Speaker pro Tempore Fiona Ma’s Bills to Assist the Agriculture Community Signed by Governor Brown

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                            

September 26, 2012

SACRAMENTO, CA-Assembly Speaker pro Tempore Fiona Ma’s (D-San Francisco and San Mateo Counties) legislative bills to help the Agriculture Community in California were signed by Governor Edmund Brown Jr.

“Four years ago when I was first assigned to sit on the Assembly Committee on Agriculture, I had so little knowledge of the Agriculture industry, that I took for granted that all my food just came from the local grocery stores. I never appreciated what it takes to grow and harvest the food we eat every day. Now, After going on over seventy tours, I discovered a new found passion and respect for agriculture and its importance to the California economy.” said Assemblywoman Ma. “That is why today, I celebrate the signature of three bills that will help the agriculture community continue to thrive.”

AB 1966 protects surface owners’(a.k.a. farmers) property rights by requiring that mineral rights owners provide a minimum of five days’ notice when entering a property when there are intentions of extracting minerals. AB 1966 also requires that mineral rights owners provide a minimum of 30 days’ notice when entering a property for the purpose of excavation or other surface-disrupting activities such as drilling new wells, bringing articulated vehicles or excavation equipment on the real property, or reclamation of the real property after the surface has been disturbed.

Currently, the mineral rights owner is required to provide notice upon first entry. However, the notice that is given to the surface owner does not include any specifics. Without this information, farmers cannot plan accordingly to protect the safety their workers. In some scenarios this has also resulted in losses and damage to surface resources such as crops and groundwater.

AB 1877 exempts specified agricultural, lawn and garden care equipment dealers that sell products financed by the manufacturer from the state’s repossession licensing requirements. Specifically, AB 1877 will give dealers who have established relationships with their customers, the option of negotiating with the customer or the farmer directly in order to avoid the potentially embarrassing act of repossession.

Under current law, even when both the dealer and customer have agreed to repossession, a licensed agent must be hired to recover the property. This requirement: 1) adds significant costs to the consumer, often times in the range of $3,000, which will be added to the balance already owed on the equipment; 2) creates an embarrassing situation for a farmer when a stranger shows up on their property to seize the equipment and local law enforcement must be notified; and 3) it forecloses any opportunity for the dealer and customer to reach an amiable last-minute agreement before the equipment is taken away.

AB 907 will ensure that a wine grape grower receives payment even if a winery defaults on the payment

Typically and overwhelmingly, winery’s pay growers/farmers for delivered grapes in a timely manner. However, each year a few wineries neglect to pay growers, causing economic consequences on those farming operations. This bill will improve the Processors Law by codifying the definition of “irrevocable guarantee” to include a surety bond to ensure grape growers receive timely payments from licensed wineries for products already delivered and processed.

These bills will go into effect on January 1, 2013.

CONTACT: Lizette Mata (916) 319-2012

Gallo Purchases Snows Lake Vineyard for Undisclosed Amount

September 20, 2012 • Elizabeth Larson

Lake County News 

LOWER LAKE, Calif. – Wine giant E. & J. Gallo Winery has made its first property purchase in Lake County, buying one of the area’s well-known Cabernet Sauvignon producers.

Gallo spokesperson Susan Hensley confirmed to Lake County News that the corporation purchased Snows Lake Vineyard, located in Lower Lake. She said sale terms were not being disclosed.

The land purchase includes 2,000 acres, of which 800 are planted, Hensley said.

“It’s part of our strategy to be in all of the premier winegrowing areas in California,” Hensley said.

Hensley said Gallo looks forward to working with Snows Lake’s customers.

Another Gallo spokesperson, Loree Stroup, confirmed that it’s the corporation’s first land purchase in Lake County.

George Myers, whose family developed the vineyard, said he had no comment on the sale at this time.

Lake County Assessor-Recorder Doug Wacker said the sale recorded last Friday afternoon.

