Windsor Oaks winery, located at the end of a country lane just north of Windsor, wants to more than double its production capacity and begin catering to the public by adding several dozen promotional and wine events annually.
Not surprisingly, the prospect of increased traffic from weddings and other events that would draw as many as 300 people has led to complaints from residents along Hillview Road, which leads to the winery.
Ever since the vineyard went from appointment only, to hosting some public wine tasting weekends, “it feels more like we live in a noisy, urban industrial area with nonstop freeway of cars and trucks coming up and down the narrow one-lane road at all times night and day,” residents Daniel and Suvee McGree stated in a letter to county planners.
It's a familiar battle that has played out before in Wine Country, particularly Sonoma and Dry Creek valleys, where residents seeking to guard their tranquility have tried to stem tides of visitors streaming in for special events and tastings.
The most effective way to market wine is often to attract crowds.
“The industry says it's best to have events, bring people to the winery, give tours, show how the wine is made,” said county planner Traci Tesconi.
The concept, she noted, is “grape to glass. It's one way to get label recognition.”
Windsor Oaks may have found a way to appease many of its neighbors. After listening to the complaints, representatives for the winery have decided to improve a private road from Arata Lane and use that as the primary access to the winery, instead of the half-mile-long Hillview Road.
Steve Martin, a Sebastopol civil engineer representing Windsor Oaks, said Friday that as a result there actually will be less traffic on Hillview.
A traffic study showed there will be an average of 53 new daily trips generated from the events Windsor Oaks wants to stage.
But Martin said the plan is to funnel almost all the winery traffic, including visitors and employees, onto the winery's private road, after it is paved and chip sealed at a cost of more than $250,000.