When San Joaquin County Supervisor Tom Patti was elected in 2016, he made plans to amend the county’s wine ordinance almost immediately, plans that came to fruition earlier this year.
“I had been paying attention the last couple of years to what the wineries were asking for and what the board was imposing, which I felt was a little heavy-handed. When I first got elected — on election night, actually — I said that I want to work on the wine ordinance and make it more business-friendly,” Patti said.
In August, the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors approved Patti’s revisions with a 3-2 vote, allowing wineries to increase the amount of attendees at events such as weddings and anniversary parties, as well as extending the hours during which amplified sound may be used from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. The ordinance also requires wineries to have a parking lot attendant when their main lot reaches its maximum capacity, and clarifies instructions regarding attendance levels.
The original ordinance was adopted in 2000 after residents living near wineries voiced concerns. There was also uncertainty regarding the definition of a winery, according to winemaker David Lucas of Lucas Winery.
“The ordinance came about because the wineries weren’t necessarily being good neighbors, although I think they’ve heard that and have since become good neighbors. The neighbors themselves also understand that they have a voice. The other part of it was ‘What is a winery?’ We wrestled with the definition for a while, and it was being abused for a while. A winery, in the strictest definition, is a place where you grow the grapes, make the wine and sell the wine. If they want to have wedding chapels or other activities, they need to be brought in under a different ordinance,” Lucas said.
These changes were met with support by other Lodi wineries such as Michael David Winery, according to co-owner David Phillips, who is optimistic that they will help encourage more tourism.
“I think it’s a good idea to expand the hours and allow people to enjoy our products. Tourism is really important, and we want to work with the county and make sure that we can provide all the services they need. It will allow more customers and more sales, which means we’ll have to hire more people and create more product. The wine industry is one of the largest employers of San Joaquin County residents. Providing good, high-paying jobs is something we do and we want the county to make it easy for us to provide jobs and tax revenue,” Phillips said.
Improving the wine economy was one of the main motivations behind the revisions, Patti said. A small business owner himself, Patti is familiar with everything that goes into making a business successful, something that he feels gives him a different perspective than his fellow supervisors. It is this perspective, he said, that allowed him to balance wanting the wine industry to thrive with his concerns for the quality of life for the county’s residence. With these latest revisions, Patti believes that wineries will be able to expand and thrive while maintaining good relationships with their neighbors.
“I’m very proud that myself and the board came together to maximize opportunity in Lodi, a booming, resoundingly important and globally recognized wine region,” Patti said.