Study: Wine adds more than $13 billion to Sonoma County economy

  • Bob Buhrer, left, and his wife Alexa, sample Kendall-Jackson wines, served by Tasting Room Associate John Bosco, at the Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate and Gardens in Santa Rosa, Calif., on January 9, 2014. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

The Sonoma County wine industry plays an increasingly important -#8212; and surprisingly large -#8212; role in driving the local economy, according to an industry-funded report issued Thursday.

The study, conducted by Stonebridge Research Group, estimates that wineries and grape growers contributed $13.4 billion to the local economy in 2012, including direct and indirect impacts.

The numbers in Thursday's report suggest the wine industry's economic impact dwarfs other sectors. The entire Sonoma County economy was pegged at $20 billion in 2012, according to a report issued last fall by Moody's Analytics, which supplies regional data to the county Economic Development Board.

The wine industry and wine-inspired tourism would account for two-thirds of that number, according to the report compiled for the Sonoma County Vintners and Sonoma County Winegrowers. The results were announced Thursday at the Sonoma County Vintners' annual meeting.

"I didn't know what to expect, because I hadn't gone through the numbers," said Honore Comfort, executive director of Sonoma County Vintners. "I was fully expecting growth, but I wasn't certain, so we're thrilled."

The results released Thursday were preliminary, and a fuller picture will emerge over the next few weeks, she said.

Karissa Kruse, president of Sonoma County Winegrowers, said she's looking forward to digging into the full report to dissect what's driving the growth.

"It's really important to demonstrate back to the community the value of the wine industry, especially the jobs," Kruse said.

The report suggests the economic impact of the wine industry has grown dramatically since 2005, when a similar study estimated the industry generated $7.6 billion in direct and indirect economic activity.

"That does not surprise me," Comfort said. "There are so many more wine tasting rooms than there were in 2005. Barrel Tasting Weekend used to be a small weekend event, and now it's 60,000 people over two weekends."

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