The California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) has initiated its first-ever consumer marketing campaign by declaring California's “independence” as a sovereign wine nation. In a release distributed over national newswire the tongue-in-cheek announcement said “California's winegrowers declared the state an independent country where life is grape, citizens have the right to bear vines and Arnold Schwarzenegger can be president. The “nation,” whose credo is “One Nation Under Vines,” takes its rightful place alongside France, Italy and Spain as a leading wine-producing country.”

At a press event at Thomas Keller's Per Se restaurant in New York, Karen Ross, CAWG President, and a group of wine grape growers from throughout California unveiled the new “nation's” Declaration of Independence, which says, in part “We, California's wine grape growers, hold these truths to be self-evident: that California produces some of the best-tasting and highest quality winegrapes in the world; that California boasts an unrivaled diversity of climates and soils; that California is a leader in sustainable winegrape growing practices and innovation; and that life, liberty and the pursuit of great wine is the cornerstone of our society.” Ross and the winegrowers also unveiled a new website, onenationundervines.com, where wine lovers can view the entire Declaration and explore California's vast wine country.

“This is a light hearted way of getting across a rather serious message, that California is as varied, full of flavor and aged in tradition as any other country,” said Ross. “By declaring our “independence,” we're merely formalizing what we see on wine lists and wine shops nationwide: California is wine country.”

The announcement kicks off a national California wine country marketing campaign that CAWG has had in the works for months. Using winegrape growers as the new country's “ambassadors,” the organization is planning a series of events, appearances and interviews that highlight how California's growing conditions, experience and sustainable growing practices make a difference in creating world-class wines. Part of the campaign will be executed in conjunction with September's California Wine Month, which was declared by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and announced by Wine Institute in April.

“We think there are many things that consumers don't really know about the California winegrowing community — its size and diversity, the fascinating history, the preponderance of family-owned farms, and not least, its incredible work in the area of sustainable, environmentally sound and socially equitable growing and winemaking practices,” said Ross. “California wine country is a national cultural treasure, and we'd like people to be able to see it through the growers' eyes.”

Established in 1974, the California Association of Winegrape Growers represents the growers of more than 50 percent of the gross grape tonnage crushed for wine and concentrate in California. The statewide association is an advocate for farmers, providing leadership on public policies, research and education programs, sustainable farming practices and trade policy to enhance the California winegrape growing business and our communities. For more information about CAWG, visit cawg.org.