Will Sonoma County Nix Food With Wine?
There is a move afoot in Sonoma County, as there is in Napa Valley, to put some sort of restrictions on winery marketing. As far as I can tell, the premise is that if we restrict how wineries can market and sell their wines there will be fewer visitors and this will impact wineries and county revenues in no way whatsoever. In theory.
Among the activities that the No-Winery-In-My-Backyard-Crowd objects too in Sonoma County, as well as in Napa, is the serving of food with wine in tasting rooms. It appears the primary criticism of wineries offering food pairings with their wine tastings is that it works; that is, visitors like it and it might encourage more visitors to come to wineries.
And of course visitors to wineries appreciate food and wine pairings. It gives them the opportunity to experience the wines they are tasting in the context they will most likely be using them—while eating. The food and wine pairing experience is more desirable in almost every respect to the simpler wine-only tasting experience. Equally important, consuming food while sampling wine mitigates the effect of the alcohol in wine. I presume this is a good thing, but who knows.
It was at a recent Sonoma County Board of Supervisors meeting that the Supervisors heard from a number of local residents determined to support new restrictions on Sonoma County wineries—including restrictions on food service at wineries. They meet again on this issue in 60 days.
Napa Valley dealt with the issue of food and wine pairings back in 2010 when the Napa Winery Definition Ordinance was amended to explicitly allow them as long as the part of the fee for the tasting and pairing that related to food didn’t exceed the cost of the food. Hopefully, Sonoma County will make an equally sage decision as Napa did 6 years ago.