Saturday, May 26, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 12

Santa Maria Sun / Breaking News

The Santa Maria Valley Wine Country Association disbands

By Wendy Thies Sell

The vintners association that has represented and promoted wineries and vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley for a decade announced this week it will dissolve.

The Santa Maria Valley Wine Country Association made the decision late last year after roundtable discussions with members. It becomes official at the end of February.

Former board member Laura Booras, general manager at Riverbench Vineyard and Winery, explained the decision to the Sun in an email: "The Association, while made up of a group of supportive and enthusiastic businesses, is limited from a growth perspective by a dues-based revenue model, something we have known from the outset. There are a finite number of wineries and related business in our small part of the county and therefore a finite revenue stream."

Members of the association board recently met with the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association and its newly appointed executive director, Morgen McLaughlin, to brainstorm ways to support the local industry in the future.

"The ... board felt that with this new leadership, the timing was right to throw our resources and support behind Santa Barbara County Vintners as a voice for the whole county," Booras wrote. "We can now help spread the word about Santa Barbara County as a region, while benefitting from the resources of [the vintners association] to promote the Santa Maria Valley as an important component of our county's rich viticultural diversity."

In place of an association, several former members are forming a "think tank" to continue promoting the valley. It will be a dues-free, volunteer group made up of winemakers, winegrowers, farmers, and others in the community.

To join the Santa Maria Valley Wine Think Tank, contact

The Chardonnay Symposium--the popular wine event formerly held at Santa Maria's Radisson Hotel and Byron Winery east of Santa Maria--has been sold to Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa in Pismo Beach. This year's event is set for May 16 through 18.

The wine association also handed over its website,, to the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce.

"We've sure come a long way. When the association began, we started with nothing. Since then, we've created a unique and successful premium wine event, made an image for ourselves as 'Authentic Wine Country,' and built successful networks of supporters and fans," Booras said.

"We all believe so strongly that the Santa Maria Valley is a truly special place. We are proud of the work we have done thus far and look forward to continuing this through an Association with more manpower and resources," she said. "We didn't want to miss the opportunity to give Santa Maria more power. Members agree that a rising tide raises all ships, and we look forward to promoting the area as a whole, and highlighting the unique growing conditions and culture of the Santa Maria Valley."

Moving out:
The Chardonnay Symposium (shown here), held for four years in Santa Maria, has been sold to the Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa in Pismo Beach—one of several consequences of the recent dissolution of the Santa Maria Valley Wine Country Association, which operated the popular event.

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