Permit and Resource Management Department Banner

Presentation to the Sonoma Valley Stakeholders June 27, 2017


  • Balance winery related tourism against associated neighborhood impacts
  • Protect Rural Character

Wine Industry

The Wine Industry is the largest sector of the Sonoma County economy.

  • 59,770 acres of grapes
  • $ 592 million crop value
  • 54,000 jobs
  • $1.25 billion wine-related tourism
  • $13.4 billion total economic impact

pie chart of wineries tasting roomsSonoma County has 467 Wineries / Tasting Rooms

  • 6 have Events Only
  • 163 Winery Only
  • 298 have a Public Tasting Room

Concentration Area Map - Sonoma Valley

Sonoma Valley - Highway 12 primary north/south Corridor Carneros Sout East portion 8th Streett East and Highway 121

South Sonoma Valley – Primarily south of Highway 121 to Highway 37 Over 100 wineries

Concentration Map Sonoma Valley

Download a bigger map (PDF: 474 kB)

Type of Winery by American Viticultural Area (AVA)

Unincorporated Sonoma County Wineries

439 total as of June 2014

  • 104 Russian River 
  • 80 Sonoma Valley
  • 78 Dry Creek Valley 
  • 62 Alexander Valley Regions
  • 35 Carneros
  • 29 Green Valley

Types of Wineries

The other viticulture areas shown here have a dozen or fewer wineries  including Chalk Hill, Freestone, Sonoma Mountain and Knights Valley

General Plan

Allow Promotional Events in Agricultural Areas:

  • Secondary and incidental to agricultural production
  • Limited in scale and intensity
  • Avoid local concentrations 

Board Resolution

  • Clarify definition of events and allowable food service
  • Require permits for industry-wide events
  • Allow tasting rooms in Industrial Park zones
  • Develop standards and siting criteria for areas of local concentration

Event Criteria

Activities involving any of the following criteria:

  • Advertised to Consumers
  • Food Service of Meals
  • Music or Amplified Sound
  • Fee for Event
  • Outside of Tasting Room Hours

Types of Events

Business Trade Events

  • Distributor Meetings
  • Sales Partners
  • Internal Staff

Private / Other Events

  • Weddings
  • Charitable/Political Fundraisers
  • Corporate Retreats
  • Concerts & Theater

Direct to Consumer

  • Wine club events
  • Winemaker dinners
  • Release parties

Industry Wide

Key Issues

  • Wine-Industry Business Needs
  • Neighborhood Compatibility
  • Impacts of Noise, Traffic, Water
  • Commercialization of Agricultural Lands
  • Preserving Rural Character/Local Concentrations
  • Legal Non-conforming and Unpermitted Events
  • Monitoring and Enforcement

Winery Event Working Group

  • Event Coordination is needed
  • Industry-wide events must follow best management practices
  • Event areas need to meet General Plan Noise standards
  • Parking management and queuing must be on site
  • No stand alone tasting rooms – must have agricultural processing or production on-site
  • No third-party rentals
  • Allow food and wine pairing during tasting room hours
  • Public access roads must meet safety standards

Noise Levels

Event Activity Noise Level @ 45-ft DBADistance to Attenuate
Amplified Music (wedding)75 1,580 feet
Amplified Music72 1,125 feet
Amplified Speech71 1,000 feet
Non-amplified Acoustics Music67 625 feet
Raised Conversations64 450 feet

Local Concentration

General Plan Policy AR-6f

Local concentrations of agricultural support and visitor serving uses, even if related to agriculture, are detrimental to the primary use of the land for production and should be avoided.

Consider the following factors:

  • Joint road access conflicts, site specific traffic impacts, and cumulative traffic impacts
  • Groundwater impacts to aquifer and surrounding wells
  • Detrimental to rural character

General Plan Policies

Rural CharacterWhat do we mean by rural character?

Most people describe rural character as Low density development, open agrarian landscape, quiet, with low traffic volumes.

There are many factors and tools that can be used to maintain rural character. Zoning Code standards is one tool that can address cumulative impacts: operating standards  .

Design review addresses architecture, building materials, site layout, lighting and landscaping – to assure compatible with rural character.

Use Permit conditions of approval address site specific & operational impacts .

Industry practices How does the winery address operations and site management – for example how well are industry wide events managed in terms of traffic.

Monitoring & Enforcement County Monitoring and Enforcement of winery COA to address Use Permit compliance issues.

Policy Options

  • Minimum Site Area
  • Setbacks
  • Tasting Room Criteria
  • Visitor Hours
  • Separation Criteria
  • Food Service
  • Promotional Activities
  • Access and Parking
  • Monitoring and Enforcement