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Monday, October 20, 2014

When the Rules Don't Apply to You

There are many rules and regulations in the alcohol beverage industry at the federal, state and local levels. The County of Sonoma regulates the sale and production at wineries because it is a commercial venture usually taking place in a rural area. There are concerns with noise, traffic, water use, etc. Once a winery is okayed there will be rules like whether or not you can be open to the public for tasting, what the hours are, if you can hold special daytime or evening events, and the number of people you can have on the property at one time. Much of this has to do with concerns of the neighbors and traffic safety.

The rules have been fudged a bit occasionally by wineries. Two come to mind in Sonoma County that in the past couldn't be open for regular tasting room hours, but only for appointments so the traffic volume could be strictly controlled. Both were unofficially open to anyone, but there just was no sign out front saying so. I'm aware of one prominent Napa winery that often violates their total number of guests limit because, well, they're too popular.

However, multiple flagrant violations will get you noticed, usually when neighbors complain. This has happened to Bella Vineyards in Dry Creek Valley. They are misusing their property and participating in events not allowed by their permit. Bella has a remote location down a road that's so narrow it can be difficult for two cars to pass.

Bella has been hit with what is sort of a "temporary restraining order" with a chance to come back and reapply and have the county reevaluate what should and should not happen on their property. The disturbing part of it all is their attitude because, apparently, the rules are unfair and shouldn't apply to them. The last winery to believe this was Rabbit Ridge and they were essentially run out of the county several years ago.

Article from the Press Democrat