Napa marketing rules loosened

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California’s Napa County wineries were recently granted an easing to the strict rules which apply on how they market their wines when the Napa County Board of Supervisors last month voted to approve changes to the authoritative Winery Definition Ordinance, giving wineries explicit permission to host corporate events and pair wine with food.

The new rules still do not allow wineries to host weddings, wedding parties, anniversary events or any parties that aren’t considered directly linked to the marketing of wine. Wineries must also continue to abide by a 20-year-old rule that requires them to host tours and tastings by appointment only.

Napa County’s WDO was adopted in 1990 and limits commercial activities in Napa County’s agricultural areas by ensuring that wineries focus almost entirely on the production of wine. These are far more restrictive than similar guidelines in other winegrowing regions and were attacked last year when the economy went down hill and the local wine industry contracted as a result.

As a result the hospitality industry lobbied Napa County leaders to allow wineries the freedom to decide for themselves what types of social events they can host, hoping increased flexibility would bring in much-needed revenue. The debate raged for months but the final changes to the WDO are relatively minor.

The new rules state that wineries may host parties only if they can show they’re directly tied to the marketing of their wines. Since this could be interpreted in different ways, the majority of supervisors adopted a resolution that outlines examples of what is permitted and what is not.