A springtime wine festival that local tourism promoters say helped market San Luis Obispo County on a worldwide level is leaving Paso Robles for Tennessee.
Hospice du Rhônes organizers announced this week that they plan to leave Paso Robles after 15 years of hosting the three-day festival of tastings and seminars in the city.
The festival, which organizers say attracts about 1,200 people each April, started 20 years ago in Atlanta.
The idea behind the event is to celebrate the 22 grape varieties associated with Frances Rhône Valley.
In 2011, the festival brought 157 producers and importers to Paso Robles from France, Australia, South Africa, Spain and various regions of the United States.
Hospice du Rhône put an international spotlight on Paso Robles and the Central Coast as a world-class Rhône-producing wine region, said Maryann Stansfield of the Travel Paso Robles Alliance, the citys tourism advisory board.
While its hosts look back fondly on their time in the county, the new plan for Hospice du Rhône is to focus on smaller, more intimate settings, according to the nonprofit business leagues website, www.hospicedurhone.org. Among those endeavors is the nonprofits three-year partnership in Walland, Tenn.
Since the festival took place locally each April, a month that typically sees fewer events than other times of the year, Stansfield characterized its departure as a huge loss economically. It will affect everything from hotels to gas stations to coffee shops, she added.
County tourism promoters say the event has been a key element in attracting visitors.
Hospice du Rhône became a recognized brand internationally at the same time San Luis Obispo Countys wine region emerged, said Stacie Jacob, executive director of the countys Visitors & Conference Bureau.