Wine meetings highlight growth of industry in San Diego

Experts from Napa, UC Davis meet with local winemakers
Posted at 9:20 AM, Nov 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-29 12:40:23-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A pair of meetings in San Diego Thursday will shine a light on how far the county's wine industry has grown.

In the morning, Assembly Members Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Napa) and Adam Gray (D-Merced), along with State Sens. Mike McGuire (D-Ukiah) and Bill Dodd (D-Napa), are hosting a public hearing at the San Diego Central Library to discuss issues facing the industry at the state and national level.

Later in the day, wine experts from the UC Davis School of Viticulture and Enology will be in Escondido for a meeting with wine makers from across the county.

Local wine growers say it's the first time ever that lawmakers and educators have come to San Diego to talk shop.

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"Five years ago, we weren't even on their radar," said Ramona Valley Vineyard Assocation President Bill Schweitzer. "It kind of shows how far we've come."

The San Diego County Vinters Association says there are 115 wineries throughout the county. They account for $26 million in sales and nearly $50 million in economic impact.

To keep growing, Schweitzer hopes to bring up a couple issues in meetings Thursday.

One of the top concerns are laws known as "Tide Laws." They govern how and where wineries are allowed to promote and advertise their wines. Schweitzer said many of the laws are outdated and he hopes lawmakers can address that.

"Some states have laws that were based in prohibition," he said. "They make it hard."

He's also concerned about shipping laws that prohibit the sale of alcohol across state lines. Not every state will allow wine to come in.

Other wine growers tell 10News they want to see fees and licensing laws relaxed to make it more cost-effective to add food to their tasting rooms.

Schweitzer also wants to talk about Ramona's new wine apprenticeship program designed to help train the next generation of growers.

Climate change is also a big topic, with vineyard owners still reeling from a particularly harsh, hot summer. Some vineyards were wiped out of their 2018 crop in July and August because of the heat.

In the meantime, the RVVA continues to promote their product. They're about to begin the "Holiday Wine Tour" which runs through the next three weekends and offers specials on tastings and sales at many of the wineries in Ramona.