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Wine collective awarded grant for sustainability project 

wine grapes stock photoNonprofit will use grant funds to ensure those in the wine industry can adapt to the challenges of climate change

– After submitting a Sustainable Agriculture Action Plan and application, the Paso Robles CAB Collective has been awarded a grant in the amount of $14,988 from Western Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) and its host institution, Montana State University. The announcement of the award on Oct. 5 included a declaration of confidence in the collective based on experience, past efforts, and creativity of its proposal to SARE’s expert panel.

Grant funds will allow the collective the opportunity to identify specific and urgent needs for research and education through the Sustainable Agriculture Action Plan to maintain their unique wine industry and the community at large, according to PRCC Executive Director Linda Sanpei.

“This project seeks to identify research and education needs specific to the Paso Robles cabernet sauvignon and red Bordeaux wine grape growing industry,” Sanpei said. “We want to ensure those in our industry can adapt to the challenges of climate change, sustain the industry’s economic benefit to the local community, and continue to produce world-class quality wines.”

The collective is a nonprofit agricultural producer group with 24 independent producer-members and over 50 wine industry sponsors. For the past decade, it has dedicated its work to promoting and marketing wines made from the cabernet sauvignon and red Bordeaux (CAB) wine grapes grown by its members and ancillary winegrape growers in the region. With the effects of climate change threatening the growing conditions of these grapes, the collective has been looking at ways to help support the sustainability of its wine-producing members.

“Wine is among the most sensitive and nuanced agricultural products and is highly sensitive to climate change,” Sanpei explained. “Variations in temperature, water for irrigation, frost, pests, and other climate implications pose a significant threat to the grapes and wine industry of Paso Robles.”

Letters of support and encouragement for undertaking this project have been received from collective members, the local community, and regional and state bodies. The collective has the organizational capacity to develop a plan which identifies the urgent needs of sustaining both an industry and a region by making necessary adaptations to changing climatic conditions.

During the project timeframe, from late 2022 through the first quarter of 2023, the collective will explore these needs and use this report to look for further grant opportunities and partnerships to conduct research, regulatory changes, infrastructure, education, and training. Collective members and stakeholders will be asked to participate in an online survey to identify high-priority needs for the Paso Robles area as well as sustainability issues related to growing cabernet and red Bordeaux grapes, with a focus on climate change challenges.

“From the information gained through this survey, a workshop agenda will be formed, with members and stakeholders invited to attend this workshop in early February,” Sanpei said. The workshop will be facilitated by Sanpei, Francine Errico, and PRCC Board member and Robert Hall Winery Managing Director Caine Thompson. Further exploration into how research, regulatory changes, area infrastructure, education, and training are required to increase the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices will also be presented.

Follow-up consultation and input will be obtained from experts at the Cal Poly department of Wine and Viticulture, The Wine Institute, California Wine Grape Growers Association, and Paso Robles City Council. In addition, PRCC will conduct a review of the State of the Wine Industry Report produced by Silicon Valley Bank for industry-wide and specific area statistics and market information.

“The PRCC will use the findings of this report to apply for future climate change-related grants through the USDA and CDFA, and build research partnerships,” Sanpei said.

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