Sierra Wine & Grape Growers Association
Founded in 1978, the Sierra Wine & Grape Growers Association supports both home and commercial winemakers and grape growers in Nevada County, and adjoining Placer, Yuba and Sierra counties in California.Our membership is open to all those who 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 vinicultural and viticultural practices in the northern Sierra Foothills to produce and enjoy premium grapes and high quality wines.
We meet monthly, usually the third Thursday evening, at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley. Our programs feature knowledgeable speakers, or a workshop panel, discussing a specific area of vineyard management or wine making or wine appreciation. Most meetings start or end with the sharing of our own wines. We also have two social events each year: a summer picnic, usually in June, and a holiday party in December.
Throughout the year some monthly meetings occur elsewhere, such as an outdoor pruning demonstration in a local vineyard in February, or a tour of a local vineyard or winery in Spring or Summer. Our annual general meeting is held in November, when we elect officers and directors for the following year.
SWGGA Scholarship Fund
The Sierra Wine & Grape Growers Association funds a yearly scholarship for deserving high school graduates in Nevada County on their way to higher education. The awarding of the scholarship is based on need, grades, extra curricular activities and other factors, and the continuing education involves majors in agriculture or the sciences.
The major portion of the funds available yearly comes from raffles at the annual picnic and holiday parties, as well as donations from members and other contributors.
Benefits of Membership
The Sierra Wine & Grape Growers Association is sustained by it’s active members who pay annual dues.
Active Members are entitled 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. Member-only educational and social programs.
- Mentoring by experienced members is available to members who wish to plant or improve a vineyard, or who wish to learn to make wine.
- Membership Cards which are valuable at certain events and wineries
Rising from near sea level to over 9000 feet, our region contains a variety of 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 at their location. Our grapes are sold to local wineries and within northern California.
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 less than invigorating 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. 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.
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 square 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 designation.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, and thousands of gallons of wine produced, during the gold rush days. This whole area is mostly known for its ripe, fruity Zinfandels. But today many other varietals are successfully grown here.
With hot dry days, and cool nights, we have an ideal climate for many red wines. Some of the varieties in our region that produce premium quality wines are Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. White varieties include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling. Our home and commercial winemakers have consistently won medals and awards at the California State Fair, the Nevada County Fair and other competitions.
Good Neighbor Policy
Our grape growers are guardians of the land they work. Thus, they will not jeopardize the long-term health of their vineyard with short-term treatments. Most of our 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.
Sustainable management of our resources includes:
- Planting cover crops that improve the land’s natural fertility, control erosion and host beneficial insects
- Creating a habitat of biodiversity in and around the vineyard with trees and other vegetation to attract beneficial insects and predators
- Conserving soil through composting and manual weedingOnly applying pesticides when pests pose economic risks, and choosing materials that are effective but have low environmental impacts