SLO Vintners: An association of people who do what they love and love what they do

Last Monday I posted a map of some of the key wineries in the SLO Wine Region which are members of the SLO Vintners’ Association. This week it occurred to me that many people don’t know what the SLO Vintners’ Association is or what they do, so I did some research and this is a little of what I learned.

Again, let’s start with the very basics: a vintner is a wine merchant. The term is also modernly used synonymously with the term “winemaker.”

The SLO Vintners’ Association’s purpose, in essence, to represent and promote the SLO Wine Region. This includes:

  • The Edna Valley (where Wolff Vineyards is located, along with many others)
  • The Arroyo Grande Valley
  • The Avila Valley (where the Association will be having its Rockin’ Harvest 2011 event this weekend)

“We’re here to promote a region–everything from the Santa Lucia mountain range to the pacific coast watershed. . . We call that the SLO wine territory,” said the Association’s Executive Director, Becky Gray.

Gray graduated from Cal Poly with a degree in soil science and began working with the Association about six years ago. “I didn’t know anything about wine when I started. I liked wine, but I didn’t know anything about it so it was definitely ‘Learn by Doing’,” she said.

Gray is one of the Association’s only employees. Also helping to run the Association is a six-member Board of Directors; these six people are very active because the association is so small and there is so much to do, Gray said.

With only 35 members, the Association is very small despite the large size of the growing region. “Our wineries are mostly mom-and-pop wineries; the exact opposite of Paso Robles. . . Even though the SLO wine region is very large, the viticulture areas are actually very small,” said Gray.

Most wine regions get to promote the American Viticulture Areas (AVA’s) contained within them; however, SLO’s relative compactness means that it only has two “official” AVA’s, making the region and its “story” very unique and somewhat hard to pinpoint.

“We’re building a story, kind of retelling and rebranding ourselves. For years we struggled with our story of ‘Who are you?’. . . We’ve got two official AVA’s and then we have these little pockets of vineyards popping up, and they’re growing regions but they’re not official AVA’s. . . In 2012 we’ll be rolling out a whole new website with more of our story,” said Gray.

To promote the region, the Association works to bring in visitors from the San Luis Obispo area and from any other area possible. They host events such as Roll Out the Barrels in the summer and Rockin’ Harvest in the fall. Each of these events is a chance for wineries to show off their products, interact with the public and bring in new customers.

In addition to these events, the Association has a direct mail program it uses to promote events put on by its member wineries and is constantly promoting the region on its website.

As small as it is, the SLO Vintners’ Association is still in its infant stage (much like the region itself). It works incredibly hard to promote the region with the help of its member wineries, which (as Adrienne Ferrara told us last month) work together to help the region succeed as a whole.

Overall, the Association’s goal is simply to bring people here. “We love for visitors to come and stay for 4 to 5 days because we feel like they could really see the best of every winery that we have to offer in this county,” said Gray.

After all, once they’re here, who doesn’t fall in love with this place?


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