Monday, June 14, 2021

Dan Berger: What is WINO?

 Sonoma County, often called "the other wine country," is larger and more diverse than its better-known neighbor, Napa. 

    It has more wine-tasting facilities, hosts dozens of hospitality events (weddings, concerts, charity wine auctions) and has faced complaints from numerous residents upset over traffic, noise, litter and more.

   Ancillary events bring tourist dollars, so after decades of discussion, the county now plans to codify rules that will define what a winery can and cannot do -- a dilemma that has faced many tourist-oriented areas over the decades.
    For instance, can wineries host weddings?

    Decades ago, I visited a winery (not in the United States) that was designed in a long, narrow shape. Its sole purpose was to have large lawns on each side of the building's two separate entrances. 

    The hospitality director said the idea was to design a facility that could host two weddings on the same day, even at the same hour, with neither party aware the other was there.

    Getting married at a winery can be elegant. Wineries can be gorgeous and can provide wine for guests (for a fee, of course), catering (fee), music (fee) and other services (fees).

    Weddings can be complicated. This, said the hospitality director, was a one-stop wedding shop.

    In this case, the winery produced ordinary wines that were outrageously expensive, I concluded. Then it hit me: This wasn't a winery; it was a WINO -- a winery in name only. Wine was an afterthought. It was a "wedding place" calling itself a winery. 

    This sort of business might not be allowed in the Napa Valley, which struggled for years trying to define just what a winery was.

    After a simmering-then-boiling debate that pitted residents against the wine industry, compromises were reached that dealt with lots more than just "can a winery do weddings?"

    Questions could be knotty. Some early-founded wineries in Napa had always done things properly and shouldn't be penalized, they argued. Many demanded to be grandfathered in.

    The original debate also included questions of whether a winery could have a cafe on site. The fear was that restaurants might become more popular than the winery.

    There's also questions of permits for hotels; dealing with commercial zones; parking and traffic issues (I once proposed a toll road); snacks ("palate cleansers") at tasting rooms; concerts; art displays and more.

    That debate arose about the time Robert Mondavi proposed his "Mondavi Mission": a museumlike facility dedicated to wine, food and the arts. He proposed placing the building adjacent to his winery in Oakville.

    Residents threw such a fit that Mondavi almost lost his right to host concerts on site, so he abandoned the Oakville site and acquired land in Napa, where he built Copia: a great idea that never took root.

    The "what is a winery" debate never really ended in Napa, and now Sonoma County faces its own set of dilemmas. With about 325 tasting rooms, Sonoma will debate various issues over several months, and the Planning Commission will eventually define what a winery can and cannot do.

    Whatever it decides, many will be displeased.

    Wine of the Week: 2020 Babich sauvignon blanc, Marlborough ($13): This fine producer of excellent red and white wines is located in Hawkes Bay on New Zealand's North Island. When New Zealand sauvignon blanc was becoming very popular in the United States at about $15, the family made a stellar lower-priced wine to sell for about $10 from acreage it bought in Marlborough on the South Island. The wines were so good that they ramped up production and cut costs by shipping cases to itself (a "direct import" that cut out a major layer of distribution costs). That allowed Babich to sell this wine at a lower price than it normally would have. The aroma is classic Marlborough (lime, tropical fruit, grapefruit, gooseberry), and it's drier than most. It's occasionally seen at less than $10!

    To find out more about Dan Berger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at



Anonymous said...

Interesting article.

Just got back from Sonoma and went to Rams Gate Winery and it seemed sort of odd how they had to serve wine and to whom they could and for how long. We knew an employee and things got a bit easier. The winery is right next to Sonoma Raceway which was extremely busy and it was kind of loud for a while. Looks like change will be happening as more people and money moves that way.

The area is gorgeous fires aside.

Fun for a group to visit.

Anonymous said...

We toured Sonoma wine country several years ago and enjoyed it more than the two tours we've had of Napa in the past. We capped it off with dinner at The French Laundry. Washington state also has some phenomenal wineries.

Anonymous said...

Branson has a real nice winery.

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

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In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

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Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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