Ramey hop barn site

New life? — The hop kiln at the former Westside Farms could be converted into a tasting room.

Ramey wants to convert former hop kiln to tasting room

Whether the rural splendor of Westside Road can withstand its evolution into a high-end wine tasting mecca will be one question in the air at a public hearing coming up in two weeks.

The Sept. 21 county Permit and Resource Management Department (PRMD) hearing will address renowned winemaker David Ramey’s ambitious plans for a winery with multiple tasting rooms, guest housing, commercial office space and picnic grounds to accommodate more than two dozen annual promotional parties, some with up to 300 guests.

Ramey’s project has drawn outcry from opponents who say it’s simply too much even for Westside Road, one of the most visitor-centric destinations in wine country.

“This is the most intense project every proposed for Westside Road,” read a letter from the Westside Community Association regarding the Ramey project on 75 acres known as Westside Farms, where a weathered hop kiln building is a designated county historic site.

Besides a new winery and wine cave, The Ramey project includes a tasting room in the old hop kiln building and another private tasting room in the adjacent barn, along with overnight marketing accommodations and parking for approximately 80 cars.

Opponents say the project is out of scale with other recent winery permit approvals on Westside Road where the clash between residential neighbors and the impacts of wine tasting and special events has been escalating since direct-to-customer sales became the local wine industry’s preferred marketing strategy.

“My biggest concern is the size and scope of it,” said Westside Road resident Nancy Citro. “You want it to fit in with what’s there.”

The former Westside Farms site was owned by Ron and Pam Kaiser, who grew pumpkins and ran a seasonal farm store. The neglected hop barns recall the site’s agricultural history dating to the 19th century when Westside Road was more about fruit orchards and hops than limousines, lawn parties and chardonnay.

“Westside Road embodies Healdsburg’s rich agricultural heritage, with scenic vistas and historic structures which provide continuity with our past and enhance our quality of life,” said a Westside Community Association letter opposing Ramey’s plans. “The project is simply too large and commercially oriented for a rural area such as Westside Road.”

The county Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA) will review the project and take public comment at the Sept. 21 public hearing before making a recommendation to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. The property, on three parcels located on both sides of Westside Road, is in both the Fourth and Fifth supervisorial districts.

Ramey is asking for a use permit for a 23,000 square-foot winery with a 60,000 case annual production, a 20,000 square-foot wine cave, conversion of the hop kiln building to a public tasting room open seven days a week and conversion of the hop bailing barn to a private tasting room with guest accommodations on the second floor.

Ramey, whose permit application has been in the works for three years, has completed a biological habitat assessment, historic resource evaluation, cultural resource evaluation, noise assessment and traffic impact studies as required by the county Permit and Resource Management Department (PRMD).

Although the PRMD, now called Permit Sonoma, is recommending approval, the BZA has recommended against other recent visitor-intensive winery projects, most recently the proposed Leslie Rudd winery on Westside Road. BZA members liked Rudd’s architectural plans but agreed with critics that the concentration of tasting rooms and special event traffic made the project incompatible with its Westside Road neighborhood.

The much larger Ramey winery project will face the same scrutiny in two weeks.

(4) comments

Danny Smith

An existing winery wants to expand and use historically agricultural land for agricultural purposes in the self identified heart of wine country. This is a yawner. Ramey wines has spent 3.5 years doing all the due diligence required to check all the boxes to make sure an ag/wine business on ag property is done correctly. In an area with a "tree removal board" the requirements are very high to use your own property for purpose it is zoned and intended for and the Ramey's have me the requirements. This seems like a textbook case of meeting the requirements.


I was happy to see the picture of Westside Farms on the cover of the Tribune. As I read the article it became easy to recognize with the use of emotive words and phrases this is a one sided, biased commentary on the project the Ramey family has been working on for years. I was disappointed to reach the end of the article with no quotes from the Rameys themselves. They are a respected family within this community who have built a business from the ground up through hard work and a dedication to doing things the right way. They are thoughtful, responsible and fair minded people with a commitment to their employees, community and environment around them.

I am disappointed the paper took such an approach and encourage its readers to think critically and recognize this was one side of the story.


Why does your piece not take into consideration the efforts that will he Ramey's have acquiesced to over the last 3 + years? it seems you are more concerned with a vocal minority of NIMBY new residents to the community than a 40 plus year resident who is not only responsible for producing some of the most consistently delicious and well awarded wines coming out of Sonoma County but also someone who contributes to our tax base as well as employs many local residents. this property was an eyesore in disrepair before the Ramey's purchased it and they want to continue with the improvements. There will be no increase to traffic as stated and the "events" you refer to would include any business meetings they would conduct an n the propertY, be it visits from 3 people who could me from their Maine distribution partners or a group of grape growers from the Sonoma Coast & Russian River. Your job as a journalist is to quote facts be not express both sides of a story which you have failed at miserably. The Ramey's have not only put their mother bet where their mouth is and met every request she gat has been thrown at them but they have done it in a professional manner and not gone around bad mouthing as these 6-8 new residents have. It's a wonder that nothing ever gets done in this county in any reasonable amount of time (smart train, courthouse square etc) please follow up on this article with the Ramey side of the story so your readership will have a complete view of the issue and save the fluff piece for when you cover the food at the county fair of why the Kenwood pillow fights no longer happen.
David Repp
Santa Rosa


There were a few quotes from the Westside Neighbors Assoc., but none from Ramey. Me thinks this is a one-sided hit piece, perhaps driven by some local NIMBYs.

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