Wineries’ impact brings taste of bitterness to Sonoma campaign


A supervisors race between two liberal candidates in Sonoma County has turned into a good ol’ Wine Country brawl amid fear that the region is too quickly transforming into a pricey, water-sucking theme park for the almighty grape.

The tug-of-war over the seat being vacated by disgraced Supervisor Efren Carrillo is billed by some as a choice between forests and vineyards, farmlands and event centers, conservation and industry.

But the election pitting organic farmer Lynda Hopkins against former state Sen. Noreen Evans for supervisor of the Fifth District, which covers western Sonoma County, including the entire coastline, is more complicated than that.

Both candidates purport to want the same thing — to protect the environment, particularly the Russian River; create affordable housing to counter skyrocketing prices; improve roads and other infrastructure; and prevent the county from turning into a wine monoculture.

The argument over which candidate can achieve those things has turned into a mud-slinging imbroglio, mainly over the alleged influence of special-interest groups.

At stake, if you believe the two candidates, is the future of bucolic Sonoma County, which has seen an explosion of winery development and a population increase of almost 4 percent since 2010.

“The major issue is the influence of wineries and agriculture,” said Ernie Carpenter, a former supervisor who is supporting Evans. “We are having a corporate buyout of many old family vineyards and wineries.”

Evans and her supporters say Hopkins is bankrolled by mineral extractors, real estate developers, and dozens of vineyard and winery owners worried about the government restricting tourist-friendly projects that would, in turn, clog already over-tapped roads.

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