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Originally founded in 1978, the Sierra Wine and Grape Growers Association represents home winemakers and the farmers and their families who grow grapes in Nevada County, and adjoining Yuba, Sierra and Placer Counties in California.
Our membership is open to all those who either own a vineyard, make wine, or are simply interested in wine and being a member of the organization.
Members are continually increasing their knowledge of viticultural practices in the northern Sierra Foothills to produce premium grapes for high quality wines.
We meet monthly, usually the third Thursday evening, in Grass Valley. Our programs either feature an industry-recognized speaker or a workshop panel discussing a specific area of viticulture or wine making. Most meetings start or end with the sharing of our own wines.
Throughout the year some monthly meetings occur elsewhere, such as an outdoor pruning demonstration in a local vineyard in February, or a conducted tour of several local vineyards in Spring or Summer.
Our annual general meeting is held in November each year, when we elect officers and directors for the following year.
Benefits of Membership
Becoming a member entitles an individual or couple to access the Member Area of the SWGGA Web Site where there are downloads and links to special educational materials only available to active members. In addition, there are member-only programs scheduled each year for either educational or social events.
Rising from near sea level to over 9000 feet there are many locations in our region for matching grape varietals to climate and soil. And this our growers do — finding the best varietals for quality grape production. Our grapes are sold to wineries, both local and within northern California.
With hot dry days, and cool nights, we have an ideal climate for many red wines. Some of the varietals in our region that produce premium quality wines are Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Premium grape quality in California is often defined as “low yield – high fruit flavor”. This is fashioned for us by nature in our region by the devigorating effect of our shallow, mountainside soils. By utilizing some form of drip irrigation system, through which we can add needed nutrients from time to time, we master the art of concentrating flavor in our grapes. Never too vigorous, never over-cropped, our grapes produce wine with complexity and strong varietal fruit flavor.
Like most farmers, our growers take great pride in their land and the grapes they produce. Here the focus is quality production, because premium wines can only be made from high-quality grapes.
We are proud of our grapes and the award winning wines they produce. We are especially proud of our growers. They care for their land and their vines, in order to preserve our agriculture and its products for all to enjoy.
The term “appellation” is French and refers to a viticultural region that, by virtue of its similar geographical features and climate, produces wines with similar characteristics. This implies
that the influence of soil, climate, sun, water quality, and landscape — what the French call “terroir” — produce a style of wine that cannot be exactly duplicated elsewhere. An appellation area can range from very small plots of land to huge areas that cover hundreds of miles.
Appellations in California are called “American Viticultural Areas” or AVAs. Wines carrying a label identifying its AVA must contain a minimum of 85% grapes from that AVA. Some Napa and Sonoma wines today do contain Sierra Foothills grapes, to add complexity to their wines, but in quantities that allow them to retain their Sonoma or Napa appellation.
The Sierra Foothills appellation stretches from Yuba County in the north to Mariposa County in the south on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada. It is described as an exciting and up-and-coming appellation. Yet vineyards were first planted here during the goldrush days. This whole area is mostly known for its ripe, chocolately Zinfandels. But today many other varietals are successfully grown here.
Good Neighbor Policy
While the small scale of vineyards in our region make them unobtrusive in their native Foothills setting, our members feel strongly their responsibility to listen and respond to neighbors and to educate and earn their trust.
Our growers are guardians of the land they work. Thus they will not jeopardize the long term health of their vineyard with short-term treatments. Some members are dedicated and approved organic farmers, most members are committed to sustainable practices — minimal use of pesticides to control pests, greater use of cover crops, beneficial predatory insects, and the creation of a healthy soil and plant environment.
We consider it to be common courtesy and common sense to share information on our philosophy and cultural practices, and the reasons why they work. Sustainable management of our resources include:
- Planting cover crops that improve the land’s natural fertility, control erosion and host beneficial insects
- Creating a biodiverse habitat in and around the vineyard with trees and other vegetation to attract beneficial insects and predators
- Conserving soil through composting and manual weeding
- Only applying pesticides when pests pose economic risks, and choosing materials that are effective but have low environmental impacts
- Conserving water and water sources
Our grape growers, and our association, have a role in this community… and a story to tell. And the story may ease neighbors’ fears and increase their understanding and empathy. Like many other winegrape grower associations, we have developed a Values Statement, below, to guide us in our community role.
- Being considerate and courteous, reaching out to neighbors to keep them informed of vineyard practices and goals.
- Notifying residents adjoining our vineyards who want to know when we will be spraying, and being aware of our possible impact on others.
- Using integrated pest management so that pesticides are only applied when pests pose economic risks, and materials chosen that are effective but have low environmental impacts.
- Recognizing water as a precious resource; not wasting but conserving it, keeping it clean and using it efficiently.
- Sharing our knowledge and experiences with all grower members to ensure that all growers – new and experienced – are familiar with regulations and
use the best farming practices.
- Responding conscientiously if our neighbors have questions or concerns.
We are committed to farming so that everyone benefits today and tomorrow