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Santa Barbara County Wine Industry Looking At Taxing Some Sales To Support Marketing Efforts

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Santa Barbara County wineries have produced some of the most acclaimed wines in their history during the last decade.  But, many in the industry say that sales, and visitation aren’t what they could or should be.  Some wine industry officials want to change that, through a marketing project called the Santa Barbara Wine Preserve.

Alison Laslett is CEO of the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association, also known as Santa Barbara Vintners.  She says they are trying to create a Wine Business Improvement District.  The 1% fee on wine sales to consumers would be similar to a bed tax charged by hotels to fund marketing and tourism efforts.

The group has raised money for years for things like marketing with its annual vinters festival.  But, competition for other events over the years has cut into that revenue.

Some vintners say they need to act to step up to improve the long overdue recognition.  Stephen Janes is General Manager of Pence Vineyards & Winery, and President of the Vintners Board of Directors.  He says that while the region's wines have exploded in status over the years, visitiation to wineries, and sales hasn't kept pace.

The plan still has a long way to go before it becomes a reality.  A majority of wineries in the proposed district have to sign on for the plan, and then the cities, and Santa Barbara County also have to approve it.  The goal is to have the approvals in place by the end of the year, so the 1% tak could take effect January 1st.

It would initially raise about a million dollars a year, with the money starting to come to the non-profit organization about a year from now.  Supporters of the proposal say it would give a new voice to Santa Barbara County’s two billion dollar a year wine industry without wineries having to dig into their own pockets to do it.