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SLO Coast Wine Collective awarded grant to target expanding markets 

wine grapesGrant will help to promote the region’s grapes and wine in Arizona and Colorado markets

– The SLO Coast Wine Collective, a group of 32 Central Coast winemakers, has received a three-year, $309,000 California State Stimulus Grant to promote the region’s grapes and wine in markets outside of California.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture makes annual awards in its Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to fund projects that will enhance the competitiveness of the state’s fruit, vegetables, nuts, and other crops. These grants support a broad range of initiatives each year in categories including educational outreach, food safety, food-related media, neighborhood farming, and efforts to reach new markets with local or regional products.

The funding received by the collective will target building awareness of the region in Arizona and Colorado. Increasing wine sales in these markets will help the group make up for losses incurred during COVID-19 due to the closure of direct-to-consumer sales outlets and diminished out-of-state wine sales. Arizona and Colorado are also new direct-flight destinations from the San Luis Obispo airport. An analysis of the SLO Coast Wine Collective’s sales patterns reportedly showed both states are near the top of direct-to-consumer sales locations for the membership wineries. With pandemic restrictions easing, the SLO Coast region could increasingly benefit from wine tourists from Arizona and Colorado who are eager to visit the Central Coast wine country.

“We are appreciative of this boost to our marketing budget,” the collective’s board president, Stephen Dooley, said. “This funding will enable us to reach new consumers in Arizona and Colorado and add new distribution vectors for our members. These visits will make an impact because we’re going in as a collective, rather than as individual brands. This advantage will benefit the local grape growers, their employees, and the region’s entire wine industry as our community recovers from the economic effects of the pandemic.”

Dooley, who is also the owner and winemaker at Stephen Ross Winery, said working in partnership with California Polytechnic State University, the group will establish benchmark data to use going forward to help gauge the awareness of the region in comparison to other regions. “This will help us better understand the consumer motivations for wine purchases and help us tailor our outreach to these areas,” Dooley said.

The first efforts using grant funds will include showing SLO Coast wines at the Fort Collins Wine Fest in Colorado and the Sedona Winefest in Arizona. The Food & Wine Classic in Aspen and Crested Butte Food & Wine Festival are also on the itinerary, as is a presentation of the group’s results at the annual Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in Sacramento.

“Wine grapes have historically been the No. 1 agricultural product in SLO County, but due to COVID, grapes have declined to second place, behind strawberries,” said Kathleen Naughton, executive director of the SLO Coast Wine Collective. “By increasing demand for our wine, it will lead to increased sales for our grape growers and will restore wine grapes back to the top spot. And because this is a multi-year grant, we’ll take full advantage of this opportunity to build long-lasting relationships with consumers and members of the wine trade as we make repeated visits to these markets.”



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