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.
Shone Farm has sold several thousands of dollars of wine since the Wineyard opened, Schwing said.
To make the financing possible for Shone Farm, Dino and Maria D'Argenzio donated the space in the tasting room, a cost that usually runs about $1,300 per month, Dino said.
"All of this is about helping small brands incubate and launch themselves into larger brands," he said. "It's all about supporting community-based agriculture in Sonoma County."
On tap at the adjacent pub are regional brews from well-known haunts like North Coast Brewery and smaller ones like Ruth McGowen's of Cloverdale.
"The idea with the beer is that every time someone walks through the door, we have something new on tap," said Chris O'Connell, general manager of The Wineyard. "Our real focus is on the small folks, who have no distribution at all."
There are eight beers on tap, a number they plan to double. In the Wineyard, the goal is to eventually showcase wines from each of Sonoma County's viticulture areas.
A relatively new venue, the Wineyard has been relying on referrals from destinations like the Flamingo Hotel and the Santa Rosa Convention & Visitors Center. With gas prices well above $4 a gallon, the center provides a closer alternative for many local wine lovers, Dino D'Argenzio said.
"Many people don't have the money to go out to the middle of Alexander Valley, and people can taste from multiple wineries right here," he said.