Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Convert the Historic Cadenasso Winery into a First-Class Fruit and Candy Stand

Article Published: Tuesday, July 27, 2004

It begins with a dream

Winery's new owner could breathe new life in property

Visionaries are rarely appreciated in their time. The focus of their dreams often is lost on we mere mortals.

But perhaps that will change.

With a little help, a lot of hard work, and much patience navigating the straits of planning bureaucracy, Suisun Valley resident and Jelly Belly Co. Chairman Herman Rowland Jr. hopes to convert the historic Cadenasso Winery into a first-class fruit and candy stand that also promotes the area's agriculture. Mr. Rowland and his family hope the project will be something on the order of what the Nut Tree was in its heyday. It is a bold step for the future of Solano County, one that uses one of the county's economic and traditional pillars - agriculture.

"I have nothing but crazy ideas," Mr. Rowland said last week after it was learned he had closed the deal on the winery property earlier in the month. "All of this is just daydreaming and night dreaming."

But the Rowland family has a history of success with dreams and visions. Last year, Jelly Belly Co., with its corporate headquarters about two miles from the winery property, had net sales of more than $130 million.

While no plans are set in stone - and time and bureaucracy might alter blueprint along the way - Mr. Rowland and his family aim to turn the winery site into a farmer's fantasyland and a gateway to the rest of Suisun Valley.

Visitors to the winery property also would receive a map to other produce stands and wineries in Suisun Valley. Mr. Rowland already has spoken to other farmers and vintners who want to make Suisun Valley a trademark name, such as Napa Valley and Jelly Belly. There is talk of naming the stand The Belly Flop Stop, a reference to imperfect Jelly Belly candies.

The 10-acre property on Abernathy Road in Fairfield abuts Interstate 80 and has easy access. Mr. Rowland would like to have a sign visible to passers-by promoting the fresh produce of the day, and offer "incredible service," a "pristine, clean" environment, and the freshest, tastiest product.

A train on wheels with cars in the shapes of vegetables would meander the property on a winding path and passengers would be able to learn about agriculture.

While it was sad to see one of the county's oldest wineries close more than a year ago, it is hoped that once Mr. Rowland's dream comes to fruition the project will help preserve the legacy of the Cadenasso Winery and promote other agriculture-related businesses.

It would be nice to see more specific blueprint for the very visible property, but, for now, plans for the parcel are just a vision, one we hope comes into focus in next few years.

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