He said there were numerous parcels included in the total acreage, with a 100-percent change of ownership from several entities – Ojai Ranch & Investment Co., Miracle Land Co. and Snows Lake Vineyard – to Gallo Vineyards Inc.

Wacker said a form can be filled out to avoid disclosure of sales prices, and that was done in this transaction.

However, Wacker said, “It’s a pretty significant sale.”

Monica Rosenthal, executive director, Lake County Winery Association, welcomed Gallo to Lake County.

“We’re excited to have Gallo here in Lake County,” Rosenthal said. “It will be fun working with them.”

She said they are sorry to lose Snows Lake, which has been a supporting member of the association. “We hope we have a similar relationship with Gallo.”

Shannon Gunier, president of the Lake County Winegrape Commission, said having Lake County recognized as a premier winegrape producing region, and therefore a draw for big players like Gallo, was a positive factor of the sale.

A downside of the purchase, at least from the commission’s viewpoint, is that Gallo will be exempt from paying the assessment that supports the commission, Gunier said. That’s because the assessment doesn’t apply to operations growing for their own wine production.

Another downside – several full-time Snows Lake employees were let go as a result of the sale, including longtime Chief Operating Officer John Adriance. The laid off staff were reportedly unable to comment due to the sale agreement, and Adriance did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Hensley said she did not have information about staff layoffs.

The Snows Lake purchase is the largest of Gallo’s land acquisitions in the past decade, adding to the 16,000 acres of vineyard and eight wineries across California that it already owned, according to company statements.

Last month, Gallo announced it was purchasing Courtside Cellars in San Miguel, which includes 34 acres and a winery. That followed the purchase earlier this year of 300 acres of vineyards in Monterey County and last year’s acquisition of the 62-acre Edna Valley Vineyard near San Luis Obispo. The William Hill Estate Winery in Napa County, acquired in 2007, totals 140 acres, and the 105-acre Bridlewood Estate Winery, located in Santa Ynez, was bought by Gallo in 2004.

The 2,000-acre Snows Lake Vineyard property in Lower Lake, Calif., is known for producing fine Cabernet Sauvignon. Photo by John Jensen.


Growing reputation for quality winegrapes

The Snows Lake property has produced award winning Cabernet Sauvignon, with the grapes notable for their quality, coming from the rich red volcanic soils of the county’s Red Hills Lake County American Viticultural Area.

A Snows Lake Vineyard map showed that, along with Cabernet Sauvignon, the property has produced a number of other varietals, including Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Primitivo, Petite Syrah, Petite Verdoh, Syrah, Tempranillo and Zinfandel, the last being another grape for which it was becoming known.

Snows Lake was the source of winegrapes for labels including Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Cakebread Cellars, Rosenblum Cellars, La Famiglia and Dynamite Vineyards, according to the company’s Web site.

In addition to sourcing grapes, Snows Lake also produced two wines of its own, Snows Lake One, 100-percent Cabernet Sauvignon, and Snows Lake Two, a Cabernet Sauvignon blend with Cabernet Franc.

Much of the property has been managed as undeveloped habitat. The Snows Lake Web site said the land is on the Pacific Flyway, and also includes a 240-acre wildlife corridor protected from future development by an open space conservation easement.

Gunier said Lake County is becoming known for putting out high quality winegrapes, and the county’s Cabernet Sauvignon is now getting strong interest.

“We’re getting some real stellar reviews,” Gunier said.

The dream, said Gunier, is that Gallo would do a Lake County or Red Hills brand that would boost the area’s visibility in the wine world.

“We have a lot of Lake County brands, but they’re all really small,” she said.

One thing local industry members are counting on is that Gallo’s purchase will take 20 percent of the county’s Cabernet Sauvignon off the market, which promises a price boost and increased demand for Lake County.

Gallo has accomplished what Gunier called an “amazing change,” remaking its company image from one that produced inexpensive wines to one with a higher price range of $15 to $20. “We fit right in that,” she said.

