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Cheers! San Diego wineries continue to flourish despite nationwide decline in wine sales

Posted at 8:11 PM, May 13, 2024

San Diego Wine Week kicks off on Monday, and there is reason to celebrate — local wineries have seen a steady increase in business, according to new data.

“During the pandemic, we all had to close our tasting rooms, which was difficult. But now that people are out and about again, it doesn't surprise me that we’re doing good,” said Mike McWilliams.

Mike owns and operates San Pasqual Winery along with his wife, Linda McWilliams. They have tasting rooms in Seaport Village and La Mesa, and their winery is located inside the La Mesa Wine Works Facility.

Linda shared that they choose to source their grapes locally to support neighboring businesses: “The quality of fruit that we can access in San Diego County is just exceptional,” she said.

Since the pandemic, they say business has been a little better each year.

“There’s been a real resurgence in wanting to get out into the community and meet with your fellow wine drinkers,” added Mike.

But that has not been the case everywhere. According to Silicon Valley Bank’s new report on the State of the U.S. Wine Industry, wine sales nationwide dropped in 2023, and tasting room visitation dropped for a second year.

The report attributes the decline to young consumers opting for other canned beverages and even cannabis.

However, according to the 2024 report from the San Diego County Vintners Association, San Diego County’s 166 wineries generated $54.5 million in gross sales in 2023, an 11% increase from the year prior.

Mike speculates it’s in part, because San Diego wineries have a different business model in comparison with other wine regions.

“We’re more of an experience-based industry here in San Diego. Our wineries don’t have a lot of widespread distribution, so you don’t find San Diego wines on the grocery store shelves…it’s more about going to the wineries, meeting the winemakers,” he explained.

Mike added that many local wineries, like theirs, also offer activities like live music, trivia, or painting to draw customers into the overall social experience.

Another factor, he says, is San Diego’s local and loyal base of customers.

“One of the things that sets us apart, too, from other winery regions…is that I think we draw more on the local crowd because San Diego just isn’t known to vacationers as a wine place. There are so many other things to do when you come to San Diego that, unfortunately, visiting the wineries isn’t one or two or three,” he said.

Mike shared that San Pasqual Winery will be taking part in the 2024 Vintners Wine Festival this weekend. You can purchase tickets online.