SodaCanyonRoad | Stop food service at wineries

Stop food service at wineries
Bill Hocker | Aug 23, 2014 on: Solutions

There is an argument to be made that wineries may belong in vineyards - there is no argument to be made that restaurants do as well. (My rant about the food service aspects allowed under the WDO is here.)

Eliminate all food service from wineries. Wineries may be justified as agricultural processing facilities but serving food in wineries has nothing to do with the production of wine. Tours and tastings of wine being produced should continue as the only legitimate tourist activities tied to the wine making process.

Someone happened to mention the cult wine producer Screaming Eagle yesterday and so I looked up their website. This note on the site's FAQ made a great impression:

"Can I visit the property?
We are sorry to report that the property cannot accommodate tours and that because of the extremely small quantity of wine produced we do not offer tastings."

The lesson I took from this: Great wines don't need tourists.

The very well regarded Dominus Estate, recently involved in opposing the proposed mega-tourist attraction Yountville Hill Winery, is also a tourist-free zone.

Given all of the pleadings that some vintners make that their survival depends on tourist sales, these two examples make me wonder how many other of the valley's greatest winemakers feel no need to cater to tourists to sell their wines. And while those wineries that allow no visitors are probably rare, there are many wineries, like White Rock Vineyards on our road, that have managed to sell extremely good wines for decades with a very modest amount of by-appointment tastings. It does make me wonder if extensive marketing plans might, in fact, be a sign of second rate wines.

These examples reaffirm the idea that wineries can be profitable without tourism and that tours and tastings are sufficient to provide an in-winery marketing tool. Food service, and the commercial kitchens it requires, should be banned. "Social, Cultural and Business Events" belong in the hotels and resorts and restaurants located within the city limits as intended in the general plan.

In 1990 the WDO was burdened with an original sin that has now begun to affect the maintenance of an agricultural economy. The permission to " include food service without charge except to the extent of cost recovery when provided in association with such education of development" has allowed wineries to become fixed-menu restaurants with a restaurant's need for extensive staff, parking, water supply and wastewater treatment, and extended operating hours. Restaurants are commercial activities in direct competition for the land and water resources necessary for agriculture. That permission needs to be struck from the WDO if agriculture is not to be whittled away by further more profitable commercial "event centers" throughout the 1000's of agricultural properties throughout the county. Wineries may belong in the vineyards - restaurants do not.

The solution:
1. The 2010 "clarification" of the WDO should be rescinded in its entirety.
2. The "Marketing of Wine" paragraph in the 1990 WDO should be recinded.