Article and graphics by Rachel LaFranchi
Published February 1, 2016
At their annual Dollars and Sense seminar on January 14th, the Sonoma County Winegrowers presented a survey on the impressions of the wine industry in Sonoma County. The survey, commissioned by the winegrowers, was conducted by FM3, a public opinion and research strategy firm.
FM3 conducted 401 telephone interviews with registered voters in Sonoma County between July 24 – 30, 2015. The margin of sampling error was 4.9%.
Their key findings included that people like living in Sonoma County and overall have a favorable view of local vineyards and wineries. Voters were most concerned about the wine industry having a negative impact on traffic congestion, housing costs and local water supplies. They study found voters were not overly concerned about wine industry sponsored events and tourist visitation.
In Sonoma County, 96% of voters rated the quality of life in Sonoma County as good or excellent while 4% rated it as just fair or a poor place to live. Residents viewed the cost of living, roads and preserving water as the most serious issues on which local government should act.
Local wineries and vineyards were found favorable by 74% and 64% of voters, respectively. Fifty one percent had favorable opinions of the Sonoma County Winegrowers, followed by 49% viewing Sonoma County Farm Bureau favorably. The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors was viewed 48% positively followed by Sonoma County Vintners (43%), Sonoma County Conservations Action (40%), Neighbors to Preserve Rural Sonoma County (25%) and the Sonoma County Alliance (17%; 78% had no opinion).
In their own words, residents were asked an open ended question about why they felt that the local wine industry had a positive impact on the quality of life in Sonoma County. The top three reasons included improving the economy (45%), bringing in tourists (41%) and providing jobs (39%). Fifteen percent said the wine industry preserves agricultural use. Other minor reasons included producing highly demanded wine, creating a unified community, preserving rural life.
Of residents surveyed, 91% had agreed that Sonoma County vineyards and wineries play an important role in strengthening the economy and providing jobs. Sixty-seven percent agreed that local vineyards and wineries are important contributors to Sonoma County’s food economy, 18% said they didn’t know and 15 percent disagreed with this statement. Forty eight percent believed that local vineyards treat their farm workers well and care about their well-being, 31% answered that they didn’t have an opinion on this and 22% somewhat or strongly disagreed.
More than three-quarters of residents surveyed said local vineyards and wineries are good neighbors to the community in Sonoma County. Seventy one percent agreed that vineyards are wineries are actively involved in their community by donating time and money to local charities.
Additionally, those surveyed agreed (70%) local vineyards play an important role in protecting land from urban development. However, only 55% agreed that local vineyards do a good job enhancing the natural environment in Sonoma County. One quarter somewhat disagreed to this statement and 12% strongly disagreed.
Nearly three-fourths strongly or somewhat agreed that local vineyards support the long term preservation of agriculture in Sonoma County and that local wine grape growers are important care takers of the land.
In terms of winery events, 93% said charitable fundraisers were acceptable. Weddings and wine club events at wineries were acceptable to 89% of voters, as well as outdoor concerts (85%), winemaker dinners and barrel weekends (84%). Only 65% of people said political fundraisers at wineries were acceptable.
For more information and complete survey results visit