Three environmental groups sued the state and a Spanish wine conglomerate on Thursday over approval of a hotly disputed vineyard project in northwest Sonoma County. The groups oppose plans by Artesa Vineyards and Winery of Napa, owned by the Spanish wine giant Grupo Codorniu, to clear about 150 acres of second-growth forest and former orchard land outside of Annapolis to grow chardonnay and pinot noir grapes. The project, on the drawing board for more than a decade and under state review since 2009, was approved by state forestry officials in May over the objections of environmental interests and several Indian tribes.
New rules making it tougher to rip up forested hillsides to plant vineyards won qualified approval from the Sonoma County Board of Supervisor Tuesday. The stronger erosion prevention measures were unanimously approved by the five supervisors, but most acknowledged that the process was viewed as frustrating and flawed by many involved.
State officials signaled this week they intend to approve a controversial timber-to-vineyard conversion project in rural northwest Sonoma County, overruling the latest wave of objections, this time from some neighbors, local tribes and several elected officials. Napa-based Artesa Vineyards plans to create 116 acres of premium chardonnay and pinot noir vineyards, 20 acres of roads and a nine-acre reservoir on 324 acres of second-growth forestland, former orchards and grazed meadows just east of Annapolis.
Sonoma County grape growers aiming to convert forested hillsides with neat rows of vineyards will have to prove their projects won’t damage local waterways under draft regulations released Thursday. The new rules, proposed by Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner Tony Linegar, would prohibit tree removal on the steepest of slopes.
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved an emergency halt to new vineyards and orchards on forested slopes and hilltops. The four-month freeze was prompted by a wave of new vineyard projects and a need to update 12-year-old farming regulations that don’t deal with tree removal. What, if any, changes would you like to see?
Efren Carrillo, chairman of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, has come out swinging against a winemaker with a recent history of controversial tree removals. The winemaker, Paul Hobbs, in turn says he’s being unfairly pilloried, but he’s facing complications beyond Carrillo’s withering words.
The state pension fund is parting ways with Premier Pacific Vineyards, a Napa firm that manages its portfolio of vineyard properties. Sources say the move threatens Preservation Ranch, the controversial 1,769-acre forest-to-vineyard conversion project in northwestern Sonoma County.
Wine grape growers and environmental groups are both applauding the approval of what supporters are calling a streamlined application process that would allow vineyard and orchard operators to establish off-stream water storage ponds without waiting years for state approval. Currently, applications to establish off-stream water storage ponds are considered on a case-by-case basis and can take years to get through the State Water Resources Control Board process.
State water regulators Tuesday approved a sweeping set of rules to govern how vineyard and orchard operators in the Russian River watershed use water to protect crops from springtime frost. The decision on one of the North Coast’s most contentious natural resource issues came over the continued opposition of some growers, who said the rules were unnecessary, unjustified and outside the legal authority of the state board.
A move by two North Coast legislators to speed up the approval process for small farm irrigation ponds has earned the support of rival factions in the region’s water wars and is now one step away from becoming law.