Four Valley wineries busted in decoy sting
Tasting room employees at four Sonoma Valley wineries were cited on Saturday for serving alcohol to under-age decoys during a joint sting operation conducted by the Sonoma Police Department and the California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control.
Officers from both agencies conducted the operation at 10 Valley wineries over the course of four hours, using two 18-year-old decoys who entered tasting rooms and requested to be served.
Six of the tasting rooms refused service, but the decoys were served wine at Valley of the Moon Winery, BR Cohn Winery, Imagery Estate Winery and Schug Winery.
Employees who served the youths received criminal citations for furnishing alcohol to minors. The offending wineries will be referred to the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control for administrative sanctions.
Sonoma Police Chief Bret Sackett said he did not know how the targeted wineries were chosen, but added that the operation was initiated at the request of the ABC which recently gave the Sonoma Police Department a $25,000 grant to reduce underage drinking in the Sonoma Valley area.
The grant will underwrite a year-long campaign to employ underage decoys to solicit alcohol sales in the Valley, and will also include a so-called "shoulder-tap" strategy, in which decoys try to solicit legal-aged adults to buy alcohol for them. Sackett said no shoulder-tap stings have been attempted yet but will be before long.
Establishments cited for selling to minors are typically enrolled in ABC training sessions to educate servers on how to recognize and deal with underage customers.
Officers from the Sonoma Police Department underwent extensive training in preparation for implementing the grant. The program began operating in July.