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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. winemaker lunches and dinners, release parties, wine club parties) and potential overconcentration.

Permit Sonoma will bring the Winery Events policy item for the entire county to the Board of Supervisors in early 2020. In the meantime, three local advisory groups associated with the three local areas of concentration (Dry Creek Valley, Westside Road and Sonoma Valley) have formed and are setting their own criteria for evaluating winery event applications. Permit Sonoma staff is currently updating technical studies related to noise and traffic in the three local areas of concentration. Additionally, staff is working on a winery events ordinance for the entire county and definitions related to winery events that is separate from the three local area of concentration guidelines.

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:

  • Dry Creek Valley
  • Westside Road
  • Sonoma Valley

The Dry Creek Valley Citizen’s Advisory Council has developed draft Guidelines for Visitor Serving Uses including definitions as a first step in addressing issues related to winery events in Dry Creek Valley. The Sonoma Valley Stakeholders Group have developed the draft Sonoma Valley guidelines including definitions and are presenting them to the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission (SVCAC). An advisory group for the Westside Road has been formed to develop draft Westside Road guidelines. Permit Sonoma will present a draft Winery Events ordinance and definitions for the entire county to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors early in 2020.