pies, jellies and butters were a ubiquitous presence on local store shelves and eventually were sold in more than 20 states.

The second generation of Perry Kozlowski, Cindy Kozlowski-Hayworth and Carol Kozlowski-Every have been operating the business. The Kozlowskis did not return phone calls or emails to comment for this story.

Initially, the winery plan did trigger opposition from some neighbors, but they were persuaded after the family made some changes before submitting the permit request to county officials. Ernie Carpenter, a nearby resident and former Sonoma County supervisor, said he was assuaged after the family made sure there would be no private events for rental — such as weddings — on the property or amplified music.

“They withdrew those and with that I withdrew my opposition,” Carpenter said. “They are an old farm family.”

Padi Selwyn of Preserve Rural Sonoma County, a local group that’s been critical of the proliferation of wineries, said she was concerned about adding another winery that would attract more tourists along the 116 corridor from Sebastopol to Forestville, making it similar to Westside Road and Highway 12 along the Sonoma Valley.

In late 2017, Claypool Cellars moved from downtown Sebastopol to a spot next to 116 right across from Kozlowski Farms at the building that previously housed Henry’s Marine and More.

Selwyn said the Kozlowskis are “a longtime wonderful family” but she added, “we just don’t know who wants to come in.”

You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or bill.swindell

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