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Petaluma approves downtown wine tasting room

A new tasting room and micro wine production facility is set to transform a nondescript section of Petaluma Boulevard North, taking over a building that has long sat vacant and ignored.

The Novato-based and family-run Brooks Note Winery will open its first brick-and-mortar location at 426 Petaluma Blvd. North within the next year, a block from the Lakeville Street intersection and directly across Kent Street.

The self-described “mom and pop” winery is run by husband and wife team Garry Brooks and Joanne Brooks Note. The duo currently produces about 1,000 cases of wine per year with special focus on Pinot Noir, and plans to increase their output in their new Petaluma-based facility to as much as 5,000 cases per year.

“We had been looking for a while in Petaluma until we found this place, and when we walked through it we thought it was just perfect for what we wanted to do,” Garry Brooks said.

The 7,000-square-foot rectangular building will be split in two, with the production facility in the back two-thirds of the total space and a tasting room in the front. Brooks said he’s hoping to complete construction on the production facility portion first in time for fall harvest this year, shooting for a late-2020 to early-2021 opening for the tasting room.

Although Brooks Note Winery began in 2012, its origins trace back several years prior when east-coast native Garry Brooks first discovered wine country and viticulture during his first few visits to his wife’s family property in Sonoma. The couple were both information technology professionals at the time, living in San Francisco and routinely spending more and more time up north, surrounded by a growing wine industry.

In 2002, the couple planted their first small vineyard on a family’s Sonoma-area property, launching their first foray into grape cultivation and a new passion project that would eventually blossom into a business.

Two years later, Garry Brooks quit his job and began interning at Ravenswood Winery in Sonoma, soon commuting to University of California, Davis to earn his second bachelor’s degree in viticulture. He spent the next eight years learning the craft and science of winemaking, working at wineries in Sonoma, Napa and Sepastopol until he and wife Joanne Brooks Note opened their own commercial label in 2012.

Planning commissioners last week voiced excitement over the project following unanimous approval of the project’s design and architectural details, hopeful that the business will instigate more activity along Petaluma Boulevard North.

“That area needs some revitalization, some different types of businesses,” commissioner Diana Gomez said. “It would be nice to be able to look out and not see just a car wash and auto shop.”

Brooks Note Winery’s Petaluma location will neighbor Adore Hairdressing and Vanda Floral Design across the street, and will join a small handful of tasting rooms in the city currently concentrated in downtown Petaluma.

The boulevard between Lakeville and East Washington streets is considered a viable option to extend Petaluma’s downtown atmosphere, and currently hosts a few vacant and rundown buildings that mark a strong visual contrast from the streets packed with stores and restaurants one block away.

“I’m really excited that this old building that nobody paid much mind to before is going to get a new face and start to lift up that portion of town,” commissioner Heidi Bauer said, joining the chorus of praise over the incoming business.

Garry Brooks said the spot is a perfect halfway point between the industrial side of town and the busier downtown streets, something he calls a perfect marriage for his business that will both produce and serve wine.

About 30% of the grapes used in Brooks Note’s wine production are sourced from the Petaluma Gap wine growing region, a land-to-bottle connection the business hopes to both highlight and grow further. This region was only recently recognized as a unique wine growing region, launching renewed interest and investment in Petaluma viticulture and potentially jump starting a hyper-local wine tourism industry.

Brooks Note Winery uses up to 100% Petaluma Gap-sourced grapes in its Marin County Pinot Noir and Rosé varieties, and will soon launch an Austrian wine created from Petaluma-grown grapes.

While the Petaluma Gap designation has been a boon for local growers, many local industry players say they want to see more storefronts and tasting rooms where people can access locally-produced wines sourced from Petaluma grapes.

“One of the things we found about being in the Petaluma Gap is that we have a lot of wonderful wines and producers, but not many places where Petaluma can showcase those wines,” said Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance board member Al Brayton. “I think this is a unique opportunity to have a facility in town that will be a draw for locals and tourists alike.”

Multiple representatives of the Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance spoke in support of the business at last week’s meeting, pointing to the micro winery as a move in the right direction to further link growers with winemakers and consumers. Garry Brooks said the tasting room will offer small bites to eat, events such as live music, and will stay open up to 10 p.m. on weekends, much later than typical tasting rooms.

“I think there is this really cool vibe in Petaluma, you can get industrial spaces, as well as a really vibrant downtown.” Garry Brooks said. “So we found a place that is in a good location and nearby from where we’ve been sourcing our grapes, and all of those things worked together to make it a really neat option for us.”

(Contact Kathryn Palmer at kathryn.palmer@arguscourier.com, on Twitter @KathrynPlmr.)

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