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Wineyard seeks urban niche in Santa Rosa

  • Happy hour at the Hopyard in Vintner's Square on Cleveland Ave. in Santa Rosa. Owners plan on changing the name.

It's not the typical location for a tasting room in Wine Country.

A few blocks from Railroad Square, on a Santa Rosa street better known for car repair shops than wineries, a pair of tasting rooms for locally produced, small-batch wine and beer have opened their doors to the public.

Proprietors Dino and Maria D'Argenzio, who own the commercial property in the strip mall they dubbed Santa Rosa Vintner's Square, say the Cleveland Avenue setting will attract tasters on the go and help small brands draw the attention they need to grow.

"It was a gamble and a risk, and we said, &‘We think this will work,'" Dino D'Argenzio said.

"This is really just a couple of blocks from downtown," he said. "It's easy to ride your bike here, it's close to Railroad Square, and there's a lot of parking here."

The shopping center already has several winery tasting rooms: D'Argenzio Winery, owned by Dino's brother Ray; Sheldon Wines; and Krutz Family Cellars.

"We wanted to create a wine village," said Maria D'Argenzio. "We want to draw the community in. ... I can envision people coming here after work."

In January, the couple opened the Wineyard, a collective tasting room for four local wineries: Atascadero Creek, Flocchini Wines, Jazz Cellars, and Shone Farm, the teaching farm for Santa Rosa Junior College. Next door is a beer tasting room, now called "The Hopyard" but soon to be renamed.

For the college winemaking program, the Wineyard offers an opportunity for students to learn about tasting rooms and sales, said Mack Schwing, chairman of the Shone Farm Foundation. The students, under the direction of winemaker Chris Wills, make 300 to 400 cases of wine per year for retail, Schwing said.

"Depending on how this goes, we'll hopefully be able to ramp that up a bit and provide some revenue to support the agriculture department," he added.

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