Sonoma Tasting Room Battle Heats Up
How many tasting rooms are too many? Some Sonoma locals think the 33 in the vicinity of the town’s central square, the Sonoma Plaza, are simply too many.
A mix of local residents and merchants have logged complaints with the city council to promote a more balanced retail mix and keep a lid on spiralling rents. A planned vote on a moratorium on new tasting rooms turned into a stalemate last month as the council decided to dedicate more time to the issue.
Are Sonoma County roads becoming inebriation highways?
Drunk and dangerous drivers on Sonoma County’s narrow, rural roads are a sobering reality. Based on California Highway Patrol records from 2009-2013, our county’s DUI-related fatalities are nearly double the state average. Another report with 14 years of traffic accident data shows that, of the 325 people killed on Sonoma County roads in that time period, 75 percent of the deaths were DUI-related. Despite these disturbing statistics, county officials continue to ignore public safety risks, approving alcohol-serving event center facilities on substandard roads. And, all too often, permits are based on traffic studies that come with inaccurate assumptions and lack cumulative impact analysis.
Sonoma Valley growth sparks debate over area’s future
The “Scenic Route” sign on Highway 12 announces the obvious to motorists heading into the Valley of the Moon. It’s cradled by mountains, dotted with giant oaks, horse ranches, vineyards, remnants of old orchards and the odd water tower.
Belden Barns Tasting Room Gets Approved
Pandora’s box has opened in Sonoma County. One sees at a Supervisors hearing like this how development creeps into inappropriate places, how Sonoma County could become as environmentally and socially compromised as Napa County. As well, public safety seems lost in the scrum.
Tension Flares Between Wineries and Residents
While many wine regions in California have been growing by leaps and bounds, few have developed at the recent pace of Sonoma County.
According to the Santa Rosa, California-based Permit and Resource Development Management Department of Sonoma County, from 2000 to 2015 there was a 300 percent increase in new winery facilities. Sonoma County was home to 127 wineries in 2000 and has nearly 450 now.
Sonoma Mountain’s wine-and-cheese ‘farmstead’ gets a hearing
A controversial plan to build a 10,000 case winery and creamery, tasting room and event facilities on a remote stretch of Sonoma Mountain Road comes before the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Tuesday in its regular afternoon session in Santa Rosa. But more than just a wine-and-cheese permit may be under discussion, as the applicants were involved with a controversial non-permitted event earlier this month in rural Knights Valley, on Highway 128 between Healdsburg and Calistoga.
Winery versus Resident Concerns Heat Up in Sonoma
Pressure on local wineries to reduce visitor counts has been rising over the past years as more wineries with a heavy focus on director-to-consumer (DTC) retail open. While the forward-thinking Napa Valley, long the crown jewel of the winemaking world, passed the 1990 Wine Definition Ordinance (WDO)–which defines wineries as an agricultural land use and caps visitors–others have come late to the solution game.
Sonoma County Vintners unveils community outreach plan
The wine industry study session held by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors earlier this month was a step in the right direction, as local officials try to balance the interests of the wine industry with a growing backlash by rural residents who complain that unruly crowds, loud noise and traffic congestion on back-country roads are destroying the peace and quiet of their neighborhoods and contributing to the Napafication of Sonoma County.
Sonoma County Winery Events facing Changes in Rules
July’s winery events study session by the Board of Supervisors was a step in the right direction, as local officials try to balance wine industry interests with a growing backlash by concerned citizens.
Property owners expressed concerns that environmental degradation, unruly crowds, loud noise, traffic safety issues and congestion on narrow roads are destroying tranquil rural character and contributing to the Napafication of Sonoma County.
Winery-event crisis gives Sonoma County supervisors an earful
A lengthy study session on the explosion of winery events in Sonoma County last week led the Board of Supervisor to agree that something must be done – but just how to shape regulations and enforcement proved elusive. The four supervisors in attendance heard from the county’s Permit and Resource Management Department and a selection of groups and individuals concerned about the problems of traffic, noise, non-agricultural use and other problems that 447 wineries have brought to rural areas of the county.
Sonoma County supervisors signal support for limits on wineries, events
A majority of Sonoma County supervisors on Tuesday voiced support for new regulations on one of the largest sectors of the local economy — wine-related tourism — a move that signals the likelihood the wine industry will face greater county scrutiny and potential limits on new development and business activity.
Standoff on rural winery events
Sonoma County has approved more than 300 new wineries and tasting rooms in the past 16 years — a nearly 360 percent increase over the previous three decades — and many of those wineries have decided in recent years to boost business by offering an array of events, from wine-tasting dinners to weddings and harvest parties.
Glyphosate Found in 100% of California Wines Tested
Before you pop open a bottle of California Merlot, there is something you should know: trace amounts of glyphosate, the primary toxic chemical found in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, have been found in 100% of California wines tested by the national GMO awareness group, Moms Across America.
