To celebrate the passion that San Luis Obispo County residents demonstrate for the local wine industry, and in recognition of California Wine Month, the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance — in partnership with the San Luis Obispo Vintners and Central Coast Vineyard Team — is hosting a new program called “Community Day 2008” this Saturday (Sept. 20).
Held each September, California Wine Month was created to raise awareness of California wines and to celebrate the state’s diversity.
“With Community Day, we are bringing the promotion home to the Greater San Luis Obispo wine country to foster local pride, help educate neighbors about our sustainable farming practices, and to invite the community to join the industry in toasting the 2008 vintage,” said Stacie Jacob, Executive Director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance.
Among the offerings on Saturday will be free wine tasting for SLO County residents, special vineyard and winery tours that celebrate the harvest and bring the crush experience to life, eco-friendly tours to showcase sustainable farming practices in the vineyard and in the winery, and a variety of wine specials for locals.
“The local wine community is proud of its contributions to the SLO County economy, which over the past decade has produced significant growth in employment and incomes, while preserving agriculture in a beautiful rural environment,” said Jacob, citing the following statistics:
— In 2007, wine, vineyards and related industries, products and services generated nearly $1.8 billion in economic value in SLO County, including wages of $241 million and more than $86 million in state and local taxes.
— In SLO County, wineries are tourist magnets, attracting more than 1.2 million visits by tourists who spend more than $113 million and help create more than 1,800 jobs.
— In a very conservative estimate, charitable contributions by the industry exceed $1.1 million, not including many of the individual winery cash and in-kind contributions or many of the events in which wine becomes a vehicle for raising funds for community organizations.
Ninety percent of wineries and vineyards in SLO County are family-run businesses, many of them handed down from generation to generation, added Jacob. Wine and wine grapes are inherently long-term investments and long-term employers, since newly planted vineyards need four years to produce a harvest (at a cost of at least $30,000 per acre). Up to another three years are needed to turn those grapes into wine, along with major capital commitments to develop winemaking facilities.
Not only are these long-term investments, but they are inherently tied to place, resulting in a wine community that is committed to being good neighbors and responsible stewards of the land.
An example of the wine community’s interest in sustainable viticulture is the Central Coast Vineyard Team. Created in 1995, the non-profit CCVT grower group has invested more than a decade of research and demonstration into sustainable viticulture. It has evolved from a small grassroots organization (aiming to protect water quality, conserve habitat, promote biodiversity and reduce pesticides), to a significant industry force (impacting 30,000 acres) that is recognized nationally by governmental and environmental bodies as an agricultural innovator.
This year marks the launch of Sustainability in Practice Vineyard Certification, with wines containing certified fruit entering the marketplace in 2009.
“We are eager to celebrate the 2008 vintage, our neighbors and our industry’s future with this new program,” said Jacob.
Check the following Web sites for details on the various activities being offered by participating wineries and vineyards on Sept. 20 and throughout the month of September: