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Paul Franson

Paul Franson

Is the county targeting virtual winery owners?

Some people who own “virtual” wineries (wineries with 17/20 retail and wholesale permits, not physical wineries with 02 licenses) report that the District Attorney’s Office has recently been aggressively pursuing them for offering tastings in their homes or businesses without permits.

The county won’t grant tasting permits unless you have a winery, so no tasting rooms are allowed without a physical winery with a permit.

The people objecting admit that they’re breaking the law. They save a lot of money by not building a winery with a tasting room, but they also think that holding tastings in their homes or building tasting rooms would be better for preserving agriculture than ripping out vines to build wineries so they can do it legally.

Rob Mondavi, who isn’t one of those complaining about the enforcement, has also pointed out the contradiction in county regulations: they only allow wineries, not smaller tasting rooms, in the ag preserve but intend to encourage agriculture.

Wouldn’t it be better to have wine production in an industrial area like that near the airport or in the cities and small tasting rooms (not giant event centers) on the owner’s vineyard, which might already contain a home?

Of course, most visitors would rather take in a vineyard (and maybe among barrels and tanks) than in a store front or factory in an industrial area, too.

The people I’ve heard from say they think that this enforcement is part of the action promised by the county to enforce existing wine laws in respond to increasing complaints about wineries, especially those exceeding their entitlements.

Others say the county is after the money from the fines.

An inside source tells me, however, that there may be a simpler explanation.

Formerly, the District Attorney’s Office only had a part-time staffer investigating this. Now someone is working on it full time.

They’re also after other use violations, including all those homes without B&B licenses being rented for short terms through AirBNB.

At any rate, it sounds like anyone holding tastings without permits better watch out.

Acacia to become

Liana Estates

The Peju family from Peju Province Winery bought the former Acacia winery and vineyards (not the brand or inventory) from Diageo and will soon reopen it as Liana Estates.

The name is a contraction of the names of sisters Lisa and Ariana Peju.

As it’s in Carneros, it will make chardonnay and pinot noir wines, as Acacia did. Peju, on the other hand, focuses on Bordeaux varieties.

Color and tannin management strategies

The Department of Viticulture & Enology at UC Davis will host an all-day seminar in practical color and tannin management on Friday, June 9, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The cost is $200. Details available at www.ucanr.edu.

Wines & Vines Packaging Conference

The third annual Wines & Vines Packaging Conference will be held on Aug. 17 at Lincoln Theater in Yountville. It features seminars and a trade show. Get details at www.wvpack.com.

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