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Winery Events

Currently, sales and promotional activities (including winery events) of agricultural products grown or processed in the County are allowed in agricultural zones with a use permit. The Board of Supervisors has directed Permit Sonoma staff to develop regulations addressing agricultural promotional events at wineries and vineyards (e.g. weddings, concerts) and potential overconcentration.

Permit Sonoma will bring the Winery Events policy item to the Board of Supervisors in the spring of 2019. In the meantime, local advisory groups are forming and setting their own criteria for evaluating winery event applications. Permit Sonoma staff is currently updating technical studies related to groundwater and traffic as directed in the General Plan. Additionally, staff is working on definitions of events and authorizing use provisions in zoning districts for winery events distinct from other agricultural promotional events.

Winery EventsGeneral Plan policies call for the development of regulations to further define compatible agricultural promotional activities including their permissible sizes and intensities. The General Plan also states that visitor-serving uses even if related to surrounding agricultural activities can be detrimental to the primary use of land for the production of food, fiber, and plant materials. The goal of the General Plan policies is to preserve agricultural lands and maintain the rural character of the area while enhancing the economic viability of farms. The Board of Supervisors directed staff to develop regulations addressing agricultural promotional events and potential overconcentration.

In June 2015, the Director of Permit Sonoma formed a group of industry representatives and neighborhood groups to advise staff on the key issues and policy options. The Working Group met for six months ending in early November 2016 and gave considerable insights into the business needs and the impacts of winery events to the local area.

The Board of Supervisors held a study session in 2016 and gave direction to staff on formation of policies related to winery events in the three areas of local concentration including: Dry Creek Valley, Westside Road, and Sonoma Valley. The Dry Creek Valley Citizen’s Advisory Council has developed draft Guidelines for Visitor Serving Uses as a first step in addressing issues related to winery events. Definitions of winery events and guidelines for the three areas will be brought forward to the Planning Commission and Board in the first quarter of 2019.