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House Family Vineyards

Frequently Asked Questions

For the last several years our family has been working with the City of Saratoga to define the terms of our Master Plan. Our intention has always been to conduct our business with transparency and honesty and to be a good neighbor. Here we try to answer some of the most common questions, to clarify points regarding the history and scope of our operations and our application. We hope that this will help to answer the questions and to clear up some of the misconceptions that we have encountered.

Please see below for a list of our FAQs.  If you have an additional question that is not listed here, please email us at info@housefamilyvineyards.com so we can answer your question.

  1. HISTORY: Historical Land Usage – What has been the historical use of the land in this area?
  2. HISTORY: What is the background on House Family Vineyards?
  3. HISTORY: Backyard Wineries - Can anyone with a vineyard become a winery?
  4. COMMERCIAL OPERATION: Is House Family operating a commercial business?
  5. LEGAL OPERATION: Is House Family operating a legal business?
  6. SCALE OF OPERATIONS: Is House Family expanding its existing operations?
  7. SCOPE OF OPERATIONS: What kind of Public Tastings, Private Tastings and Events does HFV operate?
  8. MASTER PLAN: Why do you need a Master Plan?
  9. PERMITS AND LICENSING: What permits and licenses does House Family Vineyards hold?
  10. CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT (CUP): Why has it taken so long to obtain a CUP?
  11. CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT (CUP): – Why did House Family Vineyards not apply for a CUP earlier?
  12. DECK AND BUILDING PERMIT – Was the Tasting Room constructed with a building permit?
  13. ZONING: What are the allowed land uses in the Hillside Residential zone?
  14. ZONING: Do other commercial businesses operate in Saratoga Residential Zones?
  15. FIRE DANGER: Does the House Family Master Plan address fire danger?
  16. TRAFFIC: Will this cause more traffic problems on Old Oak Way and Pierce Road?
  17. PARKING: Does House Family allow parking on Old Oak Way?
  18. ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION: Does House Family monitor guest intoxication?
  19. NOISE: How does House Family reduce noise during events?
  20. LIGHT: How does House Family reduce light pollution?

HISTORY: Historical Land Usage – What has been the historical use of the land in this area?

Between 1850 and 1920, Saratoga and surrounding areas were planted with vineyards. In 1920, prohibition brought an end to the wine business, and vineyards were largely replaced by orchards. Since 1950, housing has replaced nearly all orchards, as shown in the aerial photos below of Saratoga in 1948 and 2020.

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HISTORY: What is the background on House Family Vineyards?

The House family owns 73 acres in the hills of Saratoga, between Agriculture and Open Space land on one side and residential properties on the other side. The three houses on the property are home to four generations (13 members) of the House family.

House Family Vineyards was founded in 1998 by Dave House. His vision was to create a sustainable vineyard and winery, consistent with Saratoga’s agricultural heritage; an enduring family business and parklike setting for family, friends and the community. His purpose is to preserve the family property and its use into perpetuity. Dave’s daughter’s husband, Jim Cargill, is his partner and winemaker at House Family Vineyards. Every member of the House family has played a role in the family business at one time or another.

For more of Dave’s story and the history of the land and the winery, see our History page.

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HISTORY: Backyard Wineries - Can anyone with a vineyard become a winery?

Theoretically, yes, but practically, no. Becoming a winery that is open to the public requires a host of permits and licenses, a lot of land, parking, handicap restrooms, etc. Small vineyard owners generally do not invite the public into their backyards.

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COMMERCIAL OPERATION: Is House Family operating a commercial business?

Yes. Growing agricultural products and processing those products for commercial sale is inherently a commercial business. This is a legal and permitted business on Hillside Residential (HR) zoned land.

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LEGAL OPERATION: Is House Family operating a legal business?

The federal, state, county, and city laws and regulations that govern a winery business are complex, and we have always done our best to comply with them. Once the city informed us of the need for a CUP we immediately began the process to comply. We have been open and transparent in our compliance actions.

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SCALE OF OPERATIONS: Is House Family expanding its existing operations?

No. We are not asking to increase our level of activity over our level of operations over the past several years. We live here. Our families are most impacted by the winery operations.

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SCOPE OF OPERATIONS: What kind of Public Tastings, Private Tastings and Events does HFV operate?

Two types of activities are held at Vineyard Point, Public Wine Tastings and Private Wine Tastings and Events. Due to on-site parking constraints and limited space at Vineyard Point, our business reached its practical limits during 2018 and 2019. In 2018 and 2019 the average number of guests attending during any one day was 93. We limit the maximum number of guests at any one time to a maximum of 150 guests, but that limit is seldom reached. 

Most of our Private Wine Tastings and Events are small. Over the past three years 44% of our events have been attended by 1-25 people, 26% have been attended by 26-50 people, 25% have been attended by 51-100 people, and only 5% have been attended by 101-150 people.

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MASTER PLAN: Why do you need a Master Plan?

