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New federal law makes aid available for North Coast vintners who suffered smoke taint loss in 2020

President Biden signed legislation Thursday that provided continued funding for the federal government through Dec. 3 and included a provision that would provide aid to local grape growers and wineries that suffered financial losses during the 2020 wildfires.

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, sponsored the language that was included in the omnibus package. It would provide $10 billion in aid for agricultural producers across the country for crop losses from natural disasters occurring in 2020 and 2021. Thompson also has a small vineyard in Lake County.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will administer the funds through a specific program and local vintners would have until the end of 2023 to apply for the aid. The 2020 grape harvest in Sonoma County was plagued with smoke taint from the Glass and Walbridge fires and resulted in a value of $357 million for the season, which was nearly half of the 2019 value.

“For our local farmers, the congressman ensured that smoke taint losses were specifically addressed in the bill, a big win for our county's robust wine grape-growing industry,” said Tawny Tesconi, executive director of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, in a statement.

North Coast wineries join global climate coalition

More local wineries have joined an international coalition dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by their operations.

Twelve wineries around the world have recently joined the International Wineries for Climate Action, which was formed two years ago by Jackson Family Wines of Santa Rosa and Familia Torres in Spain in order to help combat climate change.

The companies — which now total more than 20 in the coalition — have pledged to be net zero in carbon emissions by 2050 with reaching intermediate targets along the way. The new entrants included large companies such as Constellation Brands Inc., which owns Napa’s Robert Mondavi and Healdsburg’s Simi wineries, and The Wine Group, which owns Benziger Family Winery in Glen Ellen.

Smaller local wineries also joined, including Medlock Ames of Healdsburg and Gloria Ferrer in the Sonoma Valley as well as Cakebread Cellars in the Napa Valley.

New sales manager at Cline Family Cellars

Curt Bougie has joined Cline Family Cellars in the position as its sales manager for Rocky Mountain states.

Bougie will manage sales in Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming for the family-owned winery located in Sonoma and known for its zinfandel.

He was most recently the regional sales manager for Francis Ford Coppola Winery covering the same region.

Compiled by Bill Swindell. Submit items to bill.swindell@pressdemocrat.com.

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