Last week, the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association received a $380,780 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly doubling the organization’s annual budget. The money, which came through the department’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, is earmarked to empower marketing initiatives in the Los Angeles area to increase awareness and sales of Santa Barbara County wine.
Of the $72.4 million doled out under the federal program, California received $22.9 million. Those funds were then dispersed by the California Department of Food and Agriculture following a competitive selection process. Other recipients included three other wine regions (Paso Robles, Sonoma, and Lake County), a “Zinfandel Trail,” and numerous other vineyard projects as well as money for the cherry, lettuce, fig, bok choy, and prune industries, among more than 60 other agricultural initiatives.
S.B. Vintners’ leader Allison Laslet was thrilled and honored at the news. “[It] allows for a bigger marketing budget than we’ve ever had,” she said. “To have this kind of funding dedicated exclusively to promotion is exactly what the wine industry has been requesting.”
Added board president Stephen Janes, “Santa Barbara County — a wine region that is largely composed of small, family-owned businesses — has been impacted by the recent trend away from California-produced wine, so our goal is to swing the momentum back towards our region.”
Meanwhile, the informational campaign to educate vintners about the proposal to create a Business Improvement District, or BID, across wine country, which would levy a 2 percent fee per bottle sold to further pay for marketing efforts, continues with 9 a.m. meetings at Gainey Vineyard in Santa Ynez on September 24, Montemar Winery in Lompoc on October 3, and Pico Restaurant in Los Alamos on October 4.