Over 22 years, House Family Vineyards has evolved from a few vines planted along Dave’s driveway, to a community facility with over 10 acres of vineyards, a winery and an open-air tasting deck. In August of 2016 we discussed with the City our request for permits for both the then existing deck and a future wine cellar.  We were informed by the City that a CUP was also required. The City asked House Family to develop a Master Plan that would combine the request for a CUP with the request for building permits for the deck and future wine cellar. The Master Plan was requested by City Planning to identify “everything you intend to do in the future”. That request resulted in an application to the Planning Commission for their approval of:

  1. A future subterranean wine cellar
  2. Improvements to an existing farm road to provide emergency fire access
  3. Installation of a new fire hydrant adjacent to the wine cave
  4. Approval of a permit for an existing deck
  5. Approval of a conditional use permit for existing operations

Following Planning Commission approval, Building Department approval is required before proceeding. 

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PERMITS AND LICENSING: What permits and licenses does House Family Vineyards hold?

House Family Vineyards holds the following permits and licenses:

US Treasury Licensing

  • November 24, 2003 - Dept of Treasury Employer EIN
  • February 24, 2004 - Department of Treasury Notice of S-Corp
  • April 21, 2011 - TTB Winery Bond Approved
  • April 21, 2011 - TTB Wine/Producer/Blender Permit Approved

California Licensing

  • September 29, 2003 - Incorporated with State of California
  • May 1, 2010 - California State Board of Equalization Sellers Permit
  • August 6, 2010   - ABC Type #17 Winery License
  • August 6, 2010   - ABC Type #20 Winery License
  • August 26, 2011 - ABC Type #02 Winery License

Santa Clara County Licensing

  • October 26, 2004 - Santa Clara County Fictitious Business Name (Old Oak Vineyard, House)
  • December 11, 2009 - Santa Clara County Fictitious Business Name (Old Oak Vineyard, House, House Family Winery)
  • July 17, 2012 - Santa Clara County Fictitious Business Name (Old Oak Vineyard, House, House Family Winery, House Family Vineyards)

City of Saratoga Licensing

  • October 2009 to present - City of Saratoga Business License
  • February 28, 2012 to present - Home Occupancy License
  • February 28, 2012 - email from the City of Saratoga allowing “limited wine tastings”
  • 2011 to 2020 - Jointly worked with City and County on CUP

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CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT (CUP): Why has it taken so long to obtain a CUP?

Obtaining a CUP is a lengthy and complex process. The city’s request for a Master Plan, including all items currently under review as well as any future imagined uses, significantly slowed the approval process by requiring all items be reviewed together.

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CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT (CUP): – Why did House Family Vineyards not apply for a CUP earlier?

Based on our understanding of our existing licenses and the advice of others, we assumed that we had all the permission we needed. Once we learned that we also needed a conditional use permit, we began the process to gain that approval.

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DECK AND BUILDING PERMIT – Was the Tasting Room constructed with a building permit?

The Tasting Room, more accurately described as a ‘covered deck,’ (75% of the covered area is open, with no walls) was built without a permit. Soon after it was completed, we began working with the city to bring the deck into compliance.

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ZONING: What are the allowed land uses in the Hillside Residential zone?

There are a number of allowed land uses in the Hillside Residential zone, such as housing, ADUs, stables and corrals, open space, and agriculture, including Wineries. (15-13.040 (h))

See the Saratoga City Code Article 15-13 for a full list of permitted and conditional uses.

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ZONING: Do other commercial businesses operate in Saratoga Residential Zones?

Yes. Although best known for its private residences, Saratoga is blessed with many shared community facilities. The map and chart below show some of these commercial facilities, which all operate in residential zones.

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FIRE DANGER: Does the House Family Master Plan address fire danger?

The approval of the House Family CUP request will reduce fire danger for the Old Oak and Pierce Road neighborhoods. The conditions of the CUP include the improvement of an existing farm road such that it will support the heaviest fire equipment and the installation of a new fire hydrant.

Working with the City of Saratoga and Santa Clara County Fire, House Family has organized the Old Oak Way Firewise Neighborhood Community. For more information, please see OldOakWay.info. Also see https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Fire-causes-and-risks/Wildfire/Firewise-USA/Become-a-Firewise-USA-site.

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TRAFFIC: Will this cause more traffic problems on Old Oak Way and Pierce Road?

An independent study of traffic on Old Oak Way and Pierce Rd. concluded that HFV traffic represents 25% of traffic on Old Oak Way, and 2.5% of traffic on Pierce Rd. We believe that this represents a significantly smaller amount of traffic than alternative uses of this land. In our 10 years of operation there has never been a city traffic complaint or a reported accident on Old Oak Way related to the House Family Business.

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PARKING: Does House Family allow parking on Old Oak Way?

No. All customer, resident and employee parking is on House Family property. All parking conforms to city parking requirements.

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ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION: Does House Family monitor guest intoxication?

House Family makes every effort to prevent guests from becoming intoxicated. All employees are trained in ABC practices to recognize and address issues of over consumption. If intoxicated guests arrive, they are denied service. People come here to sip on a glass of wine while enjoying the company or their friends and family and enjoying the panoramic views of the surrounding area. We are a winery, not a bar.

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NOISE: How does House Family reduce noise during events?

House Family observes and enforces all Saratoga neighborhood noise regulations. Sound is carefully controlled to comply with the Saratoga sound ordinance. We are not a concert venue and we do not allow loud parties.

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LIGHT: How does House Family reduce light pollution?

House Family is committed to keep light pollution to an absolute minimum. We use minimal landscape and facility lighting that is respectful of our neighbors, and address any lighting problems as soon as we learn about them. We believe that our facilities produce considerably less light pollution than alternative allowed uses of this land.

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