The Kenwood Press
News: 04/01/2018

Plans filed for cannabis nursery at Annadel Estate Winery

Jay Gamel

Two neighbors have teamed up to explore the commercial possibilities that have opened up with the legalization of marijuana. Dean Bordigioni owns the 37-acre Annadel Estate Winery/Bordigioni Family Winery, and Jay Jensen owns 26 acres two doors south where he runs Novavine, one of the major vine nurseries in California, grafting nearly six million young vines to specialty rootstocks for commercial operations. Bordigioni and Jensen are looking to work on the production side doing what Jensen knows best – starting plants – on property Bordigioni has available.

“It’s a business I know well,” Jensen said. “The nursery side, not the cannabis.”

Bordigioni and Jensen have done business together before, purchasing the 27 acres between their properties in 2013 from a company emerging from bankruptcy, and selling it to current owner Sugarloaf Winery, a custom crush facility. All three entities will eventually share an entrance at the Oakmont Drive and Sonoma Highway stoplight.

Bordigioni and Jensen formed a private company, Malama LLC, to hold their new business. Malama is a Hawaiian word for “custodian” or “caretaker.” Both men are ardent fans of the islands.

Bordigioni filed an application in Malama’s name on March 20 to build 22,000 square feet of indoor wholesale cannabis nursery cultivation and 21,560 square feet of outdoor nursery cultivation with some cannabis processing occurring on site at his Annadel Estate Winery. The processing has to do with handling the waste generated by the nurseries, not making cannabis products, Bordigioni emphasized.

“It’s a nursery permit,” Bordigioni said. “There are no flowering plants or plants with drug attributes. If we do this, we would grow baby plants for the industry. There will be no retail sales, no customers on site. The reason I’m applying now is for potential business down the road and because my property qualifies on all levels. The way we’re zoned and set back are all in the qualifications.”

The project’s indoor and outdoor sites are located toward the back of the private, gated property. While there are no provisions for added security in the application, Bordigioni is sure the county will have its own ideas to be considered further down the process.

The new nurseries would employ three to four people and generate six trips a day.

Thirsty young plants may consume up to 80,000 gallons of water a month, but the property has its own well and no water use restrictions.

Bordigioni intends to continue with his winemaking, but a planned future expansion of the wine business will depend on the choice to go into the nursery business, which will occupy the contemplated expansion sites.

Neither partner has any interest in dealing with cannabis farming or processing.

“I had no interest in the other side of it because of the synergy of what we both do,” Bordigioni said. “We are only interested in supplying the industry. Enough people supply the end user. Jay has some technologies that are transferable to starting these plants. We can deliver a superior product to the industry.”

Jensen agreed.

“If this gets up and running, we want to participate, not by growing flowers, but baby plants. We will produce healthy, quality plants that support industry, just like I do with grapes,” he said.

For Jensen, a cannabis nursery is an opportunity.

“I have the expertise, he has the room, to do this,” Jensen said. “This is really a business proposition for us. Considering the resources and energy and manpower it takes to do grape growing, when I look at what’s involved in running a 20,000-square-foot nursery for cannabis – well, it’s just a few people. It’s a far easier model. I don’t know, but it could be more profitable.”

Use permit applications in Sonoma County are first reviewed by the county, and groups and individuals who have signed up to be notified and live in the district. Once those groups have responded, a determination will be made whether to require further information and an Environmental Impact Report, or proceed with public hearings by the Planning Commission and any other permit agency involved, and finally approval or rejection by the county board of supervisors.