Enough Is Enough

Sonoma and Napa counties question winery expansion

Residents throughout Sonoma County are strategizing on how to challenge proposals for new and expanded wineries as event centers in rural areas. Meanwhile, the Napa County Board of Supervisors has a March 10 meeting to hear critics of winery overdevelopment.

The huge Dairyman Winery and Distillery proposed for high-speed Highway 12 near Llano Road in the greenbelt between Sebastopol and Santa Rosa has been the main target of opponents. Groups such as Sonoma County Conservation Action, Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, Sebastopol Water Information Group, Western Sonoma County Rural Alliance, the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, and Apple Roots sent critical comments about the project to the Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department.

These groups oppose the Dairyman project on many grounds, believing it will draw too much from the water table; lead to congested traffic; block the popular Joe Rodota trail; damage the fragile Laguna de Santa Rosa; and pollute the water, air and land in the area through the use of chemicals.

Grape growers and the wine industry contribute valuable economic benefits to Sonoma County. Even most critics appreciate a good glass of local wine, but they advocate moderation when it comes to such proposals, contending that Dairyman is too big and in the wrong place. Imagine tipsy tasters crossing the trail, full of bikers and walkers, and into 60-mile-an-hour traffic. The application demands that trail users “yield” to winery traffic.

The largest development being challenged is the recent $41 million purchase of La Campagna’s 186 acres near Kenwood by a Chinese firm. It was previously stalled by a lawsuit filed by the Valley of the Moon Alliance. If such winery projects are approved, they could set a dangerous precedent.

A movement against the expansion of rural wineries is growing. It could lead to calls for moratoriums on all new wineries, especially those wanting to be industrial, commercial event centers, located away from urban centers, spoiling pastoral splendor.

Shepherd Bliss [email protected] farms, teaches writing at Dominican University, and has contributed to 24 books.

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