Residents discuss pros, cons of tasting rooms

It was an entirely civil meeting, with two sides debating the merits of wine tasting rooms and what, if anything, should be done about them.

On one side, local vintners say the current system is working fine without any interference, and that tasting rooms are improving Sonoma for tourists and locals alike. On the other, some residents say the sheer number of tasting rooms is threatening the character of Sonoma’s historic downtown and Plaza.

The special meeting – held Monday night as a joint session between the City Council and Sonoma Planning Commission at the Sonoma Community Center – was called in response to this growing controversy, with a chance for the public to weigh in. About 20 people did so, out of approximately 50 people in attendance.

“There’s a concern that I heard, and that I share, that there is a critical mass” in terms of how many tasting rooms the Plaza can accommodate, said Councilmember Steve Barbose, who called the special meeting in the first place.

Barbose’s comments – delivered early in the meeting, along with those of other city officials – made him a voice for the pro-regulation side Monday night. He praised the downtown area’s current tasting rooms (“You’ve done a terrific service for our community”) while also expressing belief that regulation of some sort was in order.

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