Billboard for Butte wines

Butte County Wine Co. poised to showcase local vintners

Wine: If you ever need to bribe me with something, it will probably do the trick. So, when we decided to feature local wineries in this week’s Farm to Table Issue, I was more than happy to jump on board. I ended up learning quite a bit about the local wine scene, and realizing how close-knit our winemaking community really is.

Many of Butte County’s wineries are located in Oroville, a city I’ve been writing a lot about lately, mostly because I see some really positive changes happening there. Much of them revolve around downtown, which seems to be buzzing with new businesses and the anticipation of the Oroville Inn’s residential wing opening up and bringing a whole slew of students from the Northwest Lineman College to the city center.

One of those new businesses, poised to open in the next few weeks in the Prospector’s Alley mini mall on Myers Street, is Butte County Wine Co. I reached out last week to one of the owners, Toby Leonard, who met me in the space, which I predict will soon be bustling with wine-loving locals and visitors hoping to drink in some of Butte County’s terroir.

“I really want to showcase local winemakers and promote the community,” he said. “I’m hoping to be a billboard for them.”

Leonard knows our region’s winemakers well. He’s been in the industry for a long time and his connections run deep—most notably, he used to be partners with Berton Bertagna in Long Creek Winery, and he currently teaches in Butte College’s viticulture program. Leonard’s partner at Butte County Wine Co. is Colin Nelson, one of his former students. So, it’s only natural that they’d create a place where people can access local wines—and beers, he said—and promote the agritourism attached to them.

As if on cue, Leonard asked if I’d checked in with George and Kate Barber, owners of Purple Line Urban Winery, lately. I had not, but what a great idea!

A few doors down While I was in the neighborhood, I took Leonard’s advice and popped over to Purple Line (at 760 Safford St.) to chat with George Barber, who was tending bar, about expansion plans. The current plot they’re on is 10,000 square feet, he said as he walked me outside and to the adjoining property, occupied by a house that recently became vacant—“We waited them out,” Barber said with a smile.

The house will be expanded into a second warehouse to accommodate a bigger production run, and the rest of the more than half-acre property will house two bocce courts and a large gazebo for live music. It’ll likely be another six months before plans become reality, due to permits and other paperwork, but it’s certainly another indication that Butte County’s wine scene is on the rise.