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Business Beat: 08/15/2020

Business Beat — August 15, 2020

Business Beat — August 15, 2020

Morton’s to remain closed for rest of year

COVID-19 closed the usual summer operations of Morton’s Warm Springs, and now the owners have decided to keep the Glen Ellen swimming and recreational facility closed for the rest of their season.

The plans are to reopen next spring in May of 2021.

Husband and wife owners Laurie Hobbs and Sean Wadsworth, who bought Morton’s in 2016, determined that opening would not be financially worthwhile and would pose a substantial health and safety risk to visitors and staff.

“Reduced numbers with social distancing would mean spending the same fixed costs but without the daily visitors to recoup them, let alone make income,” wrote Hobbs in a press release.

“Additionally, many of the groups, schools and families we traditionally welcome have already had to shift plans away from field trips, reunions and other social gatherings for the year, and limited visitors would also mean shuttering our beloved organic Cafe 108°. Basically, we saw that we’d be fighting an uphill battle in any attempt to adhere to ‘business as usual’ in times that are anything but.”

Hobbs and Wadsworth were concerned about the health and well-being of the Morton’s community, as well as the impacts on the local ecology of the required extensive sanitation protocols.

“As we attempt to keep humans safe, all those downstream of us would end up further harmed by the unintended consequences of our actions – something that goes against our values of ecological stewardship,” stated the press release.

Morton’s owners stated that the decision to close would be very different if there weren’t the additional constraints the county puts on the site’s operations. 

County rules dictate that Morton’s can only be open to the public between May and September (and only on weekends and holidays in May and September) and planning officials have resisted attempts by some previous owners to have year-round activities there, such as classes, spa programs, or camping. Some neighbors of Morton’s have been wary about expanded uses.

“We want you to know that keeping the Springs closed for the year is not something we take lightly during times when a dose of sunshine, connection in nature, and a dip in the medicine of hot springs goes a long way for many of us,” stated the press release. “This may be a historic first that the public is unable to come and access the healing resources that are here.”

To follow the future of Morton’s Warm Springs, go to,

New kids’ book has roots at Kenwood School

Growing up in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, Christy Hoss wrote a story in second grade about her dog that her teacher liked so much she told Hoss she would grow up to be a writer.

Fast forward to 2020 and now Hoss has published her first children’s book, The Rubber Band
The Rubber Band
The Rubber Band book by Christy Hoss

Many in Glen Ellen and Kenwood may remember Hoss as a teacher at Kenwood School for over a decade, employed as physical education teacher, a teacher’s aide in second grade, and an art teacher.

“I fell in love with the school,” said Hoss.

In fact, her last teaching job pre-COVID was as a substitute at Kenwood School.

The Rubber Band was inspired by her interactions with children at Kenwood, as well as a by a real band called Rubber Band made up of Kenwood students.

“They played at a talent contest and I was so amazed that I had them play at my birthday,” said Hoss, who said they played “Born to Be Wild” at the talent contest.

The elementary school kids in her book are completely fictional, though she does throw in some references to real people in Kenwood School.

The principal’s name in the book is Haymaker (the real principal’s last name is Bales). The fictional school is Wildwood Elementary School.

The story follows a bunch of dissimilar boys and girls as they come together to form a rock band and enter the Sun Valley talent contest. Along the way, they face a number of obstacles as they try to win the competition.

Hoss got back into writing around 2006 and she was determined to learn the craft, attending classes, writing groups and writing conferences. She first thought she’d be a romance writer, but eventually decided to write about what she knew best – kids!

“I know kids. I know what they think, I know what they say,” said Hoss, who has three grown children with her husband of 32 years, who she fell in love with when he was in, of course, a rock and roll band.

“It’s in our blood,” said Hoss.

What’s next? Hoss is currently writing a book that picks up the day after The Rubber Band ends.

You can buy The Rubber Band at Amazon.

You can follow Hoss at

BZA hearing for VJB

A long delayed county hearing to consider VJB Vineyards & Cellars’ request to modify its existing use permit has been scheduled in front of the county’s Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA) in a virtual meeting tentatively scheduled for Aug. 27.

