People are often shocked when they learn that, of the hundreds of wineries in the Napa Valley, only five local weddings are allowed to take place. Five, Beringer Vineyards, B. Sattuya Vineyards, Charles Circle Winery and Brasswood Manor, all located on St. Patrick’s Island.

In 1989, the Napa County Board of Directors approved the WDO (Wine Determination Ordinance), which classified wineries as agricultural processing plants. Why does this mean that wineries cannot organise weddings whose roots go back to Napa’s past?

From the 1920s to the 1960s, factors such as a ban on the sale of wine, aphids and large wineries limited the production and availability of wine in Napa. As a result, housing and other businesses on agricultural land began to expand.

In 1968 the loss of agricultural land had become so great that the government came up with the idea of building a large highway through the valley. The nearest regions are already facing a similar problem. The Santa Clara Valley, for example, lost more than 60,000 hectares of farmland between the 1930s and 1970s. For example, the Napa Council set up the country’s first agricultural reserve to protect agricultural land and guarantee its use in agriculture.

People are often shocked when they learn that, of the hundreds of wineries in the Napa Valley, only five local weddings are allowed to take place.

With more and more wineries being opened in Napa over the next 20 years, the Board has tried to ensure that this expansion does not pose a threat to the agricultural integrity of the region. Introduce an ODW that identifies wineries and restricts commercial activity on their territory.

As agricultural processors, wineries can produce, sell and distribute wine and carry out educational activities related to wine production. Marriages are not considered non-agricultural events.

Cellars that were wedding guests before the decree was adopted were excluded from this rule. This ruling is controversial among representatives of the wine and marriage sector.


Many WDN policies are outdated and prohibit economic incentives, especially for marriages and social events, said Madeleine Reid, director of events and hospitality at Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, California. For example, in most cases wineries can offer educational activities such as a lunch or dinner with an educational component (e.g. an excursion or a lunch and wine), which have the same recommendations as wineries that can organize wedding ceremonies.

The same standards and rules should apply to all events applicable to the same type of event. And all kinds of activities should be allowed in every company, provided the guidelines are followed.

Carneros Estate, Napa, California Carneros Estate, Napa / Photo courtesy of Carneros Estate

The local photographer, Dona Copol Bonic, agrees.

In general, I think the rules are unjustified, unnecessary and harmful to the wine industry, says Bonique, who says that marriages and marketing activities are similar. A wedding can be the best marketing event because people come from all over the world and often have no experience visiting a vineyard.

Although some people agree with the rules. Adrienne D.A. Smith, executive director of Parallel Napa Valley, which holds its weddings at Brasswood Estate, explains that Napa is a small town, with only two roads leading north and south.

If everyone there could have weddings, Smith says, the area would be full of traffic.

Others say that weddings may not be a good business model for wineries because the industry and its public have changed.

Our licence is for the winery, not for the wedding location, explains Eileen Crane, CEO of Domaine Carneros, who is not allowed to organise weddings. There were fewer wineries and fewer visitors in wine country [1989]. It was a much smaller world. It was easier to block the wedding day on Saturday. For wineries that regularly receive customers, it will now be unpleasant or difficult.

If the county said you could do weddings now, I don’t think we would.

Published on the 27th. November 2020

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