After a rough year for Central Coast vineyards and wineries, two annual meetings will discuss a need to “adapt” — in growing practices, in cost management and in a global marketplace.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the second annual Central Coast VINE Symposium offers viticulture education at the Paso Robles Event Center. This year’s theme is “Survival of the Fittest: Adapting to changes in the vineyard and marketplace.”
On Thursday, the 17th annual Central Coast Insights meets in San Luis Obispo. Its theme: “How the Central Coast Wine Industry Will Adapt to the New Global Economy.”
“There are major changes taking place in our industry, especially on the grower side,” Becky Zelinski said. “Last year was a very tough year for growers, especially on the Central Coast.”
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Lowell and Becky Zelinski have owned Precision Ag Inc. of Paso Robles since 2003. Last year, they started the two-day vineyard conference. It’s aimed at local farming concerns, with a session on cost-cutting and the market.
The Wine Industry Symposium Group of Napa begins its San Luis event with dinner Wednesday at Edna Valley Vineyards. Thursday’s sessions at Embassy Suites are aimed at financial officers and managers in wine companies, as well as bankers and attorneys.
Farmers on their toes
Central Coast grape farmers are in a state of flux, said Lowell Zelinski, a former professor and agent with the University of California Cooperative Extension.
Weather in 2010 had many battling mildew and pests. Demand for cheaper wine makes it hard for coastal vineyards to fetch the higher prices they may have previously commanded.
Sales late last year were from larger wineries in Monterey County and the San Joaquin Valley, he added. Most of those went to fuel lower-priced brands.
“We’re going to have to figure out how to adapt and adjust production practices to either lower costs or increase yields, without losing quality,” Zelinski said. “How can we grow quality grapes for $500 a ton?”
The question isn’t rhetorical. So far, it’s drawn about 120 to register for the Paso symposium.
About 14 speakers will address topics from weed control to government regulation of water and predicting the market. Registration is $229. Call 434-3331 or see www.vinesymposium.com for details and a schedule.
The big market
“Optimism prevails!” concludes the Wine Industry Symposium Group from data it solicited from Central Coast growers.
Its survey says more than 65 percent believe their 2011 sales will be better than last year. Nearly 28 percent think they will be about the same.
Touching on topics as far reaching as online social gaming for customer connections to Australian import data, the sessions will focus on how wine businesses can stay “nimble” in changing terrain, said Kathy Archer, the group’s president.
“Australian imports are down,” Archer said as an example. “This is a great opportunity for the Central Coast. You’ve got to keep current on the scanner data and any kind of factual information that’s out there.”
In addition to Central Coast Insights, the group operates four other wine conferences in the state.
Thursday’s schedule includes 15 speakers and will also touch on real estate, bulk grape sales and direct-to-consumer marketing. Attendance is $325 or $125 for nonprofits and students.
For details, see www.winesymposium.com or call (707) 255-9222.
The 6 p.m. dinner Wednesday features Frank Ostini of The Hitching Post in Buellton for $125 per person.
— Raven J. Railey
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