Some see conspiracy in missing wine-pesticide story pulled by San Francisco TV station
ABC television affiliate KGO-TV (ABC 7) in San Francisco is locked down tighter than the Nixon White House and refusing to comment or even return phone calls about why its segment on weed killer in wine is now missing.
In the April 29th issue of Wine Industry Insight’s NewsFetch,we included a link about the tests — contracted on behalf of the television station — that tested 10 California wines and found concentrations in all of them of the Monsanto weed killer glyphosate (the main ingredient in Round Up).
Weed Killer Could Be Lurking In Some California Wines
A lab test of 10 California wines concluded they all contain the active ingredient from weed-killer, glyphosate, a chemical classified a “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organization. This I-Team investigation is sending shock waves through wine country.
Close to Home: Growing pains in a tourism economy
Tourism is the best economic development driver, right? Tourists come, spend their money and leave. Or so we’ve been led to believe.
New and extensive research is debunking the myth of an economy dominated by tourism. A recent symposium in Napa County explored the benefits and costs. National experts shared data that can help us understand both sides of the story.
Monsanto’s Glyphosate Found in California Wines, Even Wines Made With Organic Grapes
Shortly after the release of a report showing 14 beers testing positive for glyphosate in Germany, a concerned supporter of Moms Across America approached me at a convention with disturbing news. He said he had test results from Microbe Inotech Lab of St.Louis showing 10 different wines, from large and small vineyards, contained the chemical glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller, including wine made with organic grapes.
Monsanto Stunned – California Confirms ‘Roundup’ Will Be Labeled “Cancer Causing”
Under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 — usually referred to as Proposition 65, its original name — chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm are required to be listed and published by the state. Chemicals also end up on the list if found to be carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) — a branch of the World Health Organization.
Ridge Vineyards, Four Seasons Vineyard Management fined for ‘deplorable’ housing
A prominent Healdsburg-area winery and Geyserville farm labor contractor were fined $42,300 for housing vineyard workers in “deplorable” conditions, federal regulators announced Friday.
Under the influence? How the wine industry dominates Sonoma County election campaigns
For at least two decades, Sonoma County officials have sided with the wine industry in nearly every major political dispute. The reason? The industry dominates the county’s economy – and financially dominates county election campaigns.
Concern about Herbicide use in vineyards
57,237 pounds in Napa (50,417 in 2012) and 84,606 pounds of glyphosate used in Sonoma County in 2013. The usage keeps going up and without a ban on the use of this “probable carcinogen” it will continue to be used as “best practices” rationale in viticulture to prevent weeds. Farmlands are being overrun with the superweeds that have developed resistance to glyphosate. The California EPA is requiring labeling of the herbicide and several counties in our state are working on a total ban. With growing health/environmental concerns and non-industry supported/peer reviewed scientific studies being published, maybe the time has come to remove this product from our environment.
Close to Home: Wine industry needs to stand firmly with the community
I run a wine and dine club with more than 2,000 Sonoma County residents. I want my wine industry to be good neighbors. That means vineyards are vineyards, and any on-site winery should reflect that vineyard’s footprint.
Updated Wine List of Sonoma County Wines to Support
This is a working document and we encourage input. Criteria used was third party certified organic or biodynamic vineyards first and “Honorable Mention” for wineries with why they are on the list to the right. We understand that organic certification has been watered down by big ag however, we support the wineries that are trying to do the right thing by the communities they live in and protecting the environment.
Monsanto’s Roundup Kills and Damages More Than Weeds
Protests against Monsanto’s Roundup, with its poisonous, weed-killing glyphosate, have spread around the globe. An arm of the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a probable cause of cancer in 2015. California’s Environmental Protection Agency (CA EPA) recently decided to label it as such.
MIT Researcher: Glyphosate Herbicide will Cause Half of All Children to Have Autism by 2025
Why? Evidence points to glyphosate toxicity from the overuse of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide on our food. For over three decades, Stephanie Seneff, PhD, has researched biology and technology, over the years publishing over 170 scholarly peer-reviewed articles. In recent years she has concentrated on the relationship between nutrition and health, tackling such topics as Alzheimer’s, autism, and cardiovascular diseases, as well as the impact of nutritional deficiencies and environmental toxins on human health.
Wine industry needs to stand firmly with the community
County strikes blow against proposed Dairyman winery near Sebastopol
Delivering a blow to the most controversial winery project in Sonoma County, the county’s top parks official has found that the owner of a vineyard near Sebastopol has no current legal right to access his property by crossing the Joe Rodota Trail.
Parks Director Caryl Hart also determined that any possible changes to the popular bike path to accommodate the proposed Dairyman Winery and Distillery project would not provide any benefit to the trail or the public.
