Windsor winery gets approval for expansion, public events

A Windsor winery was granted approval Thursday to more than double its production capacity and hold more than a couple dozen public events annually, despite protests from nearby residents worried about the increased traffic and potential disruption it could bring.

Windsor Oaks Winery, located at the end of a narrow country road north of Arata Lane, will be able to add public tasting, stage a limited number of parties, special events and even weddings.

But the Sonoma County Board of Zoning Adjustments reduced the number and size of the events the owner had sought and rejected his request to hold one concert and one play with up to 300 guests.

"I can't support a concert and play," said Commissioner Jason Liles. While the property might be able to handle it, Liles said, it would set a new precedent for other wineries in the North County area he represents.

Conflicts between wineries and neighbors are not uncommon in Wine Country, with rural residents sometimes objecting to the influx of traffic, noise and inebriated patrons.

Controversies have flared periodically, especially in Sonoma and Dry Creek valleys where there is a higher concentration of wineries.

Thursday's hearing was somewhat unique in that Windsor Oaks is relatively isolated, secluded on a 472-acre portion of a 710-acre ranch.

It also pitted horses against grapes, since the owners of nearby Smart Farm Equestrian Center said the increased cars would spook their horses and likely throw and injure riders.

Michael Murphy, a former president of the Sonoma County Fair, said "horses are flight animals," and said they could easily become frightened by the increased cars that will be coming close by the road leading to the winery.

Joy Koch, owner of the equestrian farm off Liberty Oak Road, said military veterans and at-risk children come there for therapy, peace and quiet, "not people screaming out of limos and racing by."

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