“I think it’s a real turn for Lake County,” and something that wouldn’t have happened 10 years ago, said Gunier, who announced last week that she was retiring as the commission’s president, a decision she attributed to Lake County now being very well positioned in the industry.

“We’re on top now,” said Gunier.

Email Elizabeth Larson at elarson@lakeconews.com .


Longtime Lake County Winegrape Commission President to Retire

September 15, 2012 • Lake County News Reports

Lake County News

After 20 years with the Lake County Winegrape Commission, President Shannon Gunier is leaving to pursue other interests.

Gunier is retiring from the commission post, she announced, stating that “this is a good time to step down.”

Since 1991 the Winegrape Commission’s objective has been to market the premium Lake County winegrape growing region to new and existing grape buyers and wineries all over the United States.

“Lake County is at an all time high in (winegrape) tonnage harvested, and our prices have never been higher,” said Gunier. “We have excellent directors on the commission board who oversee the various efforts. They are hard working, knowledgeable individuals who will continue to develop programs and offer assistance to our grower members.”

The commission will begin its search for candidate to fill the position being vacated by Gunier. “This is an opportunity to keep the commission leadership fresh and moving forward,” the group’s president added.

Gunier is proud of her accomplishments over the past 20 years but believes the commission will continue to see positive development.

While managing all of the commission’s activities, through her and her husband Rick’s consulting firm initially and later named the president, Gunier helped direct the growth of Lake County’s winegrape industry from its 3,000 acres of vineyards in 1991 to nearly 9,000 acres in 2012.

Winegrapes became the county’s largest agricultural crop by 2011, when sales of the product had reached approximately $33 million, with the third-highest prices in the state, behind only Napa and Sonoma.

Lake County’s winegrape growers supported continuance of the commission over the past 20 years with an overwhelming 94 percent of the growers, Gunier noted. “The number of growers has increased to almost 160, and the majority believe the commission is doing a great job. The vote for continuance is taken every five years, and it has been strongly in the Commission’s favor each time, indicating success of the Commission’s sales and marketing endeavors.”

The commission offers a variety of assistance to winegrape growers in the county. Activities include marketing, educational and research programs that benefit growers’ development of vineyards, Gunier noted.

For more information about the Lake County Winegrape Commission, visit the Web site, www.lakecountywinegrape.org , or call the commission office at 707-995-3421

Shannon Gunier credits husband Rick, at left, for important contributions to the Lake County Winegrape Commission over the years. Courtesy photo.

Viticulture Briefs

Documentary on 2011 Harvest to be Shown in Sonoma County

September 7, 2012 at 7:05 p.m.

The Press Democrat.com • Cathy Bussewitz

“Harvest,” a feature-length documentary film shot entirely in Sonoma County, will show in local theaters beginning Friday.

The film follows five family wineries — Robledo, Rafanelli, Foppiano, Harvest Moon and Robert Hunter — along with an amateur home winemaker and a rare all-female picking crew over three months during the 2011 harvest.

“This is all about back-breaking manual labor and night picks at 2 a.m. with only tiny headlamps,” director John Beck said in a statement.

“Harvest” opens for a week-long run Friday at Rialto Cinemas in Sebastopol. It will be shown Sept. 21-23 at Sonoma Cinemas, and then for a week starting Sept. 28 at the Raven Theater in Healdsburg. Beck will answer questions after select screenings.

Napa Valley growers have high hopes for Harvest

Napa Valley grape growers said grape yields and prices are the best in several years following a near-ideal growing season.

Harvest is running two to three weeks earlier than last year, and yields are ranging from average to average-plus, the valley’s trade group, Napa Valley Grapegrowers, said in a news release.

The group pointed to an economic surge in Napa, evidenced by extensive replanting, robust equipment orders and an active Napa Valley vineyard real estate market. Those investments are reflected by vine orders that are up dramatically, quadrupling in five years, the group said.

The group issued its forecast during a news conference at Odette Estate in the Stags Leap District.

