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The Winery Definition Ordinance, or WDO, since 1990 has governed how wineries can operate in the unincorporated areas of Napa County, such as scale of production, which events they can hold and how they can market themselves.
Leading up to the renewal of the ordinance early this year, debate raged over leaving it as is and making certain changes.
Those advocating leaving it as is, generally, view it as part of a number of protections for Napa Valley agriculture. The ordinance is said to work in conjunction with the 23,000-acre Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve, created in 1968, and land-use policies in the county General Plan to limit building on vineyard land and retain a rural feel outside of town.
When the WDO was up for renewal, there was a push to amend it to allow more tourism-related events at wineries nestled among the vines. One argument was that the high-end wine business is heavily intertwined with visitor travel to the valley.
The future of the wine business in Napa Valley and the interplay of land-use protections and necessary public visibility was center stage at the Business Journal's Aug. 29 Impact Napa: Wine conference.
Conference speaker Bill Harlan, producer of "cult" cabernet sauvignon wine Harlan Estate, said Napa Valley is becoming a globally known wine region and has the potential to become a "national treasure" but needs a joint community effort to protect. [Read more of Mr. Harlan's comments and those from other Impact Napa speakers on land-use regulations.]