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Winery Events

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The wine industry and tourism play an important role in Sonoma County’s culture and economy.  However, an over-concentration of winery events can negatively impact surrounding communities. Permit Sonoma seeks to balance these interests in new regulations for 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 winery events at wineries and vineyards (e.g. winemaker lunches and dinners, release parties, wine club parties) and potential over-concentration.

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Updates

Winery Events Ordinance

Permit Sonoma staff presented a draft Winery Events Ordinance to the Planning Commission on June 3, 2021. Commissioners directed staff to compare the proposed county definitions and standards with the two existing Citizen Advisory Council/Commission definitions and standards.

The draft Winery Events Ordinance includes countywide definitions and standards for winery visitor-serving uses. The ordinance would apply to new and modified use permit applications for winery visitor-serving uses in agricultural zoning districts outside of the Coastal Zone.

Public Hearings for Winery Events Ordinance

On June 3, 2021, February 17, 2022 and May 19, 2022, the Planning Commission held public hearings and reviewed the proposed county definitions and standards for winery visitor serving uses. On May 19, 2022, the Planning Commission continued the hearing to a date and time certain to a special meeting scheduled on June 7, 2022 at 1:00 pm.   

Attend the Planning Commission continued virtual public hearing on June 7, 2022, at or after 1:05 p.m. for the staff presentation of the draft Ordinance.

Local Areas of Concentration

Meanwhile, local advisory groups associated with the local areas of concentration are setting their own criteria for evaluating winery event applications:

In the three local areas of concentration, Permit Sonoma updated technical studies related to noise and traffic:

February 18, 2021 Workshop Video

Watch a video of a virtual public workshop regarding the development of the draft County Winery Events Ordinance.

February 18, 2021 Workshop Comment Summary

View the comment summary of the virtual public workshop breakout rooms regarding the development of the draft County Winery Events Ordinance.

Wine Tasting sign on a wine barrel Wine Tasting Sonoma Valley vineyard with a grape hanging on the vine

General 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 winery events and potential over-concentration.

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 directed staff to prepare options for updating policy on regulating winery events, particularly in the three areas of local concentration:

  • Dry Creek Valley
  • Westside Road
  • Sonoma Valley

In 2017, the Dry Creek Valley Citizen’s Advisory Council developed Guidelines for Visitor Serving Uses, as a first step in addressing issues related to winery events in Dry Creek Valley. On May 26, 2021, the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission adopted Guidelines for winery-related use permit applications in the Sonoma Valley. An advisory group for Westside Road may be formed to develop draft Westside Road guidelines.

On February 18, 2021, Permit Sonoma held a virtual public workshop on developing the framework for a countywide winery event ordinance. Using information obtained from public comments, stakeholder groups, and local advisory groups, staff prepared a draft Winery Event Ordinance with a set of Winery Standards that would apply to winery visitor-serving uses in agricultural zones, outside of the coastal zone. Staff is continuing the public engagement process by presenting the draft Winery Events Ordinance in a public hearing before the Planning Commission, followed by a final presentation of the draft Ordinance in a public hearing before the Board of Supervisors. Public hearings are all opportunities for public comment. For more information, click on the Past Meetings and Documents tabs in the Winery Events menu column.