Rally call to stop fast-growing ‘Napafication’ of Sonoma County
More than 400 people packed the Glaser Center in Santa Rosa for a discussion on wineries Monday night, hosted by the county’s Permit and Resource Management Department. The cumulative impact of wineries, event centers and tasting rooms had many riled about traffic, people driving after consuming alcohol, and the rising number of tasting rooms. However, Sonoma County’s wine industry was well represented and a coordinated effort to boost turnout paid off.
Critics, supporters of Sonoma County wineries pack hearing on new regulations
An estimated 500 people packed the Glaser Center in Santa Rosa on Monday for a meeting to gather public input on potential new regulations on winery development in Sonoma County — a high-profile issue that has drawn backlash from rural residents protesting growth as well as sharp criticism from wine industry representatives who say they are helping preserve open space.
Winery events: Where to draw the line?
The issue of too many winery events – let alone too many wineries – continues to provoke differences of opinion, more so in certain parts of Sonoma County such as Kenwood, Glen Ellen and the southern end of Highway 121, than in more densely populated areas.
Winery Event Center Backlash Grows in Rural Communities
They used to call it God’s Country and then the Redwood Empire during the logging years. After a planting spree in the 1990’s, when vineyard acreage more than doubled to more than 60,000 acres, Sonoma County was rebranded appropriately as Wine Country. This boom created a frenzy of activity, the rampant overdevelopment of wineries and event centers, 90% of which are…
The truth about ‘ag-washing’ in Sonoma County
Recent tourism surveys identified the beauty of the rural landscape as our number one tourist attraction. Yes, even scoring higher than wine tasting.
Trouble in wine paradise as Bordeaux village grapples with cancer rates five times national average
Conflict on the Future of Our Coast
The meeting room at the Timber Cove Volunteer Fire Department was filled beyond capacity as Sonoma Coastal residents met with Sonoma County’s Permit and Resources Department (PRMD) to discuss the proposed changes in the preliminary draft of the Local Coastal Plan Update.
Proposed Coastal Plan update ignites debate over winery event centers
While firefighters battled a third day of the Lake County inferno, at the fire station in Timber Cove, a public hearing ignited a firestorm of its own. Tuesday, Sept. 15, representatives from the county’s Permit & Resource Management Department (PRMD) came to this remote coastal area to present the Preliminary Draft of Sonoma County’s update to the Local Coastal Plan (LCP).
Letter to the editor in the PD by Richard Charter
More than 100 local residents packed standing-room-only into the Timber Cove firehouse on Monday for a lively interaction with Sonoma County planning staff now rewriting our Local Coastal Plan. The plan guides new development, as well as future protection, for our treasured coastal lands.
Angry opposition to winery ‘event centers’ on coast
How California’s Wine Industry Is Hurting the Environment
Wine has been a popular beverage for thousands of years, and California is particularly famous for its fermented vintages, produced up and down the state, with Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino Counties being particularly famous for their wines. However, there’s a hidden secret behind your glass of pinot, chardonnay or merlot: The wine industry often comes with considerable environmental costs. Maintaining a vineyard can be rough on the environment, depending on where grapes are grown and how they’re handled, and oddly enough, prestigious wines are among the worst violators, even though they come from some of California’s most environmentally conscious regions.
Planning effort for Sonoma County coast draws scrutiny
Newly drafted guidelines for future development along the Sonoma Coast are inspiring interest and, in some cases, anxiety about potential policy shifts that some fear could alter their cherished coastline for the worse.
OpEd: Stealth Move on Sonoma Coast
In a quiet effort to rewrite the Sonoma County General Plan Coastal Agriculture element, the Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department (PRMD) has been revising the ordinances that have protected the coast for decades, and would open the floodgates to development. Two community meetings along the coast have been held, ostensibly to share the 79 pages of new proposed ordinances, but residents say that the PRMD staffers neglected to inform them of the most dramatic changes to the Coastal Agriculture elements.
Coho vs. Pinot
In July, roughly 1,000 rural Sonoma County residents overflowed classrooms and small meeting chambers at five informational sessions convened by the State Water Resources Control Board. It would be hard to exaggerate many attendees’ outrage. At one meeting, two men got in a fistfight over whether to be “respectful” to the state and federal officials on hand.
Sonoma County residents’ battle with wineries is about more than water
These days, the redwood-shaded creek by Laura and Ray Waldbaum’s house is a bone-dry path of rocks and gravel, its occasional stagnant pools a somber reminder of the salmon that once thrived there.
Wine and Water Watch (WWW) Challenges Northern California’s Invasive Wine Empire
Sonoma County, California — Activists objecting to the over-growth of the wine/hospitality industry in rural areas of four Northern California counties have met monthly for half a year. At their August 15 meeting in Healdsburg, Sonoma County, one of the wine industry’s epicenters, they agreed to name themselves Wine and Water Watch (WWW).