Lake County Winegrape Commission Launches New Marketing Campaign

To promote awareness of the wine region, the Lake County Winegrape Commission has been hosting sea plane rides for wine writers, sommeliers, radio and television personalities, and industry consultants.

The commission’s marketing committee hatched the idea as a way to promote the industry and differentiate the region from others. The tours highlight the compelling aspects of the region and provide another way to see its quality and value.

“We have known for years that ‘if we can get you here, we can sell you on Lake County,’” Shannon Gunier, president of the Lake County Winegrape Commission, said in a statement.

For more information visit www.lakecountywinegrape.org.


Lake County Winegrowers Sustainable eNews – September 2012

Welcome to our next edition of the Lake County Winegrape Commission’s Sustainable Winegrowing Program eNewsletter.

In this edition, we feature how sustainability is not only good for the environment, it’s good for your pocketbook…Sustainability in the Vineyard Is Good… For The Bottom Line

 Lake County, CA- In our two previous editions, we’ve discussed the process for getting involved with the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance’s (CSWA) certification process as well as highlighting some of the rebates and assistance currently available to growers to help defray the cost and time required to achieve it. We also know that sustainability in the vineyard is good for altruistic reasons – being a good neighbor and steward of the ecosystem. However, it’s beneficial for another reason: it’s good for your bottom line.

For example, some of the metrics used to measure the performance of a vineyard and work towards sustainability include water use, energy use and nitrogen use. The program seeks to develop a method for quantifying and utilizing these inputs and make their use more efficient – typically meaning consuming less. This reduces direct costs and saves growers money. Overall, the idea is to run a more effective vineyard. By doing so, efficiency is increased, the burden on the environment – both locally (nitrogen) and in a broader sense (energy, water) – is lessened, and expenses associated with these are lowered.

“Sustainability allows growers to run a leaner, meaner vineyard,” said Paul Zellman, Education Director for the Lake County Winegrowers. “It’s a cost-effective approach to vineyard management.”

The benefits to the bottom line do not end there. The consumer market for wine is changing. Preferences for sustainably grown products are on the rise. As a result, more and more retailers are requiring sustainability in the supply chain moving forward. For wine, this starts in the vineyard and ends in the bottle.

“Some of the bigger guys, such as Costco and Walmart, have begun to require this. It has had an effect on companies such as Constellation and Gallo that now want their growers to become certified,” said Zellman. “It is trickling down the supply chain and to other wine producers. Being certified prepares growers for this future.”

Sustainability does not just refer to the ecological aspects. It also refers to running a sustainable business and that means running a better, more profitable business – lowering inputs, reducing costs and being more competitive in a changing marketplace. By participating in the Sustainable Winegrowing Program and becoming certified, growers are giving themselves competitive advantages that are becoming more and more critical in the business arena, not just the environmental one.

CSWA and the Lake County Winegrape Commission (LCWC) are committed to increasing participation in the program and spreading these wide-reaching benefits to growers. The LCWC is also committed to making Lake County a leader in sustainability.

News Flash - The 3rd Edition of the Sustainable Winegrowing Practices Workbook is slated for release and implementation beginning on December 1st. This new version is streamlined, easier to use and reduces redundancy. It’s designed to be more user-friendly and leads to a clearer process for becoming Certified Sustainable. The LCWC’s Sustainable Winegrowing Program will be utilizing this new tool and is already preparing for its use.


Sustainable Winegrowing Program

To learn more about the Lake County Winegrape Commission’s Sustainable Winegrowing Program please visit our website’s program page here.

There is more information on the program, our goals for a sustainable future in our vineyards and how Lake County is a regional leader in sustainability. Check it out and get involved!

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Get Involved…

Are you interested in participating in the program and becoming a certified sustainable vineyard? If so, the Lake County Winegrape Commission and the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance are offering terrific incentives, including rebates and support resources to lessen both the cost and time it takes to be a part of it. The LCWC can provide assistance and more information. Please contact Paul Zellman, Education Director, at PaulZ@lakecountywinegrape.org for more information…



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