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January 20, 2010 – Santa Rosa, CA: Sonoma County Vintners (SCV) hosted over 200 winery members for their Annual Meeting on January 20th at the Vintners Inn in Santa Rosa. SCV Executive Director Honore Comfort presented highlights of 2009 achievements and the organization’s long and short range plans, including the organization’s vision for the state of wine in Sonoma County by 2020.

A core segment of today’s meeting focused on the groundbreaking introduction of the Sonoma County Conjunctive Labeling Initiative, a move to lead the county’s wine industry to formally pursue legislation that will require any winery producing wine in an AVA of Sonoma County to add Sonoma County to the label in addition to their AVA.

The move to pursue conjunctive labeling is one that has been discussed in the county for at least fifteen years, but as the world wine marketplace continues to grow and competition increases amid economic challenges, many feel the time has come for Sonoma County to join other wine producing regions, such as Burgundy, Bordeaux and Napa Valley, and build the image of the entire region through consistent labeling of all wines produced here.

Adding momentum to the initiative is compelling new research from WineOpinions, a market research firm commissioned by the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission to conduct research on the power of the SonomaCounty label among active wine consumers and the trade. Christian Miller, Partner at Wine Opinions and director of the research, presented the findings at the SCV Annual Meeting, introducing the data to many attendees for the first time.

The research was designed to resolve questions arising about confusion over conjunctive labeling, awareness of Sonoma County AVAs, and measure quality and value perceptions associated with the region. The research also included conjunctive label testing using wine labels, which had not been conducted before.

“The research makes a strong case for the value and benefit of conjunctive labeling for Sonoma County, while dispelling several of the key concerns wineries have had in the past,” says Comfort. “Both on the trade side and the consumer side, we see huge upside to moving forward, including strengthening the Sonoma County brand and increasing awareness of each of our AVAs. All of this leads to selling more Sonoma County wine and building stronger relationships with our consumers.”

The plan for conjunctive labeling will include more information gathering, legislation, and a three year phase-in period once the law takes effect. Full adoption would occur in 2014 based on the current plans.

Other plans for Sonoma County Vintners in 2010 include a continued focus on educating key influencers in the wine industry, including sommeliers and wine buyers, wine media and wine savvy consumers. The SCV will also continue to collaborate with the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau and the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission to maximize promotional dollars and generate more impact by working in concert.

This will be the third year that the Sonoma County Vintners and the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance jointly produce Sonoma Wine Country Weekend on Labor Day Weekend. The three day event, one of the country’s biggest food and & wine events, will include winery lunches and dinners, the Food & Wine Showcase event at MacMurray Ranch, and the Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction at Cline Cellars in Sonoma. For more information on the event, visit www.sonomawinecountryweekend.com

New Board members for the 2010-2011 year include newly elected members Joel Peterson (Ravenswood Winery) and Lenny Stein (Jackson Family Wines). Officers for 2010 are Dan Wildermuth (Rodney Strong Wine Estates), President; Chris Lynch (Mutt Lynch Winery), Vice President; and Gerry Forth (Forth Vineyards) Secretary/Treasurer. Marketing Committee Chairman is Chris Lynch (Mutt Lynch Winery). International Committee Chairman is Steve Messinger (Vinum Exports). Existing Board Members are Jeff Bundschu (Gundlach Bundschu), George Christie (Saini Vineyards), Matt Gallo (Gallo Family Wines), Dan Goldfield (Dutton-Goldfield), Tom Hinde (Flowers Vineyard & Winery), Karen Maley (Stryker Sonoma), Gordon Palmateer (Palmateer Consulting), and Julie Pedroncelli St. John, (Pedroncelli Winery).

Sonoma County Vintners is the leading voice of Sonoma County wine, dedicated to increasing awareness and improving the quality image of its wines to consumers, media, and trade locally and globally. With almost 65,000 vineyard acres planted among the county’s 13 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), Sonoma County is considered one of the world’s premier winegrowing regions, producing an unparalleled range of varietals and wine styles. SCV has promoted this diversity and quality since 1944, and currently represents more than 165 member wineries and 25 Affiliate Members. For more information on the wines and wineries of Sonoma County, visit www.sonomawine.com.

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