Backers of an effort to establish the California Wine Center, a museum, wine library, events center, and food service facility in the Courthouse Square area of Santa Rosa in Sonoma County Saturday touted a bill signed by Governor Brown as a major step toward opening the center in 2018.

Assembly Bill 297, signed last month, authorizes on-sale general license for a wine and food cultural museum and education center and allows it to be applied in Sonoma County.

Backers stated Saturday that signing of the bill would be a kickstart to a capital campaign to fund the opening of the center and planning of the facility.

“Plans include exhibition areas, a full-service a la carte, food and beverage operation, meeting and event spaces with catering, and retail sale of wine and wine-related products,” stated Dan Berger, wine columnist, wine judge, and educator.

Berger is a member of the nonprofit center’s board, along with Bill Carle and Healdsburg Living publisher Cindy Butner.

The project director is Giles Beeker who is also project manager with downtown Santa Rosa developer Hugh Futrell. The latter is developing plans for a nearly $20 million hotel on Santa Rosa’s Courthouse Square adjacent to where the wine center would operate.

“We’re still in the early stages of planning – including finalizing the name of the center,” Beeker stated Saturday in the announcement. “Our next step is to reach out to key stakeholders and the community as a whole to include them in the development process. We have a location, and this bill allows us to accept donations of wine from qualifying entities within ABC’s three-tier system. We can then sell that wine in a retail setting. Establishing ongoing income like that is fundamental to building and sustaining a strong nonprofit that supports its community.”

The announcement Saturday indicated Futrell and others have committed to donate property for the facility.

Another member of the center board, Lindsay Austin, states in the announcement that the mission of the center would be ”to educate and engage visitors and professionals on the wine industry’s past, present, and future.”

The measure expands Alcoholic Beverage Control Act provisions which had allowed alcohol to be sold at “wine, food and art cultural museum and education” centers in Napa County to Sonoma County. It was authored by San Rafael Democrat Marc Levine.