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UC Davis Study Released!

In 2020, the Tri-Valley Conservancy (TVC) commissioned the “Realizing the Heritage” study from researchers at the UC Agricultural Issues Center at Davis for an impartial assessment of the economic viability of the Livermore Valley wine region. The research was conducted by James Lapsley, associate professor of Viticulture and Enology, and Daniel Sumner, a professor of agriculture and resource economics. The TVC was looking for them to identify measurable and achievable goals to support the full development of the South Livermore Valley Area Plan

The study revealed much of what we already suspected may be true. The South Livermore Valley is growing wine grapes in only about 2,800 acres of farmland, far below the goal of 5,000 acres established in the South Livermore Valley Area Plan in 1993. The study found that many of the area’s independent vineyards were not profitable in 2019 and 2020, and that about 1,900 acres of the Livermore area’s grape crops must be replaced by 2030 because they are at least 20 years old and subject to disease.

However, the study also revealed opportunities for the preservation of the wine-growing region:

The South Livermore Valley area must attract mid-sized vineyard companies, focus on a special varietal for the region, and build the hotels and tasting rooms necessary for tourism if the wine industry is to succeed.

We need to attract mid-size wineries to invest in our region. What we have today is mostly very small wineries, and we have a couple of very large operations. There is nothing in that median range. That gap needs to be filled in order to make the whole picture come together.”

Improving the region’s infrastructure, including a proposed sewer line from Livermore to the South Livermore Valley that will be on Livermore residents’ ballot in November, would help attract outside vineyard farmers to the area, as would hotels and other bed and breakfast establishments to attract tourists.

It’s important to provide critical infrastructure to attract these midsize wineries to the area and support agritourism for the region and enhance its reputation as a wine country destination

The study found that focusing the region on a particular varietal might also help the industry. The researchers noted that the Santa Lucia Highlands wine-growing region in Monterey County focused on Pinot Noir, while establishing median-sized farms of 50 acres. Temecula in Southern California, meanwhile, has event centers, restaurants, and bed-and-breakfast businesses that target the region as a wine tourism destination.

TVC is actively working with the City of Livermore to address the need for the sewer line and provide what’s necessary for agritourism and promote the area’s reputation as a wine country destination.

TVC is also partnering with the Livermore Valley Wine Growers Association to provide a consultant to assist smaller wine producers with improving the quality and consistency of their products.

Our Board Chair, Lori Souza, weighed in on the study results:

“We have the soil, the climate, the water, and the know-how to make premium wine, world-class wine, I think what we have to do is get that reputation more broadly understood by consumers and by people who assess the quality of the wine. And that takes time … When you look at the economics, there’s no reason why the growers in this region shouldn’t command the same pricing that some of the other coastal regions command.”

– Lori Souza, TVC Board Chair