That’s the underline question when politicians try to regulate Wine Country. The latest sqaubble is over a push by the Sonoma County planning commission to curb tasting room hours to 4 p.m., affecting some with extended hours as late as 6:30  p.m.

Clearly over-zealous tasters and rush hour traffic do not pair well.

On one hand the effort to curb hours seems prudent. On the other, it seems ridiculous to try to control the ebb and flow of wine. This is, after all, Wine Country, a virtual waterfall of wine. The most effective way to monitor drinking is to have a savvy tasting room staff keep a pulse on tasters and refuse to pour wine if tasters shows signs of going beyond their limits.

I’m convinced a strong-willed staff can keep things under control. I witnessed this at the Wine Road Barrel Tasting in March when the tasting room staff at Ridge in Healdsburg refused to serve rambunctious tasters. It was tasting room tough love at its best.

Maybe the planning commission is responding to a a new law, which took effect January 1st, allowing tasting rooms to offer a full glass of wine to tasters, as well a full bottle of wine. By way of comparison, most pours had been limited to two to four ounces.

Whatever the case, I think the better way to regulate excessive drinking is to train the tasting room staff to keep a watchful eye.

Can wine tasters behave? Yes, when they have a tasting room staff patroling them that is  “intervention-ready.”