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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Wineries: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Sonoma County has about 450 wineries. Wine-related tourism is over a billion dollar industry with billions more generated from the county's top agricultural industry. Wait, was that 450? Some believe that may just be enough. Others don't believe they need to hold events (parties) day and night.

Is it too much of a good thing?

Winery tasting rooms are concentrated in certain towns, mostly Healdsburg, Sonoma and the hamlet of Kenwood. Also, along the main roads in various rural sections of the county. Others are miles from anything except other rural neighbors. Many are along narrow, winding roads.

A few months ago many residents of the town of Sonoma were angry over adding more tasting rooms to their town where there are over two dozen within an easy walk. Recently the new owners of Kenwood Vineyards had a meeting with the area residents explaining why they needed to add events and it didn't go over well.

Last night the Sonoma County supervisors agreed new regulations are needed to control not only new wineries, but new requests from established wineries, and what to do with those that flout the rules (as occasionally happens).
A wedding in the vineyards

What do many wineries want? They'd like to relax the rules so they can have more direct-to-consumer events. They also thought having an "oversight and compliance officer" to handle complaints would be nice. I'm guessing this person would be from the industry being regulated. Someone from a winery said, "A lot of people have forgotten what agriculture truly is. It is commercial."

Let's break that statement down. Growing grapes is ag. You could call making wine industrial/ag. Selling wine is retail. Tasting rooms and parties in rural areas are not agriculture. This doesn't mean there shouldn't be any, but regulating them is not harming some poor family farmer.

Yes, there can be too much of a good thing. Just ask the neighbors (that are left) in southern Napa Valley. This area has gone from rural agriculture a few decades ago to full-on commercial tourism.

Article from the Press Democrat