Santa Barbara Vintners Ends Wine Preserve Proposal

Full Text of Letter from Santa Barbara County Vintners Association

Our mission at the Santa Barbara Vintners is to protect and promote our wine community, landscape, and industry. We have always said our efforts to create the Santa Barbara County Wine Preserve – a mandatory assessment on the Direct-to-Consumer sale of wine – were to engage the entire wine industry in this pursuit. Through two years of exploration, we held many town halls, had open lines of communication, and felt that we built a BID that answered our signature problem: funding for our mission. In recent weeks, it has become apparent, most notably through a threatened lawsuit, that this process is dividing our community. This was never our intent; therefore, the Santa Barbara Vintners will no longer lead the charge to form the Wine Preserve. We know that many of you will be disappointed by this news, as you have been supporting this effort from the beginning. Others will be relieved to hear the initiative has been dropped. Regardless, now more than ever is a time to support each other.
 
All vintners seem to agree that the wine industry in Santa Barbara County needs more financial support. We have heard repeatedly from those opposed to BID funding that there is unity in the industry to fund success, just “not this way.” We have listened through this whole process and will maintain the Santa Barbara County Vintners as a voluntary, membership organization. We invite all to join the organization, as working together will be the key to success and unity. We have one open Board seat currently available and others opening up in June, 2021. We encourage any member to apply.
 
The Board and I have worked over the past three years to deliver significant change to the organization. The BID was chosen as a funding option for the wine industry after already increasing and investigating many other revenue sources. We will continue to investigate funding sources for our collective benefit, including the pursuit of a grape commission and dedicated contributions. You will find in our Annual Reports that we doubled the budget through a CDFA marketing grant for $380,000 (applied for previously, but never won) , which has already garnered 142,937 visits to member wineries in the last six months, a time of desperate need. Last year’s events, which included the introduction of the Wine Futures Auction, had record sponsorships and profits for the first time in over five years. We have worked extensively with our tourism partners, and pursued advocacy efforts for farmstays, food service on vineyards, reasonable cannabis regulations, and unifying wine regions across California.
 
During Covid, whether you were a member or not, we sought out every winery in the County (almost 300) to ensure everyone received re-opening information, and we were tapped by the County to lead the re-opening regulations for the entire Beverage Industry in SBC. If you are serving on your sidewalk, offering food under a temporary permit, contracting with your favorite caterer, or welcoming consumers unfettered to your AG-II property, you are enjoying the efforts of this organization.

Many of you call and e-mail us, and use our resources. We are able to help since we are funded by members. We invite all Vintners to join with us now to build a unified, dedicated, effective organization. Our ethos and our efforts have been for the benefit of the greater industry and that will continue.
 
Alison Laslett is the CEO of the Santa Barbara Vintners.

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