Neighbors Value SLO Wine Country

Recent study by Cal Poly, Hancock College reveals positive perception of local wine industry

by Jaime Lewis
wine  vineyard san luis obispo county study
A recent study found San Luis Obispo County residents believe the local wine industry is good for the economy. Photo: Courtesy of Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance.

San Luis Obispo, Calif.—Coastal residents of San Luis Obispo County appreciate and look favorably upon their burgeoning local appellations, including the Edna Valley AVA and Arroyo Grande Valley AVA, according to a recent collaborative study between California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, Calif.

Conducted by Dr. Marianne McGarry Wolf, professor of wine business at Cal Poly, and Dr. Alfredo Koch, professor of agribusiness at Allan Hancock College, the study provided students with a relevant topic: to “examine how residents of San Luis Obispo County and Santa Barbara County perceive the winemaking and grapegrowing industries,” the study summary states.

Means were calculated using a five-point interval scale with a sample of 252 residents of San Luis Obispo County in the coastal region south of the Cuesta Grade including the cities of San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Los Osos, Pismo Beach, Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach.

Preliminary findings showed that respondents believe the following statements describe the local wine industry “completely” or “very well”:
• Promotes the image of the area,
• Provides good venues for events,
• Enhances the beauty of the area,
• Improves tourism and has a positive impact on the economy.

Furthermore, they responded that the local wine industry can be described “somewhat” to “very well” as:
• Produces premium grapes and wine,
• Has positive community involvement,
• Creates skilled jobs,
• Is a good neighbor, and
• Is a good use of agricultural land.

“When asked how residents feel about the impact of wine grape growing on the quality of life on the coastal San Luis Obispo area, 47% indicated a very positive impact and 51% said positive impact,” the summary continues, adding that 31% of respondents described the effect that winemaking has on their quality of life as “extremely positive” and 49% described it as “positive.”

Further down the scale, residents indicated that the local wine industry only somewhat increases traffic and preserves open space; and that it slightly-to-somewhat uses water efficiently, increases noise in the area and is not environmentally friendly.

“I was very surprised and pleased at how high positive attitudes toward the industry are,” Dr. Wolf said via email. “It appears that residents have embraced the wine industry as part of the local image.”

Wolf also shared her surprise that San Luis Obispo County residents report to be less likely to know and/or visit  wineries located in Santa Barbara County, the neighboring appellation to the south. “One hypothesis is that ‘local’ is perceived to be county versus mileage,” reads the summary. “It appears that there is a need for more collaboration between counties for the overall benefit to the industry.”

With regard to Santa Barbara County, Wolf and Koch plan to replicate the study in that AVA in 2018. The results are anticipated to be revealing as anecdotal information indicates many residents of Santa Barbara County resist the growth of their local wine industry.

In addition to surveying residents’ perceptions of wine country, Wolf and professor Mitchell Wolf of the Cal Poly Orfalea College of Business have sampled a total of 1,070 wine consumers in San Luis Obispo County for six additional studies. They plan to collaborate with other Cal Poly wine business professors on the following six additional studies. Early observations in that research show:
• Generations differ in their consumption of and attitudes toward wine;
• One-third of rosé consumers are male;
• Wine consumers who use Facebook are very involved wine consumers;
• Craft beer poses a potential threat to the wine market as millennial wine consumers allocate more of their alcohol consumption to beer than wine, and
• With the legalization of marijuana, most consumers do not plan to reduce wine consumption, but millennials are more likely.


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