About 14 years ago, Schwaesdall Winery here in the Ramona Valley opened their small tasting room. It cost Johnny about $7,000 in fees to the County of San Diego. About 18 months ago, Hawk Watch Winery in the back country, opened their small wine tasting room at their Boutique family winery and it cost them $250,000.
This is the reason we have over 17 bonded wineries in the Ramona AVA, but still only ONE tasting room in Ramona – Schwaesdall. The County Department of Land Use Planning (DPLU) tars all wineries with the same brush – whether a huge enterprise like a Callaway or Gallo, or a wee family owned and operated Boutique Winery. If there is going to be a tasting room so the public can actually try your wine before they buy it, you must have a Major Use Permit (MUP). Now, if it cost $7,000 today – or even $27,000 there would not be much complaining, but rarely can a small family owned winery afford the quarter million dollars.
In the meantime, all the small wineries are “limited wholesale”, and forced to give away most of their profits to middle men. The County Board of Supervisors are addressing this problem. We believe they finally understand the positive economic impact to the entire County that a thriving wine industry would impart. There will be a hearing to pass (hopefully) a Tiered Winery Ordinance on August 4th, 2010 at the Board of Supervisors meeting. This would allow a small family winery, with certain strict conditions to operate a retail tasting room by right. Stay tuned!