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  WiVi Central Coast two-day conference for growers, winemakers

The WiVi Central Coast Wine Industry Conference & Tradeshow's third annual event returns to the Paso Robles Event Center Tuesday and Wednesday, March 17 and 18, and organizers hope to draw winemakers, grape growers and hospitality managers to network and explore resources available on the Central Coast and beyond.

The conference includes education seminars on both Tuesday and Wednesday, and a Wednesday tradeshow that will feature more than 150 companies showcasing new products and tools.

Hosting WiVi Central are Wine Business Monthly, the wine industry leader in product information and resources, and Precision Ag Consulting, a regional viticulture consulting business.

“The Central Coast is still a young wine region but growing rapidly. Education and access to resources is important to its continued growth and success,’’ said Becky Zelinski, WiVi director.

“As the region grows, so does the importance of a conference like WiVi, which is the only one of its kind here. In just two days, anyone in the wine industry can learn from our panels of experts, network with peers, and connect with suppliers at the WiVi tradeshow. It really is a one-stop shop for the entire Central Coast industry,’’ she said.

Among the seminars scheduled both days are “The Year 2014 in Review and Update on Recent Changes on Ground Water Rights;” “The Effect of Water Availability on Property Values;” “Improving Wine Grape Quality Through the Use of Phenolics Measurements in Winemaking;” “Measuring the ROI of Social Media;” and “Top 10 Success Tips for Tasting Room Sales.”

The conference will include two social events: A launch party on Tuesday evening and an exhibitor-sponsored lunch Wednesday.

Registration for WiVi is open to the public and tickets can be purchased online. Early registration discounts and special discounted prices for wine industry association members are available through Feb. 28, as are free tradeshow passes for association members.

Information and tickets: www.WiViCentralCoast.com; email: info@wivicentralcoast.com, and phone: (888) 974-WIVI (9484).

Garagiste Wine Festival presents $20,000 donation to Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture Program

The Garagiste Festival presented a check for $20,000 to the Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture department from proceeds raised at its three Garagiste Festivals in 2014.

It also announced that the Cal Poly program will continue to be a beneficiary of the festivals in 2015, including the upcoming “Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure,” scheduled for March 27-29 at the Veterans Memorial Hall in Solvang.

Receiving the $20,000 check were Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture Department Lecturer Shohreh S. Niku, second left, and Interim Department Chairperson Marianne McGarry Wolf, second right. Garagiste co-founders Stewart McLennan and Doug Minnick are far left, and far right, respectively.

The check was presented in the Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture lab in San Luis Obispo, where students are benefitting from spectrophotometers purchased using funds donated by the Garagiste Festivals in 2013.

“In addition to throwing a spotlight on small-lot, innovative artisan winemakers, a huge part of our mission is to further the education of future winemakers. It was very exciting today to see the results of our efforts at work at Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture,’’ said Garagiste Festival Co-founder Doug Minnick.

“We have many alums of the program among the exceptional winemakers pouring at our festivals and could not be more proud to be part of helping shape the future of our industry, starting with its next generation of winemakers.’’

Launched in Paso Robles in 2011, the Garagiste Festivals were the first to shine a light on the American garagiste winemakers, commercial artisan winemakers who handcraft less than 1,500 cases a year and pay close, hands-on attention to every wine they make. The only festivals in the United States dedicated to these innovative, hard-to-find winemakers, the events have helped thousands of consumers discover the remarkable wines of hundreds of garagistes.

“We appreciate the Garagiste Festival’s continued support of our program and its contribution to the vitality of our area, which is rapidly evolving into one of the most important wine regions in the world. We believe our program embraces the entrepreneurial spirit of the garagiste winemaker by integrating enology with viticulture and wine business. Our program reflects the evolution our wine region and the funds donated by the festival over the past three years, as well as the attention it has brought to our program, have truly made a difference,” Wolf said.

“This year’s donation will go a long way to helping extend the footprint of our students in the wine industry. Thank you Garagiste Festival, and thank you to the hundreds of garagiste winemakers and sponsors who help make this festival possible.”

The Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture Program includes nearly 300 undergraduate majors, making Cal Poly among the largest Wine and Viticulture programs in the country. The program uniquely integrates three fundamental components of the modern wine industry, with a curriculum emphasizing the inherent connectivity between wine grape growing in the vineyard, wine making in the winery, and wine selling in the marketplace through a unique “learn-by-doing” approach. The program is currently developing a Center for Wine and Viticulture that will include new state-of-the-art teaching facilities.

The upcoming Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure will feature 60 artisan winemakers from throughout Santa Barbara County and the Central Coast pouring throughout two days, as well as wine tasting seminars and the popular Winemaker Mixer, which includes the Festival’s signature “winemaker shootout” —where winemakers blind taste each others wines to pick the best red.

For tickets and to be alerted to breaking news about Southern Exposure and other Garagiste events, sign up for The Dirt at http://garagistefestival.com/sign-up/ or follow us on Twitter (@GaragisteFest) or Facebook. For more information on The Garagiste Festivals, go to http://garagistefestival.com

Silicon Valley Bank predicts “breakout year” for U.S. wine biz

Silicon Valley Bank, a leading provider of commercial banking services to the innovation sector and the wine industry, releases its annual State of the Wine Industry report Jan. 21.

“We are seeing real strength in the U.S. economy going into 2015, which will increase demand for wine,” said Rob McMillan, founder of SVB’s Wine Division and author of the report.

“Declining oil prices are transferring wealth to oil-consuming countries, the employment picture is improving, the U.S. dollar is strengthening and interest rates will move at a measured pace. As long as the industrialized world economies can hold their own, the middle-income consumer will see improved prospects. We’ll be toasting to that.”

“We are especially positive on the year ahead,” McMillan said. “We expect the fine wine business will experience accelerating growth, achieving 14 to 18 percent sales growth in 2015. At the same time, the cellars are full with several consecutive years of very good vintages.”

Based on a survey of nearly 600 West Coast wineries, in-house expertise and ongoing research, SVB’s annual report covers trends and addresses current issues facing the American wine industry.

Key findings and predictions:

  • Supply: We expect to see the third consecutive harvest of heavy yield and great quality across most appellations.
  • Sales Growth: After finishing the year at the top end of our predicted sales growth of 6 to 10 percent in 2014, we are predicting a breakout year of growth in the fine wine category in the 14 to 18 percent range in 2015.
  • Pricing: While the large supply of wines in the cellars should normally indicate continued depressed pricing, we believe 2015 will be a year of both volume and price increases in the fine wine segment, driven by an improving economy and higher demand.
  • Demand: Wines priced below $7 a bottle performed poorly both on and off premise in 2014. This poor performance is likely to continue in 2015.
  • Planting: Grape planting is shifting regionally. Oregon and Washington are showing strong growth in planting on a percentage basis and we expect that this will continue for the foreseeable future given favorable quality and price dynamics relative to the fine wine growing regions in California.

SVB’s wine division specializes in commercial banking for premium wineries and vineyards and the industries that support them. SVB has the largest team of commercial bankers dedicated to the wine industry of any bank nationwide. Founded in 1994, SVB’s Wine Division has offices in Napa and Sonoma counties and serves clients in the fine wine producing regions of California, Oregon and Washington.

Palmina Winery names John Busby as general manager

Palmina Winery, which produces a range of wines crafted from Italian varietals grown in Santa Barbara County, has named John Busby as its new general manager.

Busby, previously an executive in the asset management industry, has been manager of direct-to-consumer sales at Palmina for the past two years.

"I am extremely enthused at the prospect of taking on this new role at Palmina," Busby said. "As the winery celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2015, I look forward to continuing to work closely with Steve and Chrystal to firmly position Palmina as a sustainable Santa Barbara County brand for the next 20 years and beyond."

Steve Clifton, winemaker and owner, produced the first Palmina wines in the basement of his home in 1995. Formerly assistant winemaker at Rancho Sisquoc and manager of The Wine Cask in Santa Barbara, Steve was joined at Palmina by his wife, Chrystal, in 2000. The Cliftons are also partners in Brewer-Clifton, a Sta. Rita Hills producer of pinot noir and chardonnay.

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press for centralcoastwinepress.com