Napa Valley Dodges the Dreaded Wedding Bullet

Winerywedding Napa Valley dodged a bullet this week. Were it not for the brave representatives of the people on the Board of Supervisors who resisted the call to allow dirty commercialism to infest this bucolic agricultural paradise, it's quite likely the beautiful grapes you see carpeting the Valley would soon be replaced by wedding chapels and limos filled with with off-the-rack tuxedo-wearing marauders. Worse yet, had the board of supervisors not voted to keep weddings out of Napa Valley wineries, this most unique Valley of simple farmers would see themselves endure the fate of their Sonoma Valley peers—a horror I witnessed personally.

At issue on Tuesdays in the halls of government was whether the Board of Supervisors should heed the call of a rabble rousing, commerce-pushing, job-hungry bunch of crass commercialists and amend the Winery Definition Ordinance to allow wineries to host weddings. The vine-killing, soul-destroying practice that is weddings near vineyards has been outlawed in Napa Valley for many years, forcing those people with their starry-eyed fly-over country bumpkin families, bursting purses, and their bubble-drinking guests to go over the hill and spread rice among the vineyards of Sonoma Valley.

By a vote of 3-2, the Napa Board of Supervisors sided with the forces of heaven and saved this valley from seeing its agricultural character destroyed by the wedding.

I, as a newly arrived Napa resident who spent too many painful years in Sonoma Valley where the call of jobs, economic diversity and tax revenue long ago spoiled that poor region, am joyful that Napa Valley and its much more beautiful people will not have to be exposed to the jobs, economic diversity  and tax revenue that has infested the other side of the hill.

This is farsighted public policy making on the part of our representatives. Denied by those who called upon the Supervisors to let them host gown-clad riff raff, employ florists, sell wine to unappreciating, palate-deficient out-of-towners all for the sake of jobs and income, is the simple fact that allowing such ceremonies to occur at what are supposed to be just production facilities would forever destroy the Napa agricultural preserve.

The "wedding-crew" asked how this could be? They wanted to know just how it was that opening a winery to 150 people would lead to the destruction of our agricultural nirvana, our beautiful and unspoiled ag heritage. I bet they would like to know!!!

All I can say is just look at Sonoma Valley and what has happened to that poor, wannabe "wine region" to get an idea of what happens when wineries are allowed to host weddings. I witnessed it first hand.

In the first place, you just don't see Sonoma Valley's Highway 12 and Arnold Drive lined the kind of beautiful and architecturally stunning masterpieces that you see here in Napa, created by simple, well-traveled farmers that that just want a stimulating environment in which to make wine. Over there, where weddings are allowed, the average winery tends to be a simple barn-shaped, un-adorned structure that one can hardly pick out from the surrounding oaks, grasslands and vineyard. Is THAT what you want over here??

And don't let those seemingly beautiful Sonoma Valley vineyards, meandering backroads, and unclogged byways fool you. It hides a dirty, secret underbelly that is the result of…weddings. If you look closely, you'll see the filthy residue left over from weddings that is the impact of low and medium wage "jobs" created by Sonoma's trade in weddings. You'll notice a well established patina of good will, painted across the Sonoma Valley by the wedding crowd that just uses Sonoma Valley, then just leaves their well wishes and gratefulness littered all over.  And while vineyards appear to continue to expand and Sonoma Valley wines appear to please palates, the fact is that the weddings they host in their wineries taint their wines with the ugly aroma of pedestrian and wider appeal.

This is the future Napa Valley's Board of Supervisors saw and resisted: jobs, economic activity, tax revenue, good will and wider exposure of wines among a potentially pedestrian crowd. No one in their right mind wants that.

As a former Sonoman who has see the faux happiness, ugly jobs and unseemly economic activity that weddings at wineries can lead to, I say leave it over the hill. Keep Napa the beautiful, unspoiled agricultural haven that does not bend to commercialism, tourists demands and the ugly consequences of brides and grooms.

31 Responses

  1. Hope - May 13, 2010

    Ohhh I loved it !! Once again you have raised our minds out of the gutter of only thinking of jobs and economic growth to the bigger picture.. I have sent the link of this to all my family living in the Napa area. But will not be seeing them until I fly down for a wedding in Sonoma….. As usual your writing is fantastic and oh so true!! LOL

  2. Jim Caudill - May 13, 2010

    Okay, Hope’s comment makes me rest a bit easier, knowing that a sense of irony is still possible, and detectable among your considerable bloggership…God help those who don’t read carefully, and all the way thru, and realize what mischief you’re up to.
    For a moment, I thought that lovely Napa gal had fully corrupted you, and you’d never work over the Hill again. Worthy of the Hosemeister….

