Working to Support Napa’s Small Family Farms and Vineyards
Napa Valley is recognized as the most prestigious winegrowing region in the U.S., producing some of the most lauded wines in the world. It is also one of the smallest and most diverse with limited overall production, respectively. Only four percent of California’s wine grape harvest comes from this relatively small region, just 30 miles long and five miles wide. There are approximately 475 physical wineries in Napa Valley producing more than 1,000 different wine brands.
Family-owned wineries have been the heart and soul of Napa Valley since the original settlers planted vineyards back in the late 1700s. In the ’70s and ’80s, Napa Valley’s original small family farms and winemakers had the flexibility to grow, and many have gone on to become internationally recognized premier brands.
Winery size and demographics vary based upon case production. The smallest among them have classified themselves as “micro-wineries,” producing 1,000-2,000 cases of wine per vintage. Most of these properties are legacy vineyards that have been in existence for many years or even decades. The owners and family members live on the property, and they custom crush their fruit at an off-site facility. Being able to tour these small vineyards and wineries would be a unique opportunity for visitors to learn each family story and sample their handcrafted wines. This allows for intimate, differentiated experiences that can extend the region’s luxury brand and create an indelible connection with the Napa Valley. Whether it’s a wine collector or connoisseur in search of an off-the-grid label or a visitor from the “new consumer” market interested in trying something original, having these options are invaluable. Unfortunately, due to outdated Country ordinances, micro-wineries are not permitted to host tastings at their vineyards.
The Save the Family Farms project is a consortium of small family wineries and growers who are driving awareness of the unique value of the small family winery experience. George O’Meara, President of the group, said, “Choices create a balance that appeals to visitors while expanding their knowledge of Napa Valley. Our main goal is to legitimize, justify, and preserve the existing micro-wineries by working with Napa County to create a co-existence-based ordinance. These micro-wineries need to have a permitted path and the flexibility to offer visitors a ‘full-spectrum’ set of winery experiences and for consumers to acquire these boutique wines, many of which are only available in Napa.”
Micro-wineries contribute more than just another stopping point for tourists; their cultural contribution is equally as important. Save the Family Farms is a driving force centered on updating the rules so small family farm wineries can thrive in Napa and, more urgently, so they don’t disappear. Their presence protects the Napa community and preserves the rich culture and legacy of what makes Napa Valley the renowned wine-producing region it is today.
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Article By: George O’Meara