VJB, which first opened in Kenwood in 2012, has had numerous filings over the years to modify its original use permit, but for a number of reasons has never gotten to the formal hearing stage where the county would give a thumbs up or down.

In front of the BZA will be a request, in part, to allow VJB to formally operate a commercial kitchen and patio restaurant food service for up to 313 people per day.

The use permit modification request also includes installation of a new septic system, and the construction of a 53-space parking lot on vacant property VJB owns across from the entrance on Shaw Avenue. VJB is dropping a request to potentially increase their hours of operation, and agreeing to forego hosting previously approved special events.

VJB is also asking that a previous county requirement to install a left turn lane from Sonoma Highway onto Shaw Avenue be shelved.

As part of the hearing the BZA will also consider a recently released environmental analysis on the project, which, according to the hearing notice, “did not find potential environmental impacts that could not be mitigated to a less-than-significant level.” This conclusion, if adopted by the BZA, would preclude a more lengthy and comprehensive environmental review, such as an Environmental Impact Report.

The environmental document, known as a mitigated negative declaration, is currently being circulated to relevant government departments and agencies, and must be responded to by Aug. 26.

Anyone who wants to look at the project’s documents, or has questions about VJB’s proposal can contact the county planner handling the project, Blake Hillegas, at, or 565-1392,

Local vineyard employee recognized

The Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation has given its Vineyard Employee Recognition Award for the month of July to Hugo Solis, who works the 12-acre Grenache, Primitivo, and Grenache Blanc vineyards of Steve and Colleen Rose in Kenwood.
Hugo Solis
Hugo Solis at Rose Ranch in Kenwood.

The award is presented to vineyard employees who are achieving excellence in the workplace. Employees are recognized and rewarded for individual achievement and exceptional performance. Each month highlights a different theme, showcasing the various skills and numerous contributions of Sonoma County’s vineyard employees. Nominations are accepted each month under that month’s specific theme (e.g. safety, leadership, pruning etc.). The theme for the month of July was canopy management.

In nominating Solis for the award, Steve Rose wrote that, “Hugo does an exemplary job of canopy management, always making sure the cane positioning is correct and to his standards. He is meticulous at maintaining proper airflow through the canopy helping that the sugars develop as they should and never allowing overgrowth of the canopies. Hugo, as an employee, is honest, punctual, and never misses any time off of his job. I wish I could clone him!”

Solis has worked for the Roses for 19 years. He lives in Santa Rosa with his wife and three children.

As a recipient of this award, Solis receives a $500 VISA gift card, a Sonoma County Sustainably Farmed Grapes beanie, a Sonoma County Winegrowers jacket, his photograph proudly displayed in this paper and the Press Democrat, and attendance at an annual Employee Recognition Lunch.

Zapata Grill now delivers

Zapata Grill
Zapata Grill delivers
Zapata Grill food truck in Kenwood is now supplementing its daily take-out with delivery on Friday and Saturday, 2-7 p.m., with a minimum purchase of $25. Zapata offers burritos, tacos, quesadillas, daily specials and more. Call 400-9455.

Zapata’s is located at 9255 Sonoma Hwy.

California Tastings offers fun getaways

California Tastings, a local business that specializes in creating “Custom Weekend Getaways” is adding another fun experience to its portfolio. They will now be offering a picnic basket they are calling “Just the Two of Us.”

In a time where there is a lot of distraction, you can enjoy a beautiful foldable cooler that has all the necessities inside to take you on a “Mini Staycation,” said Nilu Afshar, the owner of California Tastings.

“The basket can be enjoyed by adding a bottle of wine, and we are excited to announce that California Tastings will be collaborating with Seamus Wines to add any wine they are offering on their website,” said Afshar. All California Tastings friends will be able to receive a 20 percent discount on all Seamus wines.

In most Sonoma County locations baskets will begin to be delivered the first week of September.

For more information on pricing and what is in the basket, contact

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