  3. Brian Wing - May 13, 2010

    Wow. Don’t you think it’s that kind of venomous talk that breeds stupidity? While I would agree that weddings at wineries can leave behind some undesirable effects. Your gross generalization is inaccurate at best and down right mean-hearted and wrong at the worst.
    Don’t both valleys have the gouache sprawling capitalistic tendencies you appear to eschew?
    I would hope you write only for shock, like some wine pundit for the Napa valley and that you truly don’t believe that Sonoma County wineries are this narrow minded and soulless.
    Perhaps you should stop by some wineries over the hill once in a while.
    Boo to you sir!

  4. JohnLopresti - May 13, 2010

    I think Napa may be ahead of its neighbors with respect to environmental impacts. The increase in quantity of winery premises has created an aggregate atmospheric shift. I think future EIRs in both counties need to address many new factors created by the overall confluence of what has become a lot more occurrences than a few slow gondolas towing behind the final tractors heading to the crushpad during a six weeks span each autumn, or the desultory biplane sulphuring vinerows.
    Maybe after the elections, the next board of supervisors of Napa county will revisit their decision, and, as an interim compromise at that nebulous future date, begin to allow marriages but only those in which the moderns retain their own born names instead of erasing the nee of one of the pair. The folks who want a full shift of surname still can resort to doing so on a veranda which welcomes their festivities near a nondescript Sonoma county structure of the neo-barn architecture school.
    Overall, I think Napa usually gets it right and does it first. However, the wide successes in Sonoma county enology and viticulture in recent years seem to indicate the supervisors in Napa may do well to watch their neighboring county for a new approach. Vive la difference.

  5. Catie - May 13, 2010

    Wine and spirit wholesale distributors are known for having huge warehouses. I think with the vision of a starry-eyed bridezilla and her mother; along with the assistance of a pandering wedding coordinator; you could add flowers, beads, gauze, astro-turf, swags and transform one of those large WSWA member’s warehouses into a thing that only dreams are made of. This could be the solution to protect our vineyards all around the US.

  6. Ron Washam, HMW - May 13, 2010

    Tom, don’t be naive. Napa Valley is for Divorces, not weddings. This pumps enormous money into the legal trade, as well as real estate agents who sell wineries.

  7. Larry Chandler - May 13, 2010

    I note that no major event not linked to the marketing of wine is permitted. Perhaps a wedding can be held if once the bride and groom say “I do,” the invited guests can also say “I do” to perhaps joining the wine club. Now the bride can include in her wedding album pictures of the guests receiving their wine club shipments. Surely this will pass muster with the Board of Supervisors. They do already allow marriages of wines with food.

  8. Recently Impacted - May 13, 2010

    Indeed, as someone who was just laid off from a Napa winery who has repeatedly turned away weddings and the income generated from them towards Sonoma, I’m VERY happy that Napa continues to feel that they are above being a business. And as someone who lives in Sonoma, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, Tom. Weddings aside, the most gaudy of winery endeavors (Copala excluded, who came over from the Napa side) seems to be coming from the very side of the mountains that acts that they’re all about agriculture… exactly how many german castles and roman pillars are there on Arnold Drive?

  9. Hardy Wallace - May 13, 2010

    Funny stuff Tom.
    “In the first place, you just don’t see Sonoma Valley’s Highway 12 and Arnold Drive lined the kind of beautiful and architecturally stunning masterpieces that you see here in Napa, created by simple, well-traveled farmers that that just want a stimulating environment in which to make wine.”

  10. Bob R. - May 13, 2010

    I didn’t have time to read all the comments, but I think most, but not all, readers got the satire. My wife and I used to visit northern California 20 years ago before we “discovered” France (Like Columbus discovered America), and greatly preferred the realness (a word?) of Sonoma to Napa (which was indeed beautiful but already on the way to being ruined). Keep up the great work.

  11. fredric koeppel - May 13, 2010

    Jonathan Swift would be proud of your well-honed irony.

  12. Brett - May 13, 2010

    Some people probably think that weddings in Napa vineyards would be a quick fix to their bottom lines. Problem is, as Wark points out, quick fixes aren’t always good as the long term out weighs the short.

  13. Steve Heimoff - May 14, 2010

    I heard on Fox News that weddings cause Global Warming. Not only that, off-the-rack tuxedos have been implicated in terrorism. Bin Laden supposedly owns 51% of Selix. Every time a groom rents a tux, he is supporting Al Qaeda. I bet the grooms don’t know that. And did you ever notice that “bridesmaid” and “dirty bomb” have the same number of letters? So I’m with you all the way on this one, Tom. Thank goodness Napa Valley has sense enough to keep terrorism beyond its pristine borders!

  14. Angela - May 14, 2010

    Hilarious! You, sir, are a master!

