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Wilson family wins Sonoma County approval for 11th winery


Ken and Diane Wilson’s latest winery, to be built in the heart of Dry Creek Valley, won final approval Tuesday from the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, leaving the couple relieved to get a green light 13 years after the project was first proposed.

Culminating a three-hour public hearing packed with accolades for the winemaking family, the board voted 4-1 to deny a valley resident’s appeal challenging a previous county decision supporting the project, which was first proposed in 2005.

Supervisor Susan Gorin, who represents winery-rich Sonoma Valley, cast the lone no vote, saying she was concerned that supervisors have failed to resolve the high-stakes question of over-concentration of wineries, which number more than 440 outside city limits.

“We have yet to grapple with it,” she said, referring to an issue that gained public traction in 2014.


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Sonoma County approves another new Dry Creek Valley winery

Eloísa Ruano González, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Following a decision by Sonoma County zoning officials Thursday, an Illinois couple has the go-ahead to build a new winery, tasting room and wine cave on West Dry Creek Road, northwest of Healdsburg.
The 4-1 vote by the Board of Zoning Adjustments gave Mary Roy and Robert Covert approval to construct a 5,000-case winery and tasting room, as well as a nearly 4,800-square-foot wine cave on the 47-acre property.
The decision came over the objections of several neighbors, who contend there are too many wineries on narrow West Dry Creek Road. With Seaton Winery under construction less than a tenth of a mile to the north and Williamson Winery approved to be built a half-mile to the south, neighbors argued adding another winery would create serious traffic safety problems and take away from the valley’s rural character.
“The cumulative effect of these three wineries and tasting rooms when they all commence operations will have a serious impact on this narrow, half-mile section of West Dry Creek Road,” said Brian Watanabe, who lives near the property owned by Roy and Covert.
The couple purchased the site, which includes 20 acres of vineyards, two years ago. It was previously approved for a 5,000-case winery, tasting room and 3,000-square-foot wine cave.
Roy and Covert secured approval to expand the cave and remove a mobile home on the site and replace it with a 1,800-square-foot building, which will house a 665-square-foot tasting room and a commercial kitchen. They initially wanted to place the tasting room on a knoll but changed their plans after neighbors voiced concerns.
The couple also wanted to build an outdoor pizza oven and grill. Concerned the winery would focus too much on food service, commissioners quashed that idea.
The winery, however, has permission to host industry-related events eight days out of the year. It also can hold eight private events, such as winemaker dinners, charity fundraisers and weddings, with up to 80 attendees each. Weddings will be limited to five a year, and no large buses will be allowed on the site.
Read more at: Sonoma County approves new Dry Creek Valley winery | The Press Democrat

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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.In Dry Creek Valley, a group of neighbors is contesting the Board of Zoning Adjustments’ decision to allow Ken and Diane Wilson to build a 25,000-case winery northwest of Healdsburg.
The zoning board on April 16 approved the Wilsons’ permit to construct the new Hale Winery on their 40-acre vineyard, but a nearby resident submitted an appeal to the Board of Supervisors on Monday — the last day to file. Neighbors are taking issue with the number of events permitted, the analysis of potential traffic impacts from the winery, and the study gauging impacts of music and construction noise on neighbors.
“Dry Creek Road used to be a hidden gem, but it’s becoming a lot more popular than it was years ago — cars are screaming up and down there all the time,” said Andrew Dieden, who filed the appeal and lives on the thoroughfare that winds through the heart of Dry Creek Valley. “The increased traffic poses a potential safety threat.”
Ken Wilson said he was surprised to learn about the appeal late Monday. He reasserted the need for special events at his new winery and said he wouldn’t draw more traffic to the area during existing wine industry gatherings such as barrel tasting weekend.“
We just accept the traffic that’s already there. We don’t create it,” Wilson said. “And other events are very important to my bottom line — they do bring a lot of people to the area, and often times they are here with their checkbooks ready.”
The appeal against the Wilsons’ Hale Winery comes amid a pronounced backlash from rural residents — particularly in northern Sonoma County — who complain that the impacts of new and existing winery developments on their neighborhoods detract from the county’s rural character, and that the increased traffic from popular winery events threatens other motorists and cyclists in the area.
Winery owners also are pushing back. David DiLoreto, an owner of Hop Kiln Winery, an existing winery that is expanding on 79 acres on Westside Road in the Russian River Valley, filed an appeal earlier this month of the zoning board’s April 2 decision to restrict events to 12 total per year — half of what he sought — including eight industrywide events and four special gatherings.
Read more via: Two controversial winery development decisions appealed | The Press Democrat