Serving wine isn't usually a controversial idea in Sonoma County, but to read the terrified public comment that's emerged about Santa Rosa's Wednesday Night Market hosting a winetasting area, you'd think that the downtown is about to be littered with vomiting hobos smashing storefronts, peeing in the street and punching newborn babies. The horror!
This, of course, is an exaggeration. "There's been a lot of time and effort into creating a tasting-room experience," assures Chris Denny, Market board member, "and not a drunk fest."
Denny, who moved here six years ago from Florida, wasn't around to remember the first great scare for what was once known as the Thursday Night Market, back in the 1990— namely, that "undesirable elements" from out of town were causing problems. The decision that ultimately resulted changed the name of the Market for good, and provided plenty of eye-rolling: If we move the Market to Wednesday night, organizers determined, then gang members from Vallejo will get confused and stop coming.
Which is why it's nice to hear Denny says things like "Sonoma County is very diverse, and the market is, too. I love that." As for the hubbub over winetasting? "We're kind of happy that it's controversial in some ways," he assures. "It just shows that people are passionate about the market."
Tip your plastic glass of Merlot, grab a plate of food and see people you went to high school with every Wednesday night through Aug. 31 on Fourth Street in downtown Santa Rosa. 5-8pm. Free. www.srdowntownmarket.com.