Think of the Santa Clara Valley. What comes to mind?
Technology, start-ups and steep rents?
Sheldon Haynie, this year’s president of Wineries of Santa Clara Valley, wants to expand that reputation to include vineyards, wineries and scenic-yet-educational agritourism.
Haynie's group of vintners will team up with the Santa Clara County Farm Bureau to host South County's first-ever Vineyard Day Thursday, an event full of workshops, demonstrations, lectures and even a pruning contest to promote the local winemaking community to the public and further educate those already in the trade.
“We want to show people that we have a dynamic wine-making community,” said Haynie, a San Martin resident and manager of about 15 acres of South County vineyards. “Also, we want to give the folks already part of the grape-growing business here an accessible forum to learn from industry experts.”
This Thursday's event caters to professional growers or anyone curious about the business.
The day starts with a series of half-hour presentations in the tasting room about topics such as irrigation, vineyard management, how to grow pollinator-friendly crops, industry regulations and more. Folks who want to get their hands dirty can join a midday workshop on pruning, weed management and trellis and irrigation maintenance. A mini trade show with vendor exhibits and demonstrations will run alongside the seminars, just outside the tasting room.
“Instead of seeing a John Deere tractor on some Astroturf at a trade show, you'll get to see it actually in the dirt,” Haynie said.
A pruning competition late morning in the vineyard will pit pros against peers and newcomers against their own in a race for cash prizes.
Haynie attended a massive industry trade show in the state capitol this week – an outing that cost him $200 to $300 a day, including travel costs, a motel stay and workshop fees. Starting a local Vineyard Day, which he hopes will become an annual occurrence, brings the same industry expertise and camaraderie close to home on a smaller, more accessible scale.
Events such as this are part of Haynie's plan to beef up the region's status as a wine country in its own right. South County boasts similar soil, climate and rolling hills that draw tourists to places like Napa County, Haynie said. But it also offers its own distinct culture, one that's less corporate and more familial. About 30 vineyards claim membership with the valley association. Even more independent vintners and grape farmers call the region home. And the proximity to the urbanized valley to the north makes for a natural marriage between technology and the ancient art of wine-centric agriculture.
“It's also more in tune with the Silicon Valley's entrepreneurial spirit,” he added. “We want to make sure we stand out from other wine regions, we're similar but we have our own culture here. Many of us work in the Silicon Valley by day; we're a bunch of engineers in tractors who really want to learn about this.”