  15. Richard - May 14, 2010

    C’mon man, this is about marriage and weddings and your fear thereof? Right. And I hear you – weddings give me the heebie jeebies too – I cry at weddings because I’m thinking about those poor schmucks who will be divorced within a year if not before…
    And, if the Napa Board needs evidence of the horrors that opening up the Valley would entail, they need go no further than their own backyard – yes, right there in River City – Napa Town. They opened it up and my God! look what’s happened. All of those swank hotels and glitzy restaurants evil-ly (evilly?) pandering to the influx of the hayseed tourist element competing for their every dollar. Oh, the agony! And just think, the river doesn’t over flow any longer (well, most of the time) because of the outrageous decisions made to shore it up and put in the River Walk… Just think, had it been left to it’s bucolic nature, the river would over flow, no hotels would be damaging the landscape, and instead of smelling the boutique food, we could drive (boat?) through downtown Napa and smell the wafting of equine and bovine excrement. Ah, the days of old…
    Seriously, the Napa Board will have to wake up some day and realize that what they’re demonizing is the very thing that lends them any importance or relevance at all. Thanks Tom for another scathing piece of journalism!

  16. sterling silver cufflinks - May 14, 2010

    I’d still say that Napa Valley is a perfect wedding location. The post is a good satire. Thanks Tom for sharing your thoughts.

  17. Kathy B - May 14, 2010

    Nothing like a well written satire to prove a point! It was almost convincing! Well done, as usual!

  18. Roger King - May 14, 2010

    Priceless satire my friend, BUT the intended point is oh so sharp it might pop the bubbles in the bubbly.

  19. Mike Duffy - May 14, 2010

    Well done, sir!

  20. Amy - May 14, 2010

    Does anyone know if there is some kind of an exception or loophole to this no weddings in Napa Valley rule? I seem to remember that Christina Aguilera was married at Staglin Vineyards several years back. (What can I say? I read a lot of tabloid trash.) So is there a real exception or just an exception if you’re really, really, really rich?

  21. Larry King Daddy - May 15, 2010

    I like weddings, and I have known a few. Now that the Napa Valley has tossed me aside with the same abandon I feel for the blog’s I read yesterday (I mean “who can remember them all at my age?”), I am happy to cast my lot with Sonoma. Sure, Sonoma has no castles–if you exclude Ledson, and no rich farmers if you exclude Ledson, Kunde, Jordan and Jordan, but it has that lovely charm that comes from being second best, and that’s about where I am on the subject of mariage anyhow.
    Besides, Napa is boring. So much Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. Much better over there in Sonoma. Love those old-fashioned field blends that I grew up on. “What’s that you say, the field blends are gone and have been replaced by Cab Sauv, Merlot and Chardonnay?”. Oh, well, I guess I will just have to stick with Vegas. Last time I heard, Elvis was alive and well there. Napa has never had an Elvis. Elvis has been at all eight of my weddings.

  22. Barney Treadway - May 15, 2010

    So right, money is so dirty. I’d rather just not touch it in my business either.
    But I’m confused, I thought all Napa wines were made in the Central Valley? Do they have weddings there?

  23. tom merle - May 15, 2010

    What is particularly galling are the fascists like Volker Eisele and Peter McCrae who can’t take advantage of such marketing endeavors so they will make damn sure other producers don’t either. I talked to Warren Winiarski, another opponent, who said ponderously that he remembers helping to turn away proposals years ago to bring elephants into the Valley. Talk about straw (eating) animals.
    I think Larry Chandler is on to something. Stealth weddings. Reserve a space as a business gathering. Dispense with all the conventional trappings of a wedding, use euphemisms. The exchange of vows could occur elsewhere but the reception in the form of presentation with a long social hour could occur at the winery. Be sure to dispense with the limos.

  24. renaissance dresses - May 16, 2010

    This is a good news. This is why our environment is slowly deteriorating. Because of these buildings that businessmen and politicians build.

  25. Radu Prisacaru - May 17, 2010

    One of the most important thing to make real dreaming about 1st position of google is diversity of link sources, and all backlinks of course should to be do follow.

  26. Lenny - May 17, 2010

    The good people of Napa are bit by bit discovering that the wine business is still a business like any other. Ironically these days, it’s usually about the same time that they get the letter from the unsecured creditors’ attorneys.

  27. Morton Leslie - May 17, 2010

    Dang, add wedding chapels to the 10,000 other businesses that are not allowed in the Napa Valley ag preserve. Guess the “drink it and piss it” crowd’s going to have to go to Sonoma.

  28. Drink Me Magazine - May 18, 2010

    Hmm, interesting. Are Weddings of all sizes banned? Obviously not on privately owned property, right?

  29. Mary B. - May 18, 2010

    Hah! I started reading this and I thought, “WHaaaa?” “What has HAPPENED to Tom?” And then the light slowly began to dawn until the finale sunrise. Good come on, and a great satire! (You know you’re going to get all kinds of grief for this, right?)

  30. Tia - May 19, 2010

    I had the same response Mary! I’ve lunched with Tom before and am a wedding photographer and I was shocked at first by his attitude – glad I kept reading! I just hope the majority of his readers saw the sarcasm.
    Great job Tom!

  31. Juliet Johnson - July 26, 2011

    It’s the union of two people that’s being celebrated during weddings, not the location…just saying.

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