The Santa Maria Valley Wine Country Association is no longer, as its members have decided to dissolve the roughly decade-old organization, pass its website and contacts to the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce, and allow its annual event, the Chardonnay Symposium, to move to the Dolphin Bay Resort in Pismo Beach. Instead, some of the members are forming a think tank, which they believe can better handle the region’s needs without the restrictions of an official association.
“The dues-paying, advocacy group model has its place and many of us here in Santa Maria Valley will remain avid supporters and engaged members of the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association,” said the most recent board president Matt Murphy, of Presqu’ile Winery, in a statement. “In fact, the intent of this dissolution is to more closely align our AVA’s interests with SBCVA and is a testament to the revitalized leadership and vision at the association.”
That new leader is Morgen McLaughlin, who started almost one year ago and immediately identified that the splintering off of the county’s various appellations into their own associations was a potentially dangerous trend for the region as a whole. Though she wouldn’t exactly chalk up this dissolution to being hard evidence of her progress in fighting that trend, she was pleased by the move and believes it will better serve the winemakers there. “Santa Maria stakeholders can now focus on creative ideas without constraints,” she said on Tuesday from the Phildelphia airport in between flights to the Boston Wine Expo. “There are a lot of passionate people in the Santa Maria Valley, and their association might not have been the best direction for their efforts.”