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Robledo Family Winery seeks increase in local production from 300 to 50,000 cases

Robledo Family Winery has ambitious plans. Currently producing only 300 cases of wine at the on-site facility south of Sonoma, the winery is seeking permission to significantly increase its production to 50,000 cases. To meet that goal, it hopes to construct a number of new buildings – including a 9,910-square-foot hospitality and administration center.

The winery was founded by vineyard workers Reynaldo and María de La Luz Robledo in 1997, on their original 13-acre property in Carneros, known for its hospitable conditions for chardonnay and pinot noir. Their son, Reynaldo Jr., founded the Olive Tree Farm; a total of nine siblings are involved in the winery and vineyard management companies as well, including Everardo Robledo, 45, the CEO of Robledo Family Winery.

The list of wines that Robledo currently bottles is extensive – the usual reds such as cabernet, pinot noir and zinfandel, as well as barbera and tempranillo; and whites including chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio and a dry riesling.

* At present, Robledo produces about 20,000 cases of their branded wine, according to Eveardo Robledo, most of it at a winery production site on Eighth Street East thought the fruit is grown widely through Sonoma, Napa and Lake counties. Their intent is to move that production to the Bonness Road properties, where only 300 cases are produced under their current permit.

One acre of vineyard will be lost if the planned expansion is approved, but a replacement vineyard is in development. That’s the only vegetation that will be disturbed if construction on the 10-acre parcel is approved. (Several additional properties owned by the Robledos increase their Bonness Road holdings to almost 40 acres). The three buildings — one for barreling, one for fermentation and one for guests — will each span almost 10,000 square feet. A 5,340-square-foot receiving/crush area and a parking lot for 38 vehicles are also listed in the proposal.

The tile-roofed tasting room and a new administration building form the centerpiece of the project, topping out at 35 feet tall with towers on either side of the double-door entrance. The 980-square-foot oval tasting room behind those doors greets visitors. Beyond that lies a kitchen, restrooms, a wine club/VIP room, with a few offices and meeting rooms.

The second floor provides a spacious conference and lounge space, open to the tasting room below, as well as an overnight “guest suite” according to the planning application submitted to Permit Sonoma, PRMD.

All of that would be surrounded by a covered porch, which itself could include another tasting room and sales site.

A new large barrel room and event space would extend left from the hospitality building, a single-room wing of 2,900 square feet which would hold stacks of wine barrels while providing an atmospheric space for gatherings, from wine clubs to weddings.

The application includes a full year’s worth of hospitality events: four two-day industry-wide events per year (such as participation in Taste of Sonoma), 12 agricultural events with up to 300 guests, 20 winemaker lunches or dinners with up to 60 guests per event, and four private weddings with up to 150 guests.

Those events push the limits of the revised Winery Events Guidelines, which has been heard by the same committee Robledo will be facing on July 28: the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission. Similar guidelines are being considered by citizens advisory committees in the county’s other “areas of concentration,” which include Dry Creek and Westside Road near in the north county.

The guidelines are just that, designed to provide clarity on definitions of events so everyone – applicant, county staff and community – understands the appropriate use for these areas of concentration.

The guidelines are useful for making recommendations to the Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA) or the Board of Supervisors, but they are advisory, without any teeth for enforcement.

As Bradley Dunn of Permit Sonoma said, “Currently there are no winery guidelines, there is no winery ordinance. That’s why we’re looking to create clarity on this process so it’s not just relying on the general plan and common uses.”

However, the binding county-wide Winery Events Ordinance is in its final stages of review, and a vote by the Board of Supervisors is expected in the next few months. Because Robledo Winery’s planning application is already in process, said Dunn, “We would evaluate it the way we currently are evaluating winery applications. The number of events and activities would be considered as part of their application when deciding whether or not to recommend that recommend that project.”

Robledo will continue producing and bottling wine from their own grapes, grown on their estates in Napa, Lake and Sonoma Counties; however the production will be focused at the Bonness Road location. A small 1-acre chardonnay vineyard is being prepared, to replace the vines removed for the proposed expansion.

The expansion to 50,000 cases multiplies current wine production by 166 times, raising another environmental concern to consider: the availability of water.

The application only specifies an “onsite well” as the water source. Winery production uses water not only in growing the fruit but also in processing, specifically cleaning the tanks and other equipment and keeping the production facility clean. The general wisdom holds that four gallons of water are needed to produce one gallon of wine.

The Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission will address the request at its Wednesday, July 28, meeting. That meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. by Zoom; for information go to sonomacounty.ca.gov/Sonoma-Valley-Citizens-Advisory-Commission.

* NOTE: This article has been updated per the winery’s production and case permits following a conversation with Everardo Robledo.

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