“By sitting down with the wine community and our Roads Department, we were able to overcome past obstacles and create a directional signs program that is both aesthetically pleasing and promotes the viticulture industry,” said Supervisor Mike Wasserman, President of the Board of Supervisors. “The soon to be installed signs, will enable both locals and visitors from all areas to easily find our award winning wineries -- a real win win for our County.”
This has been a cooperative effort among the County of Santa Clara, the cities of Morgan Hill and Gilroy, the Association of Wineries of the Santa Clara Valley, and the local business community. The wine trail idea was first discussed among community members, then brought to the economic summits held at the County.
“When we held a three-part economic summit in 2012, we examined job growth potential, trends and challenges, and how the County government could help improve economic activity. We encouraged the community to bring ideas to the discussion,” said Supervisor Dave Cortese, who brought the summit concept to the Board. “Signage for wineries was proposed at the summit, and I’m pleased to make this idea a reality.”
With the Board’s action today, the coordinated effort will move forward. The Santa Clara County Roads and Airports Department will install signage on identified roadways in unincorporated areas, including signage leading into the city of Gilroy. At the same time, the City of Gilroy plans to install Wine Trail signage at additional locations along the route within the incorporated areas of Gilroy. The City of Morgan Hill will install and maintain signs for the Wine Trail located in Morgan Hill. The Association of Wineries of Santa Clara Valley has agreed to support the replacement and addition of wine trail signs when needed. Also, in order to promote safety, “Don’t Drink and Drive” signs will be placed at key locations along the route.
Once complete, the wine trail signage will guide motorists in a circle through South Santa Clara County, along Watsonville Road, Hecker Pass Highway and the east sides of Gilroy, San Martin and Gilroy using New and Foothill avenues. The wine trail signs will provide roadway direction in more rural areas where GPS may not be as reliable. There are more than 20 Santa Clara Valley wineries located along this route, with other more remote wineries off the main trail.
“The adoption of the Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail Route and Signage Program will contribute to the economic vibrancy of the county by increasing agri-tourism to the region,” said Jane Howard, Executive Director, Gilroy Welcome Center.
“With support of wine tourism by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, our entire South Valley Region will receive much needed economic vitality,” said Jon Hatakeyama, Chairman, South Valley Wine Country Committee. “This tourism and recognition will bring pride and enrichment to the residents of Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy.”
With the signage installation for the South Valley portion of the regional wine trail approved, the County is now looking at agri-tourism in the northern area of the county, and contacting the Town of Los Gatos, cities of Cupertino and Saratoga, and the Santa Cruz Mountains Wine Growers Association to discuss wayfinding signage for the northern region of the wine trail.
The history of winemaking and viticulture in the Santa Clara Valley goes back to the 18th Century, from the discovery of native "Vitis Californica" grapes growing wild and the first plantings of Mission grapes at the Santa Clara Mission in 1798. The area experienced resurgence beginning in 1989 with formal designation as a distinct AVA. Prior to this the region's wines were typically labeled “Central Coast” or ”Santa Clara County”.
The project qualifies for a Class 1 Categorical Exemption (CEQA Guidelines Section 15301, Existing Facilities) because the installation of signage would occur within the existing right-of-way of County roads and constitute negligible or no expansion of an existing use.