Grape growers oppose new pesticide rules
The California Association of Winegrape Growers has joined with more than 45 other agricultural groups to oppose new rules on the use of pesticides around schools.
Activists see Sonoma County winegrowers’ proposed bill as a ‘water grab’
Environmentalists are mobilizing in protest of a would-be bill backed by the local wine industry that would create an irrigation district intended to protect the water rights of about 1,000 grape growers in the Russian River region.
Close to Home: Sonoma County’s David vs. Goliath story
It’s a “sort of grapes versus eggs story,” reported an excellent Aug. 6 Press Democrat story (“Backlash over closure”). The Windsor Oaks Vineyard and Winery, seeking to expand its events, forced the closure of the popular Wise Acre Farm’s egg stand, disappointing many local food customers.
Wine Industry Water Grab?
California’s slow-mo adoption of groundwater regulations is prompting all sorts of legal maneuvers by the state’s irrigation elite, who are striving for the fewest restrictions on their pumps possible. In the Russian River watershed, from where I write this dispatch, arguably the irrigation elite’s elitist elites are the grape growers of northern Sonoma County.
Settlement calls for full study of disputed Sonoma Mountain winery project
A San Francisco couple who want to build a winery and creamery on Sonoma Mountain Road overlooking Bennett Valley will have to undergo a significantly more extensive planning and environmental review process under terms reached in a settlement deal between the county and neighbors who opposed the project.
How Overdevelopment Dries Up Resources
Though Tom Fendley is proud that some of the best chardonnays in the world hail from his backyard, he’s not blind to the toll that Sonoma County’s wineries are taking on drought-stricken California. The 400-plus area wineries use more than a billion gallons of water annually, even as the state imposed water restrictions in January to cope with its driest four years on record. But conservation in Wine Country falls squarely on home owners because agricultural enterprises such as vineyards are largely exempt from the state’s orders.
Close to Home: Is Big Wine the Big Oil of Sonoma County?
The Sonoma County wine industry is starting to look like big oil. Its leaders crow about preserving the environment when they have created an unmitigated environmental disaster. They recently received $374,000 of taxpayer money to implement “sustainability” in Sonoma County. A good thought. Suspicions arise when the first thing they did with their taxpayer grant was buy a full page ad and label themselves “sustainable.”
Rural residents decry water restrictions at Occidental meeting
A feisty crowd of west county residents peppered state regulators Monday night with questions about why new water conservation rules aimed at saving endangered coho salmon do not apply to vineyards.
Tourism’s Faustian deal
I just returned from a trip to Europe.
One of the visits was to the island of Sylt on Germany’s North Sea. The island is connected to the mainland by bridge with road and train service. Its spectacular 25-mile-long sandy beaches have always been the secret playground of the German rich and famous. Beautiful thatched roof homes used to comprise a cohesive country community, always a big part of the attraction.
Turning Water into Wine
The unregulated growth of California’s wine industry in the state’s coastal regions is depleting groundwater supplies and devastating rivers and fisheries.
Backlash against ‘Big Wine’
Citizens from four North Coast counties met in Calistoga on May 2 for their third monthly meeting. The rampant, sprawling growth of corporate vineyards and wineries as commercial, industrial event centers was their focus. They created a regional network of groups from Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties.
Caymus Pays $1 Million for Alleged Violations of Napa County Rules
Napa Valley winery accused of bottling too much wine on-site; will settle and move bottling operations.
Winery proposal faces challenges from community
A massive winery proposed by a Napa County winemaker near the crossroads of Highway 12 and Llano Road east of Sebastopol will now be subject to a full environmental review, but opponents of the project are still pulling out all the stops in hopes of stopping it.
Two controversial winery development decisions appealed
Two controversial decisions in an increasingly contentious battle over winery development in Sonoma County are being appealed, placing the issue squarely before the Board of Supervisors.
Dairyman Winery has no Easement over Joe Rodota Trail
Dairyman Opposition Group Asks County to Deny Easement over popular walking/bike path
Neighbors to Preserve Rural Sonoma County (PRSC), a 2-month old environmental organization with over 1,000 supporters, is challenging the proposed Dairyman Winery Event Center Project on Highway 12 between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol and has learned that the property owner has no deeded easement onto the property.
PD Editorial: Getting ready for the next drought
California’s drought is in its fourth punishing year, but the state’s water supply started declining at least a decade before the drought started.
Close to Home: New winery backlash rising
Wine Country is starting to take a good hard look at itself. Residents in both Napa and Sonoma counties are organizing to challenge recent proposals for new and expanded wineries/event centers in rural areas. With the Sebastopol City Council unanimously voting no at its Feb. 3 review of the huge Dairyman Winery proposal and the Napa County Board of Supervisors meeting on March 10 to discuss winery over-development, a backlash against winery over-development is gaining steam.